Miroslaw Balka DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL at White Cube

10 April 2014 § Leave a comment

White Cube’s latest exhibition at their Masons’ Yard space is Miroslaw Balka’s DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG 25,31m AMSL. The title refers both to the building’s altitude above sea level and the original German title of Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams – the exhibition running concurrently with another at London’s Freud Museum (73,32m AMSL).

Miroslaw Balka White Cube

The title immediately suggests a connection with mental landscapes whilst – as with his vast steel box construction, How It Is, which occupied the Tate Modern turbine hall a couple of years ago – Balka’s work also is strongly connected with the body, materials and the physical.

The ground floor gallery houses just two minimalist concrete sculptures. The first, entitled 100 x 100 x 20 TTT, is a flat structure from which an internal light shines. Is it a plinth, a grave or perhaps a trapdoor to a subterranean space? Alongside is a trapezohedron, open at one side, that is inspired by the mysterious object in Abrecht Durer’s Melancolia 1 (1514) and matches the magic ‘invisibility’ helmet from Wagner’s Das Rheingold.

Melencolia Albrecht Durer

In the basement space Balka has installed Above your Head – a steel mesh canopy (chicken wire to you and me) fixed just above head height. He has added to this dim lighting and the whistled soundtrack of the Great Escape theme tune ‘to continue the theme of refuge and confinement’.

Miroslaw Balka White Cube

This all relates to recurring Balka references that cover topics like Polish history and the holocaust. Unfortunately it doesn’t work. The White Cube space looks like – well – a big space with a chicken wire ceiling and doesn’t invoke the claustrophobia and sense of confinement that it is meant to. The whistled tune is annoying and obvious whilst the ‘escape hatch’ sculpture of the upper gallery is far too simplistic.

'DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG / 75,32m AMSL', Freud Museum  Photo: Jack Hems Courtesy White Cube

‘DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG / 75,32m AMSL’, Freud Museum
Photo: Jack Hems
Courtesy White Cube

The attempt at some sort of mystery supposedly introduced by the enigmatic tarpezohedron seems just a little desperate and the whole is far too literal. Perhaps the second exhibition at the Freud Museum makes more sense, but I won’t personally be finding out.

Miroslaw Balka DIE TRAUMDEUTUNG is at White Cube Masons Yard until  until 25 May 2014 and at the Freud Museum  until 25 May 2014

new order at white cube

18 April 2011 § Leave a comment

No, sadly not the Manchester band reforming for a new concert, but a group show at Masons Yard! White Cube’s curators have worked rather harder than Carl Freedman (last week) to create a conceptual theme. Building from a quote by trendy French philosopher Jacques Rancière – ‘The dream of a suitable political work of art is in fact the dream of disrupting the relationship between the visible, the sayable, and the thinkable without having to use the terms of a message as a vehicle’ – they have produced a coherent and interesting show from a powerful array of White Cube talent.

The big space here demands big works that do not get ‘lost’ in the airy cellar that serves as the main gallery. For this exhibition Miroslaw Balka‘s Kategorie (2005) is plonked in the centre and  nicely fits within its surroundings. A solid, dark and forboding concrete tunnel six metres long and two metres high suitably reflects Balka’s references to wartime oppression and links neatly with Ranciere. The coloured strands that spin along its ceiling and which represent the uniform colours of categories of prisoner in the concentration camps are perhaps, for me, an allusion one stage too far. How much of an artists statement (if any?) should you have to read before you are able to understand at a work? Answers on a postcard please….

Elsewhere there are two excellent works by Julie Mehretu, who coincidentally appears a couple of days after I featured the ‘theft’ of her art in TV advertising (see blog). Black Ground (2008) features her trademark swirling vortex of shapes and marks – it is easy to stop and stare and get lost in her wonderful futurist / supremacist / abstract expressionist ‘multifaceted layers of space, place and time’.

The best of the rest for me is Mark Bradford. His densely-layered, collaged paintings incorporate salvaged materials like torn posters or newsprint. His abstract compositions reference alternative cartographies that burgeon within cities, such as the spread of economic underclasses or the movement of immigrant communities.

Also showing are photographs by Anselm Kiefer featuring his provocative Nazi salutes, David Hammons‘ with his black urban commentaries and Doris Salcedo‘s concrete entombed furniture. A neat exhibition well worth a visit. Continues until the 14 May 2011.

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