Saatchi Gallery, London
Just who is responsible for such a silly name? A year ago the Saatchi Gallery published 'New Neurotic Realism'. The 30-odd artists in the book were therefore, by association, New Neurotic Realists. There was no coherent school of thought, no central theme, no one art college or studio block. And who are the old NRs if this grouping of artists are the new ones?
But the name has stuck for two of Saatchi's 1999 shows. " Part One" showed five artists, including Martin Maloney and Stephen Gontarski. Now it's the turn of Dexter Dalwood, Peter Davies, David Falconer, Mark Hosking and Tom Hunter, a veritable boys' brigade of talent.
Unfortunately, the immense size of the warehouse-style gallery makes some of the work look rather insignificant. Falconer's 10-foot-tall wiggly tower of dead rats doesn't conjure up the repulsion or squirminess as it did when it was crammed into a tiny East End gallery. Tom Hunter's photographs of residents in the condemned tower block he lived in for 12 years look limp and insubstantial, in part caused by the iconic status given to by far his best work in the show, Woman reading a Possession Order. Mark Hosking's brightly painted scrap-metal objects, made to specifications drawn up by the UN for cheap agricultural machinery, glibly look back to Anthony Caro's Sixties sculptures. One of them, a plough with a Duchampesque bottle-rack for a blade, made me laugh, but it became a hollow laugh very quickly.
Other artists fair better. Several of Davies's enormous canvases are covered with eye-boggling tiny squares that seem to pulsate. His earlier Hip One Hundred, a text work that rates artists by their cool-factor, now seems rather dated. But this is fitting for a work that suggests the ridiculousness of fame and stardom. Davies has always painted abstract work alongside his text pieces, but now abstraction has taken over - wobbly tesserae, lumpy tubular cubes and wibbly-wobbly zig-zags are Op-arty in the way they dazzle the viewer, but are designed to look stubbornly hand- made.
Dalwood's paintings are based on his collages, made with images from glossy magazines. They are his visions of famous places he has never visited: Prince's Paisley Park, the Liberace Museum. The Queen's Bedroom is amusing - an opulent palace room, all red drapes and chandeliers, furnished with a studenty heater, single metal bed and cupboard for blankets. Camp David looks surpringly like I imagine David Hockney's place looks, all clean modernist lines, with a swimming pool frozen in time - like A Bigger Splash, pre-dive. But apparently it's Dalwood's vision of the US President's summer pad. I guess not everyone's visions are the same.
' Part Two': Saatchi Gallery, NW8 (0171 624 8299) to 5 December
Boetti: the maverick spirit of Arte Povera
Two red light-boxes flank the entrance to Boetti's quirky 40-piece retrospective. One flashes on, and reads "ping". It goes off a second later; the adjacent box flashes on: "pong". Duality, fun and a sense of order are all present in this work, and many others, that were part of Boetti's first exhibition in Turin in 1966. He soon became part of the humble-material group, Arte Povera, founded in 1967, and fell in love with building yards. Their materials became his inspiration - works like Tiles (1969) used firebricks ranged on the floor in a jigsaw-puzzle square, a cheeky nod to Carl Andre while subverting his Minimalist ideals.
However the title of this show is misleading, as Boetti distanced himself from Arte Povera less than two years after it was created. He became increasingly interested in classification and the futility of it (Order Leads to Disorder is one of his works), and commissioned lots of sewn maps of the world, with each country demarcated by its flag. He aimed to compile a list of the world's 1,000 longest rivers, but failed; in Aeroplanes he painted every plane in the sky in 1977. Time became the central theme of his work, which continued until his death in 1994. He predicted he would die in 2023 - a shame he went so soon.
'Boetti': Whitechapel, E1 (0171 522 7878) to 7 November
30 Underwood Street, London
The curators of "Chora", poet Sue Hubbard and artist Simon Morley, wanted their show to represent the unrepresentable. Although this leaves you feeling frustrated by the opaqueness of much of the works' subject matter, it's also stimulating, because of the amount of thought each work demands.
Out of the 12 artists in the show, the work of Maria Chevska, Simon Morley and Susan Hiller looms large. Chevska's Mimic has delicate grey shapes overlaid with gloopy calligraphic swirls. The shapes outline hands in sign-language positions - unreadable by most - and the writing is fractured and illegible. The painting uses language as a barrier to speak of something beyond expression.
Morley's Elegy has the title emblazoned on a canvas littered with smaller letters. An elegy to what? Was there a text so horrific that it has degenerated into nonsense?
Hiller's photographs appear to show a coded alphabet. They make you think of traditional Japanese prints, but the script is an unknown language.
A week later, and the images are still rattling around in my head like the awkward clues in a partially solved crossword.
'Chora': 30 Underwood St, N1 (0171 336 0884) to 31 October
Emily Tsingou Gallery, London
Ashkin once said: "I try to work with really boring landscapes." He wasn't lying; he does. But by looking at everyday landscapes that we no longer register, he transforms them into places of potential intrigue - film sets of infinitely possible stories.
His three sculptures in the show - scale models of empty roads, shallow marshland, parking lots - rise from tressle tables. There are no people, only a plane and a disused swimming pool bought from a model-maker's shop to liven up the drab landscape. This is not art of the metropolis - of New York where he lives, all bustle and slickness - but of the desolate parts of New Jersey, of road movies, of lost highways.
The table-tops, made from cement, dirt and resins, draw you in through their emptiness. No 87 is downstairs, and as you descend you look down over it, a bird's-eye view of water breaking over sandbars, snatches of scrub, a crashed plane nose-first in the sand. It seems too real to be a model; it's like a still from a film which you would like to see, and it leaves you wanting to see more examples. Judging by the titles of the works on show - No 87, No 91, No 100 - there are plenty more in waiting.
'Michael Ashkin': Emily Tsingou Gallery, SW1 (0171 839 5320) to 30 OctoberReuse content