31 July 2014 § Leave a comment
7 April 2014 § Leave a comment
The latest commission for the imposing Duveen Gallery at Tate Britain is by sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Anyone who visited her impressive exhibition RIG, for Hauser & Wirth‘s Piccadilly gallery, would have been greatly impressed at how she was able to so totally take over such a selection of varied spaces. Using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene and plaster she created bold and colourful three-dimensional collages that utterly transformed the whole building – from the grand main gallery to the tiny former bank safe in the basement (AKUTA review here).
At the time this was her finest achievement. Not only is this better but quite amazingly she manages once again to completely command the space despite its vast dimensions. Seven distinct works somehow take over this pompous neo-classical space in one glorious, over the top, bricolage of industrial debris inspired of course by London’s docklands.
Stretching to the roof, tumbling across the floor, hanging from the ceiling and even encapsulating part of the structure Barlow’s dock has made the Duveen its own.
Ambitious and exuberant it is hard not to laugh out loud and the audacious transformation. Upon entering huge wooden boxes hang from a lofty timber construction. Partially broken open they reveal broken pink polystyrene foam which tumbles out whilst on the reverse painted cardboard makes a wonderfully modernistic collage.
Farther on a pile of broken pallets climbs up towards the rotunda whilst more broken and painted timbers, strewn with coloured canvas and assorted debris climbs up the wall. Opposite a grand romanesque pillar – as if an ugly embarrassment to be hidden away – is encased with cardboard and sealed with brightly coloured tape.
Finally, what can only be described as the cardboard core of a giant toilet roll is suspended from another gantry as a the display’s ultimate sculptural statement.
This is an ambitious work that truly works. Joyful and transformative it is a delightful contrast to self-regarding works of the world of old-fashioned and male dominated sculptural pomposity. Don’t miss.
Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain, Millbank, London until 19 October 2014. Free.
3 February 2014 § Leave a comment
Paul McCarthy is a heavyweight of the contemporary art world. represented by Hauser & Wirth his work can be found in the most important collections and most major public galleries worldwide. It is therefore somewhat of a surprise – and rather a coup for the gallery – to come across an exhibition of his work at [space] studios in Bethnal Green.
The most familiar pieces by McCarthy are probably the debauched, graphic and tragi-comic sculptures and installations (example ‘Bushed’ above) but he is also well known for working in a broad spectrum of media, and emphasis upon performance as a tool for breaching established boundaries between genres.
While McCarthy’s earliest work explored and disrupted the formal properties of minimalist art, in the early 70s, he began to document himself executing swift, psychologically taut performances.
In contrast to the spectacular ambition of his later installations and public sculptures, the Black and White Tapes (as these performances came to be known) feature the artist alone or lightly accompanied in his studio. Making use of whatever materials are in the room – emulsion paint, rags, a phone book, cotton wool and crucially, his own body, McCarthy undertakes single, repetitive or punitive acts for the camera.
[space] has dedicated its largest gallery space to a thirteen period video monitors, equally spaced across the darkened room, all playing consecutively. Immersive a cacophonous it is a fitting environment for a McCarthy ‘experience’.
In these grainy black and white video images we encounter the artist in action: drawing an emulsion line along the studio floor using only his face, tugging urgently at his testicles, whipping and swinging at the studio walls with a paint soaked rag and spitting directly into the lense of the fixed frame camera.
Adopting ritualistic repetition, making use of fluids and props and using his body to act out dysfunctional movements and traumatic narratives, the Black and White Tapes is essential to understand McCarthy’s later work and represent a vital document in the evolution of the artist’s practice.
Tip: Perhaps combine a visit here with a visit to galleries like Maureen Paley, Transition and Wilkinson Galleries in the local area. The Museum of Childhood is interesting and a few minutes walk down the road.
Until 16 March 2014
[space] 129—131 Mare Street, LONDON E8 3RH
tel020 8525 4330
18 October 2012 § Leave a comment
Another uninspiring Frieze his year. I suppose that once the art world has – like every year – built it up to be the London event of the year there is only one result: some degree of disappointment. Despite this Frieze of course remains the best UK contemporary art fair and a must visit to try at catch a whiff of the zeitgeist of the contemporary art market. Here are a few of the things that caught our eye this year. No particular reason. No particular order. No analyses of who sold what. And most definitely no ‘who was seen where’ nonsense.
A melting Paul McCarthy White Snow Head at Hauser & Wirth.
A Gavin Turk neon door.
Julian Opie‘s rather neat sculptures – and a mosaic.
One of a few large and impressive Wolfgang Tillmans images.
Something made of some substance made by somebody South American (I think?)
And outside, in the rain a pretty Yayoi Kusama from Victoria Miro.
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
18 September 2011 § Leave a comment
The new Phyllida Barlow exhibition has created something of a buzz. So I made some time to drop in to H&W’s expansive new(ish) Savile Row space. Sadly I got the wrong gallery – the Barlow show is on at the company’s Piccadilly location.
Instead I got Roni Horn. Her first show since the ‘aka Roni Horn’ solo at the Tate. The first room, with a reprise of an earlier work You are the Weather has one hundred photographs of a womans head, as she sits in an Icelandic hot spring – apparently. We are also told that she is ‘reacting to the weather conditions around her’ – even though, with a series of seemingly bored and vacant expressions, you would be hard-pressed to detect any variation. The ‘viewer is voyeurised by the view’ – we replace the weather as the reason for her changing expression. Perception, location, identity, yawn. In the second room Horn has made pigment drawings which she subsequently has dissected and re-assembled repeadly. Pencil lines and notes reveal the process. They are OK.
It is all very delicate, meditative and influenced by her Icelandic connections. The works are deeply considered and carefully thought out, neatly made in appropriate media, are reasonably aesthetically pleasing and so on. In other words they neatly tick all the boxes in an art-studenty sort of way. I am sure curators also love them – big statements on worthy themes that fill large spaces but I found this particular exhibition rather uninspiring. Note to self: must get over to see Barlow asap.
Hauser & Wirth Savile Row until 22 October 2011
- This week’s new exhibitions (guardian.co.uk)