Top five things in galleries to go and see for free in London right now (in reverse order)

5. Henrik Plenge Jacobsen: “J’accuse” at the South London Gallery

HPJ is really saying something in this exhibition, something about justice and media, but I’m not sure quite what. The pieces here are diverting enough, and I’m always going to be a sucker for a specially-pressed op-arty picture disc, but whenever I felt like I was getting near working out what he was trying to express, past a sense of something being wrong, the ideas seemed to drift away from me. The show’s included here partly for the cheeky pair of architectural proposals, for a new European Central Bank building (a pile of dollar bills) and a new Bank of England building (three piles of Euro coins), both of which made me snigger. But he’s also had a set of red, spherical lights installed in the tree outside the gallery like Xmas baubles. Each has ANGST written across them in some strong sans-serif and they’ve been giving me great pleasure as I take the newly-bendy 12 along the annoyingly slow going of Peckham Road. (Ends Feb 27)

4. Hamish Fulton at Maureen Paley Interim Art

Hamish Fulton walks. He’s been toddling around for the best part of forty years now, each action an invisible line on the world, each one commemorated by something you can put in a gallery, something you might buy. His earlier pieces were mostly photographs with a few words of oblique description, but gradually the words became more important. It’s his entirely textual works which really excite my imagination, and this show has a nice selection of both. The largest single piece, concerning a journey made across Western Europe, just reads WATER, and takes up a whole wall, too large to hold the whole thing easily in your field of vision. I can understand how that might sound uninteresting but these pieces, these few simple words, get me dreaming.
For Fulton, I understand, the art is the action, the walking itself. For me, I’m only really interested in the evocation. I suppose it’s poetry, of a sort. (Ends March 24)

3. Jenny Holzer at Spr’th Magers Lee

Two works, each installed across a corner of the gallery space. Regular Holzer business, words scrolling across LED displays. Unusual Holzer business in that the words are poems by Henri Cole. I’m not used to proper grown-up poetry neing presented in goofy scrolling text, not used to having to catch it line by line as it scrolls away. Also the back of each LED gives out a reddish light so the space behind them glows pink, like some robot ribcage, or ET. (I see, on a cursory glance at the notes, that one of the works is called “Rib Cage” so I guess Jenny will be pleased with me). It’s as fleshly a move as I’ve seen Holzer make, which still isn’t very fleshly, to tell you the truth. (Ends April 2)

2. William Scott at Archeus, Albemarle Street

It’s billed as A Survey of His Original Prints, and there’s work spanning almost 40 years here. I think of Scott’s prints as being mostly naively-rendered pans, and cookign implements, with maybe a bowl or an egg or a pear or two, often just in silhouette against more or less single-coloured ground colours. Turns out I was largely right, though his work encompasses a few simple landscapes and some abstractions too. Sounds dull, eh? I’m not sure I can really explain why it’s not, except to say that I find myself enjoying very much indeed my time standing in front of these bits of paper, the subtleties of their colour and form; I end up thinking yes, here’s what my eyes are really for.
(Ends Feb 26)

1. Abram Games at Ben Uri

Abram Games was a commercial artist who worked mostly in the medium of posters. He, and contemporaries of his like McKnight Kauffer, were known in advertising circles as the Mid-Century Modernists, apparently, which is enough to endear him to me before we even start. Even so, this show which consists almost entirely of ads and public information posters contains the most arresting and most fascinating images I’ve seen for ages. It’s interesting to see similar graphic techniques used to sell newspapers I would’t dream of buying, and used to try to persuade soldiers to wash their feet. Real actual social history interest here, then, especially in the series of posters showing progressive social measures in high modernist buildings as a reminder to British soldiers of what they were fighting for (Churchill pulled this campaign, saying that the soldiers knew Britain wasn’t like that). But we’re not going to be rockist about this and merely examine commercial art for its historical value, are we?
There’s plenty of aesthetic reward in these posters, plenty of luscious, visceral shape-and-texture enjoyment too, more than enough to justify being snowed on on the Abbey Road on a Sunday afternoon. (Ends March 6)