Hauser & Wirth Somerset opens with Phyllida Barlow Gig

31 July 2014 § Leave a comment

Hauser & Wirth are one of the powerhouses of worldwide contemporary art with galleries in Zurich, London, New York, Los Angeles and Bruton. Yes, you read that right, Bruton – a sleepy village home to some three thousand souls, a handful of pubs and a couple of takeaways.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
So why Somerset? The first thoughts are that the site is perhaps ideal for the outdoor display of large scale sculptures or that it could be considered a refreshing alternative to the widely prevalent ‘white cube’ city galleries. But whilst these thoughts are both in some way correct it is soon apparent that there is much more to the story.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Whilst Bruton may well turn out to be a great commercial success the deciding elements were much more personal. Back in 2005 Iwan and Manuela Wirth decided to live temporarily in England, at least in part so that their children were schooled for a while experiencing a different culture and language.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
Before long their attachment became much deeper. They developed a love of the Somerset countryside, moved in to their own medieval house before discovering the almost derelict Durslade Farm. They quickly purchased the 18th century property and set about its restoration.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The work that has been done is astonishing – a labour of love that has drawn on their considerable contact list. The run-down buildings have been sympathetically restored with old stone, brick and traditional materials, whilst new extensions are hidden behind the old facades.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The very best architects and designers were given virtual free rein and have given new life to the historic buildings, creating no less than five gallery spaces plus offices, educational spaces, bar, bookshop and restaurant. Outside a muddy pasture is now a stunning garden, created by Piet Oudolf no less – the internationally-renowned designer behind New York’s High Line and the Queen Elizabeth Park at the London Olympic site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
I have yet to move on to the contents of the space and again it is hard to rein in the superlatives. The galleries will of course house some of the world’s finest contemporary art. Since the first gallery opened its doors in 1992 at the old Löwenbräu brewery building in Zurich Hauser & Wirth have steadily built up a remarkable stable of artists, now represening giants like Allan Kaprow, Paul McCarthy, Ron Mueck, Eva Hesse and Louise Bourgeois, amongst many others.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
The first to occupy the main gallery spaces is Phyllida Barlow, who recently wowed the art world with her striking installation ‘Dock’ at Tate Britain (see our review here), and is similarly impressive with this show. Entitled ‘Gig’ it commands the four varied spaces it occupies, her ramshackle aesthetic of accumulated fabric scraps and building materials nicely commenting on the cycle of dereliction and renovation work just completed at the site.
Hauser & Wirth Somerset
As would be anticipated the bar and restaurant doesn’t just serve top quality food (courtesy of At The Chapel, Bruton) but is also an ‘installation’ by artists Bjorn & Oddur Roth with sundry fine artworks lining the dining room walls.
 With a big educational and artist residency programme plus a distinct community bias this is an establishment of huge ambition and matching quality. Bound to become an important fixture in the regions cultural and artistic landscape it’s future programme and progress is one to watch.

Ruin Lust at Tate Britain

9 April 2014 § Leave a comment

I’m not sure whether Phyllida Barlow’s Duveen commission dock (reviews by AKUTA here) was scheduled before Ruin Lust but on the surface this looks like an intelligent pairing of exhibitions. With Barlow’s wonderful, monumental constructions of industrial ‘debris’ filling the central parts of the building, an exhibition that looks at our fascination with the subject should be rich with possibilities. The words Ruin Lust, by the way, deriving from the German word Ruinenlust, an obsession with, or taking pleasure in, decay.

Ruin Lust Tate Britain

It all starts promisingly with John Martin’s magnificent Destruction of Pompeii and Herculaneum and  Jane and Louise Wilson’s imposing wartime bunker, Azeville. Not unexpectedly we then find plenty of 19th century romantic visions of classical ruins amongst idealised landscapes. We have John  Sell Cotman and JMW Turner’s wonderful Tintern Abbey for example.

Ruin Lust Tate Britain

Less expected are works from others like Eduardo Paolozzi, Patrick Caulfield and John Stezaker. Just how were these artists obsessed with decay? John Stezaker has exactly zero connection with the subject of this exhibition, his inclusion down to the fact that the featured works happened to collage a couple of old postcards of photogenic ruins on to his trademark film publicity photos, creating new meanings. And Paolozzi? Caulfield?

Ruin Lust Tate Britain stezaker_oath

Next comes Tacita Dean and Kodak. Less about ruin and decay this is more a self-reverential elegy to the medium of film and is only marginally relevant to the exhibitions subject.

Ruin Lust Tate Britain Paolozzi

At this point I have to admit I switched off for the remaining, less than attention-grabbing, four rooms. It was crystal clear that the curators were starting with a catchy title to then shoe-horn artworks with superficial relevance to then claim they were part of a greater whole.

Ruin Lust Tate Britain

Furthermore the choice of artists haphazard, the selection of work poor, many selected pieces downright dreadful and the hanging almost random. To rub salt in to the wound the accompanying exhibition book was equally low quality.

Ruin Lust Tate Britain

To me this was a shallow and poorly conceived exhibition with many mediocre works amongst a handful of interesting ones. I beg you not to waste £10 – see Phyllida Barlow and spend your hard-earned tenner in the cafe instead.

Ruin Lust is at Tate Britain until 18 May 2014.

 

Phyllida Barlow dock at Tate Britain

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).

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

Phyllida Barlow Rig Tate Britain

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.

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

roni horn: recent work at hauser & wirth

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

latest exhibition openings

8 September 2011 § 1 Comment

After the summer lull the Autumn ‘season’ is off with a bang. Here is a selection of my recommended new exhibitions, starting with those that have opened in the last few days.

Timothy Taylor. Lee Friedlander – America by Car & The New Cars 1964. Fresh from MoMA, breathtaking photographs from a master. Until 1 October 2011.

Hauser & Wirth. Phyllida Barlow – RIG. Urban structures reacting to the gallery space. Until 22 October 2011.

Wilkinson. Thoralf Knobloch – Wegkreuz & Matt Calderwood – Full Scale. Until 2 October 2011.

Stephen Friedman. Paul McDevitt – Running on Woollen Legs. Disney meets De Stijl – fascinating! Until 1 October 2011.

Blain Southern. Marius Bercea – Remains Of Tomorrow. Beautiful but complex landscapes of a fractured society. Until 1 October 2011.

Victoria Miro. Conrad Shawcross – Sequential. Geometrical, metaphysical and ambitious. Sure to be excellent. Until 1 October 2011.

Sumarria Lunn. Modern Frustrations. In particular check out Tim Phillips’ excellent Hyperion – a corporate logo for a new age. 8 to 30 September 2011, just around the corner from….

Haunch of Venison. Adrian Ghenie. Complex figurative paintings back in HoV’s restored original space. 8 September to 8 October 2011.

Alison Jacques. Dan Fischer. Immaculate pencil drawings that ask searching questions about modern icons. 9 September to 8 October 2011.

Gazelli Art House. Air I Breathe. Latest exhibition from an ambitious and innovative pop-up gallery. 9 September to 7 October 2011.

Josh Lilley. Christof Mascher – Urban Ornamental. Painting, ceramics and sculpture recounting mythological narratives. 9 September to 8 October 2011.

All in all it is a mouth-watering selection, I have seen most (will try to review in future blogs) and cannot wait for the rest. Go on, get downtown and create your own gallery tour….

Where Am I?

You are currently browsing entries tagged with phyllida barlow at a kick up the arts.

%d bloggers like this: