Nan Goldin to Nil Yalter: 10 must-see shows at London gallery weekend | Art

This weekend (and beyond), commercial galleries all over the city will be showcasing work by their most important artists – and admission is free. Here are 10 great shows to drop in on if you’re in the capital, from a film by Nan Goldin to images of Palestinian youth.

Kiki Kogelnik, Bomb for Alfonso. Photograph: Jonathan_Nesteruk/© Kiki Kogelnik Foundation. All rights reserved

Kiki Kogelnik: The Dance

In the late Kiki Kogelnik’s paintings and sculptures, floating female silhouettes and celestial orbs have a bold billboard appeal and come in solid candy hues. Yet spend time with her flattened fragmented people and her vision of the future looks less than bright. This show focuses on space travel’s potential for freedom and alarm. From her outlines of people cut from smooth shiny vinyls to bodies adorned with kitschy love hearts, Kogelnik suggests that human depth risks being lost in a technologised world. The weekend’s special exhibition tour guides include top Polish artist Paulina Olowska, a Kogelnik fan whose work has also drawn on imagery from women’s magazines. Pace Gallery, W1, until 3 August

Matthew Barney: Secondary: Light Lens Parallax

Screened in four galleries around the world with accompanying exhibitions, Barney’s film Secondary is a gorgeous, brutal addition to his canon of grand cinematic projects exploring bodily extremes with weird, wild costumes. In it, dancers interpret a notorious 1978 American football tragedy, in which player Darryl Stingley was paralysed. Reflecting on the attendant media spectacle and audience fascination with violence, new sculptures riffing on forms of athletic kit explore the frailty of sports stars’ exploited bodies. These include a spine-like ceramic work cowed by dumbbells and two power racks (a weight-lifting cage) echoing the struggle between the film’s two footballers. Sadie Coles HQ, W1, until 27 July

Adam Rouhana: Before Freedom Pt 2

The young Palestinian-American Adam Rouhana’s photographs celebrate the everyday life in Palestine that’s overlooked by the news. His latest works were created during spring this year while on an artist’s residency, and capture kids playing on a farm, teenagers cooling off in a river, lush fruit trees, rugs being beaten on a sunny day and an elderly man enjoying a trip to the barber. It’s not that he ignores the reality of a country at war. Rather, it’s that the razor wire and soldiers, when they appear, are in the background. New life is the focus here. TJ Boulting, W1, 30 May to 22 June

Adam Rouhana, Ein Aouja, 2022. Photograph: Courtesy the artist and TJ Boulting

Nan Goldin: Sisters, Saints, Sibyls

The pre-eminent chronicler of 1980s New York’s queer subcultures has found a suggestive venue for this showing of her 2004 three-channel film exploring her sister’s troubled teenhood and suicide. In Soho’s deconsecrated Welsh Chapel, this typically in-the-raw work begins with Saint Barbara, beheaded by her heathen father. This offsets the story of Goldin’s rebellious sister Barbara’s brief life, committed to mental institutions by her parents before she died aged 18. It’s a wrenching study of secular martyrdom and cross-generational cultural misunderstanding, which shaped the artist’s vision. The Welsh Chapel, 83 Charing Cross Road, WC2, 30 May to 23 June

Nil Yalter: In the Land of the Troubadours

The joint recipient of this year’s lifetime achievement award at the Venice Biennale, the octogenarian Paris-based Turkish artist Nil Yalter has spent her career exploring exile and immigration. Complementing a capsule survey of works from the 1970s to now at Ab-Anbar, she’s staging her first ever live performance with the help of a group of Anatolian bards at an East End community centre. It pays homage to her friend, the poet and folk singer Nesimi Çimen, who was killed in the infamous 1993 Sivas massacre targeting Alevi intellectuals, artists and musicians. Traditional Anatolian nomadic oral traditions will be explored with poetry and music, followed by a talk with the artist. Halkevi – Turkish and Kurdish Community Centre, E8, 2 June

Otobong Nkanga: We Come from Fire and Return to Fire

Nkanga is leading figure in a new wave of can-do environmental artists. Not content simply to outline the eco-crisis, her work suggests solutions that she makes good on in real life, such as the organic farm she’s established in Nigeria. Following a big museum show in Europe, her first UK solo exhibition introduces her holistic vision across tapestry, rope and ceramic sculpture, sound and more. While towers of raku-fired ceramics suggest burned trees, the devastation is offset with potential renewal in the shape of herbal remedies in hand-blown vials, a carpet-work dusted in minerals, ritual offerings of oil and seeds. Lisson Gallery, NW1, until 3 August

Otobong Nkanga: We Come from Fire and Return to Fire at Lisson Gallery, London. Photograph: © Otobong Nkanga/courtesy Lisson Gallery

Harminder Judge: A Ghost Dance

The lush colourfields of 20th century American abstract painting meld with the meditative shapes of Indian Tantric art in this up-and-coming artist’s works. They’re not traditional paintings on canvas, though. Judge paints on fast-drying wet plaster, then polishes and wears it down to create layers of pigment and texture. Staged across two south London galleries, his new works allude to Native American ceremonies to summon spirits in order to help the living recover land occupied by colonisers. New sculptures recall urns and a dead body, while his plaster works hint at transformation and glimpse into hidden worlds. Matt’s Gallery, SW11, and the Sunday Painter, SW8, until 7 July

Can Altay: Been Waiting for the Rain to Flow

Headlines about polluted rivers and water companies going under, not to mention flood and drought, have lent a fresh impetus to questions around how we access clean water. With this in mind, Altay, an artist with a background in design and architecture, has been exploring the fountain as both an urgent form of public sculpture and a key bit of regenerative technology, collecting and redistributing water for communities. This show builds on his presentation at last year’s Coventry Biennial and includes his signature drawings on newsprint, water-processing sculptures-cum-prototypes and research exploring buried urban rivers, harvesting rainwater and the path to renewable energy. Arcade, Flat Time House, SE15, 31 May to 7 July

Dean Sameshima, Being Alone (No 18), 2022. Archival inkjet print (59.5cm × 42 cm). Photograph: Courtesy the artist and Soft Opening, London

Dean Sameshima: Being Alone

In the post-digital world, visiting an IRL gay porn theatre sounds almost quaint. It’s just the kind of fringe territory to interest photographer Dean Sameshima, whose other recent series focused on glory holes and used condoms in bins, leaving us to ponder the human encounters that animated them. First seen at this year’s Venice Biennale, the photographer’s newest work, Being Alone, muses on these hidden cinemas in intentionally unrevealing monochrome. While people feature here, the screen itself is an image-free white-out, its solitary viewers little more than black outlines. True to the spirit of the establishments, their anonymity is preserved. They seem both protected and isolated. Soft Opening, E2, until 8 June

Adelaide Cioni: Touch Song

This young artist’s installations have previously used simple forms – from basic geometric shapes such as circles and triangles to the more whimsical lightning strikes or bananas – to explore the human inclination to make patterns. Her new exhibition of huge drawings on loose cotton at the Approach gallery pares back ancient headless and limbless statuettes to their essential elements. An accompanying performance with two giant hands, music and slapstick humour in Piccadilly, explores another way we make our mark on the world, through our desire to connect with others. Southwood Garden at St James’s Church Piccadilly, W1, 31 May

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