Pick of the galleries

Simple stories and the economies of scale
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The Independent Online

Laurent Delaye Gallery, London

Laurent Delaye Gallery, London

Subtitled, "People take turns to do the difficult jobs," this show, through a combination of painted storyboard and single image, portrays life in a society subtly different from ours.

The first diptych is especially effective. In the storyboard, there are three bottle-green horizontal strips filled with red figures outlined in white. A man and a woman have a child wholearns that living things are born, grow, regenerate and die. The fact that the story has been told elegantly becomes clear when you go to the second part, a single glorious image dominated by a blue sky, trees and river banks on which a boy and a girl are inspecting each other's genitals. Not for one second does this seem shameful behaviour, so purely has the scene been set.

There are three more almost-as-successful works which combine the same balance of instruction-manual-for-life and idealistic illustration. Wealth, food and friendship are shared. But the show ends with a more complicated diptych Prisoners are Freed. Gone is the engaging simplicity, instead the storyboard is packed with baffling figures and symbols. Because the ground hasn't been properly prepared, the single large image just doesn't pull the same weight as elsewhere. The storyboard is accompanied by a handout (capitalism is critiqued as an emotionally crippling regime inhabited by vampires and zombies), but this is hardly as satisfactory as viewing the works which make their impact with no need for explanation.

Chad McCail's single work at the Whitechapel's current "Protest and Survive" show effectively takes one of the three strips from the final storyboard at the Laurent Delaye Gallery, and enlarges it. This simplification is a step in the right direction, but then the storyboard is presented without a single exhilarating image, so you get the didacticism and not the inspiration behind it, which is a step back.

Clearly, McCail is working on how to proceed with his ambitious, socially committed work. Good luck to him: I'd like to see an extended sequence of it in a large public space, but this show is more than a taster.

* Chad McCail: Laurent Delaye, W1 (020 7287 1546), to 28 October

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