Brought into life again by this year's Glasgow International, the (rather cold) McLellan Galleries in Sauchiehall Street not only house more than half of new festival director Sarah McCrory's personal picks, but perhaps can also be regarded as the centre of this year's celebrations.
On the ground floor, which has the feel of an abandoned basement, are the funny, strange films of Jordan Wolfson, a New York and LA-based artist whose playful works, positioned in separate rooms in this gloomy, tatty area of the building, are as slick and smooth as the surroundings are shabby and uninviting. One film shows a gesticulating Orthodox Jew reading Vogue while lip-synching a slightly irksome conversation between two breathy lovers. There is, if you can find it, a creepy but also humorous film of a bird counting in a wilderness, slightly redolent of Lars Von Trier's Antichrist and its Satanic fox.
Upstairs, there are three large exhibitions with works by Avery Singer, Hudinilson Jr and Charlotte Prodger. Singer's works are large, grey and white images of figures in complex architectural spaces. These are geometric, unclear forms, full of light and shadow. Their complex grids of grey oppress but also eventually interest the eye, although the scale feels somewhat overwhelming.
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Hudinilson Jr's work is more human, as revealed in the explicit survey of the Brazilian artist who died in August last year. Here the obsession is the male form: gay porn, sportsmen, divers, actors and also himself. There are many diaries, containing painstaking collections of imagery of the male body, as well as, on the walls, collages of men having sex, at ease or bereft of arms and heads. He also Xeroxed his own body and included his stiffened clothes. This is just part of his 35-year complete works and, it must be said, it includes a lot of penises. But it is also fascinating.
Prodger's work is the most evasive of the three big shows. There is a large screen hanging down from the high McLellan ceiling, perspex circles on the floor, a curious video of a dog which appears to be in a trance or fugue state and, in another room, an assemblage of screens and speakers which tell tales of atoms and science. I need a disclaimer here: I needed more time to absorb Prodger's work than I had - I will definitely revisit.
There is a size and scale and depth to the McLellan show which not only provides a kind of fulcrum to the whole festival but also tells us, once again, what a great space this gallery is. A new tenant will be in place by 2015 - let's hope the building can still be used for fascinating, temporary shows such as this.
At the Tramway, Welsh artist Bedwyr Williams has created Echt, a chilling, immersive, massive tableau or diorama in its largest hall. There are trees or upended branches, shredded wood underfoot, a large stationary bus and piercing but also disorientating lights which cut through a constant mist. Spilling from the bus (which you can enter, but the windows dull the sound) are bags and luggage, which you can sit on to watch a bewildering, intricate and involving new film which is projected from the bus onto the wall.
Beautifully made if grotesque, with hints of the Medieval carnival, club culture meltdowns and numerous other references, Echt is a new commission: it shows a dystopian, and at times horrific, future where a new feudal system is in place. There are horrible decaying bodies in tiny greenhouses, garden sheds joining together into sinister committee buildings, footage of dreadful people doing dubious things, and a general air of nightmarish societal decay. Sweat and grease seems to drip from it. Within the vast darkened room, lit by the arc lights of the bus, one feels like a tourist at the end of the modern world.
Next door are the far cheerier videos of Michael Smith. An artist for 30 years, "Mike" is at the centre of his work, which is wry but also rather empty, if warm and inviting. But you do get the opportunity to hear some classic Neil Diamond.
A walk from Tramway is the Govanhill Baths in Calder Street. Anthea Hamilton and Nicholas Byrne have filled the central pool with Love, a series of eight large inflatables of a different type (a contrasting air, perhaps?) to Jeremy Deller's hugely popular "bouncy Stonehenge" of Sacrilege of the last GI Festival, which attracted thousands to Glasgow Green. These big blow-ups are not for bouncing on - even the central Love Box has a low ceiling to discourage bouncing up and down - and instead it is a soft-play space which is given over to a video. Other large inflatables include images of Rodin's Kiss, advertising and popular culture.
The ceiling beams of the baths are peeling but still elegant, and the floor, when I visited, was still a little slippery. It's a diverting show, and always worth a visit to the baths, but children will not be allowed to run rampant as they did on Sacrilege.In the city centre, the Gallery of Modern Art has two shows from McCrory's Director's Programme. On the ground floor is an attractive show from Aleksandra Domanovic, who has hung large plastic sheets from the building's pillars (the eyes inevitably move up, to GoMA's beautiful ceiling - something the artist hoped for). On these sheets, which you can walk around or push through - and I imagine children will enjoy the latter - there are large images of science fiction machines, kit and clothing.
Included here are the International Space Station, robots, Manga pictures and, finally, the gleaming birth/abortion machine from Ridley Scott's body-horror sci-fi Prometheus. There is also a letter from Disney, dated 1938, which explains that women do not work on animation at the studio, but only "ink and paint". Gallery 1 at GoMA is a tricky space, especially when it holds smallish sculptures that lie on the floor, but like Karla Black did a few years ago, Domanovic has taken on the space (and space, thematically) in a gleaming and sleek display.
Upstairs at GoMA, in Gallery 4, is a substantial display of the art of Sue Tompkins. There are slashed, silvery paintings, one with a pained "Oh Son" painted on it, while the majority of the display is delicate, fascinating concrete poetry or, perhaps, a series of artistic explorations of the marks an inky typewriter can make on all different kinds of paper. There are simple phrases - "You Came Back" - and single words. There are song lyrics and confused and mispelled dialogues. The pieces of paper repay the time it takes to read them. Yellowing and fading, they feel like remnants from a diary, or documents from an abandoned life. Tompkins also performs, and she will be here live on April 17 from 6pm - her warm, rhythmic shows are worth catching.
Finally, at the Briggait, the Wasps Artists' Studios, there is a large and colourful collection of sculptures that have been in storage for a long time. There is the Concept of Kentigern, the unattractive twist of bulbous bronze by Neil Livingstone which used to sit on Buchanan Street and has for 14 years being languishing in a council store. When it was living its public life, it sat on a fairly grim plinth, but now it lies, as if stricken, in the entrance to the large exhibition space. It is meant to be a bird, in reference to the legend of St Mungo and the "bird that never flew", but now it looks like the fossilised shard of a deceased whale.
There are also large works from Joanne Tatham and Tom O'Sullivan, Alex Frost and a huge combination work by Ross Sinclair. There is a pelvis made by David Shrigley, as well as a rather lovely campfire, on a smaller scale. Who knows when we will see these works in public again?
Glasgow International is at various venues across the city until April 21. For full details of all shows, go to