phyllida barlow RIG at hauser & wirth
4 October 2011 § 1 Comment
At long last I managed to drop in to the much talked-about Phyllida Barlow exhibition in their Piccadilly space. A couple of years ago Barlow retired from her long-time post as professor of art at the Slade where she had built up a formidable reputation. The high regard in which she is held is evidenced by her rapid rise to the equivalent of art ‘stardom’ – a solo show with one of the top galleries in London.
And what a good exhibition it is. Barlow has filled the gallery with her sculptural work – from cramped basement rooms, to expansive wood-panelled main space and balcony and up in to the loft. When I say filled, I do not mean that her works sit neatly in the gallery rooms, but that they seem to occupy them entirely – wall to wall, floor to ceiling. Visitors are forced to step carefully through the works that stand, hang, spread or are stacked in the spaces.
Using industrial and low grade materials like concrete, plywood, plaster, rough hewn wood and cardboard Barlow effectively brings the claustrophobic world of the modern urban environment indoors. The large main space is occupied by a forest of wooden bars that stand in rough concrete bases. As you reach the first floor balcony you realise that this forest supports hugh concrete blocks, each covered with a brightly coloured fabric cover, that also occupies the aerial space of the room. Another large room has crudely-painted plywood constructions of varied shape and form whilst in the cellar more concrete, plaster and steel constructions respond to the architecture of the gallery. A ladder leans in to a loft where you can peer in at hanging objects that loiter in the semi-darkness.
The overall effect is disturbing and raw. The sculptures not only occupy the gallery but have taken it over and almost consume it. One realises just how dark and menacing the work actually is when you step back outside in to the hustle and bustle of central London and find it a whole lot sunnier and more cheerful than just a short while ago. Highly recommended.
By the way, for those of you that enjoy investing in good art, if Richard Saltoun’s gallery still has any Barlow watercolours left at pre-H&W prices (about £2-3k versus £4-5) I’d grab one fast!
RIG is at Hauser & Wirth Piccadilly until 22 October 2011