Adrian Ghenie, Pace Gallery, London
The young Romanian says he wants to paint “the texture of history”, and he does it in the texture of paint, slathered, scraped, layered with a luxuriant physicality and palette of rich contrasts. The effects are abstracted but narratives, especially depictions of figures who changed the course of events or thought, are always the subject. In this show the figure is Darwin, whose flowing beard, Victorian garb and appearance in 19th-century caricature as an ape afford Ghenie marvellous possibilities for employing thick, dark paint and his signature grotesquerie.
“The Darwin Room”, a cave-like installation modelled on Rembrandt’s “Philosopher in Meditation”, completes the exhibition and affirms Ghenie’s ambition within the framework of European figurative painting.
pacegallery.com, 020 3206 7600, to July 25
As Exciting As We Can Make It: Ikon in the 1980s, Ikon, Birmingham
Twenty-nine artists who showed at Birmingham’s leading contemporary space in the 1980s return for this retrospective of the decade, which saw the rise of post-modernism, appropriation art, installations and the return of figurative painting. Artists range from conceptualists Susan Hiller, John Stezaker and the group Art & Language to 91-year-old painter Albert Irwin. A special display of Cornelia Parker, whose “Thirty Pieces of Silver” was commissioned by Ikon in 1988 – a 2003 reworking is shown here – is a highlight.
ikon-gallery.org, 0121 248 0708, to August 31
Daniel Buren, Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, Gateshead
The huge former mill on the Tyne is an ideal environment for the French artist’s immersive interventions, which opened this weekend.
Buren has coloured the windows of the building’s west façade and saturated its interior with coloured light, using large sculptural mirrors to intensify reflections, and installing luminous fibre optic works from his “Electric Light” series to explore form, space, surface and architecture.
balticmill.com, 0191 478 1810, to October 12
Dorothea Tanning, Alison Jacques Gallery, London
Half a century of meticulously rendered dream imagery, mostly focused on the female form, from the American painter who died in 2012 aged 101 and was a last living link with European surrealism – Tanning was married to Max Ernst.
alisonjacquesgallery.com, 020 7631 4720, to August 9
The Space Where I Am, Blain|Southern, London
Or the space where I am not: this show traces ideas of emptiness and the void since 1960. It includes Donald Judd – how sculpture cannot exist without empty space; a Carl Andre floor work; a Lucio Fontana slashed “Concetto Spaziale”; Gerhard Richter’s “Schwarz, Rot, Gold”, which uses blank, reflective spaces rather than forms; Bill Viola’s sound piece “Presence”; and James Turrell’s 1968 light projection “Pullen (Red)”.
blainsouthern.com, 020 7493 4492, from Thursday to September 27