mark wallinger at anthony reynolds

20 July 2010 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, after dropping off some prints at an auction house that might start with the letter ‘S’ – I took advantage of the sun and took a casual stroll across Soho. Anthony Reynolds has a pleasant little gallery here and I made some time to drop in and take a look at Mark Wallinger’s latest exhibition. He has been firmly in the public consciousness in the last few years courtesy of his Turner Prize win in 2007, last years Trafalgar Square 4th plinth (Ecce Homo) and the giant White Horse commission for Ebbsfleet.

The White Horse is inspired and brilliant – take that you northerners with your rusty Angel of the North – we are going to get the clean sparkling White Horse of the South. It is simple yet memorable – gazing over the Kentish landscape the horse is a surreal vision worthy of Magritte. It recalls the horses of Stubbs, the chalk horses carved in to hill sides and represents the tradition and history of the country.

But what does Anthony Reynolds have to offer? It took a while to find out – five minutes of patient waiting after ringing the bell before I gained entrance. Just WHY do galleries even bother to lock their doors, especially when the contents (as here) are pretty much un-nickable (if you should even have the desire)? Harrods seem to manage OK with contents far more prone to theft. And whilst I’m having a whine Harrods staff also manage to say good morning when you greet them, which is more than can be said of the staff at half of London’s galleries – including this one.

OK – on to the art, or at least what there is of it – one work (Self) downstairs and one (I am Innocent) upstairs. Self is a big ‘I’ in Roman lettering, the same height as Wallinger himself, but not nearly as corpulent (image right of the 2D version!). It is clearly a cipher for himself, a philosophical ‘I’, a representation of ‘I’, used in print it is a publically disseminated ‘I’, ‘I’ as we – and so on. Not difficult Mark – I get it. Just in case we don’t here is what he says:

 The capital letter I; Times New Roman; A life-sized sculpture of Self

Times New Roman is how we are all represented by default. I A standing figure, a cipher made of concrete. The smallest poem of our sense of self in the world, of the world, our self is shared with everyone. What I have to say is said in our stead.

Where is I if it is us and how can I ever be me?

I am

Language includes us in the continuum…

And so he goes on… and on and on… with this irritating, self-centred, patronising guff. Mark, I got it as soon as I walked in, as any teenage art student would. This would be forgiven if it was visually arresting or intriguing. It is not – it is marginally less interesting than the pillar that holds up the end of my kitchen.

Upstairs it gets worse (and that is without irritating you with the Press Release text). A twirling screenprint, looking like it was thrown together in a few hours, of Pope Innocent hangs from the ceiling. The image is mirrored on the reverse so the Pope (of Velasquez) maintains his 2D gaze. It’s the ‘I’ or ‘eye’ looking at us looking at him. Who is the observer/observed? He is omnipotent but is he innocent – are we innocent? Yawn… perhaps he is the Emperor – in his new clothes.

The renowned Benjamin Buchloh is a fierce critic accusing him of  regurgitating “retardataire humanist, if not outright mythical or religious … messages,” and more, dumping Wallinger at the bottom of his artistic waste heap alongside his ‘Billy Graham’ of art, Bill Viola. I can see what he means… but then again there is that big white animal on the horizon. Wallinger can get it right – sometimes.

These two new works might have been vaguely interesting and original in 1995 but not now Wallinger. Bend over my boy, I have six Arial Bolds for you……

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