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Tag Archives: Richard Serra

The Studio

30 Jul

Whilst graduates of Central St Martins Jessica Windhorst and Hanping Feng depicted domestic interiors, as did Zsofia Schweger at the Slade School of Fine Art, it seems that a number of graduating students have turned their attention to the environment in which they work: the studio.

Alexander Duncan has observed the sloping end of the sculpture studio at the Royal College of Art, and by flooding it and making a wave machine that creates a tide that laps upon the shoreline of the rest of the studio has made this visible.

h2whoa... (2015) by Alexander Duncan

h2whoa… (2015) by Alexander Duncan

Here the water flows like in Pamela Rosenkranz’s installation in Switzerland’s Pavilion at the 2015 Venice Biennale, whilst a student at Wimbledon College of Arts used water to visualise sound waves in a self perpetuating sound installation with drums and speakers. Flow is also a psychological term which Wikipedia, (accessed 22/07/2015) says “… is the mental state of operation in which a person performing an activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In essence, flow is characterized by complete absorption in what one does.” Hence Duncan is absorbed in his studio.

Joseph Winter

Joseph Winter

Joseph Winter installed a series of rows of spikes inserted into the studio floor at the Goldsmiths BA show like the spikes placed in spaces such as under flyovers to prevent anti-social behaviour. There has been a recent campaign (written about in the London Evening Standard) against the installation of these outside Tesco in Regent St and Foxtons, dubbing them ‘homeless spikes’ and this installation is as if the college had installed them to discourage graduated students from entering the studios like Paternoster Square was closed in 2011 to prevent Occupy London taking up residence.

In its cast plaster form this also seems to relate to Sarah Blum’s installation in the BA Fine Art and History of Art show at Goldsmiths of casts which must be closely inspired by Constantin Brancusi’s Endless Columns, although apparently come to by casting glasses in the manner of Rachel Whiteread and then enlarging the form.

Sarah Blum

Sarah Blum

Daniel Buren (The Function of the Studio. 1971) says that “By disposing of a large part of his work with the stipulation that it be preserved in the studio where it was produced, Brancusi… afforded every visitor the same perspective as himself at the moment of creation. He is the only artist who, in order to preserve the relationship between the work and its place of production, dared to present his work in the very place where it first saw light, thereby short-circuiting the museum’s desire to classify, to embellish and to select.” Hence we should consider the fact that all these graduates present their work in the studio, albeit perhaps a sanitised version thereof, as a debunking of the museum. Albrecht Barthel (Brancusi’s Studio: A Critique of the Modern Period. 2006. In Hoffmann, J. ed. The Studio. 2012:131) confirms that sculptor François Lalanne argued that “the studio in situ… retain[s] its raison d’être, not to be fossilized in a museum and preserved ad infinitum.” On that note perhaps I am starting to fossilise these works by writing about them.

Buren (op. cit.) opens setting out the function of the studio as:

1) It is the place where the work originates.

2)It is generally a private place, an ivory tower perhaps.

3) It is a stationary place where portable objects are produced.

By planning the opening of the studios to the public gaze the work is often created specifically for its environment, as I would argue that Winter’s is.

Hammer and Tool (2015) by Matt Morris

Hammer and Tool (2015) by Matt Morris

Matt Morris

Matt Morris

Matt Morris in the Slade MA show has painted just about every possible tool that might be found in the studio. These and, particularly, the accompanying cabinet of clay models, speak of being a museological collection, classified, divided and displayed.  With a sense of immediacy this series demonstrates an interest in process and production. Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote in her 1969 Maintenance Art Manifesto (In Stiles, K. ed. Theories and Documents of Contemporary Art. 1996:623) that “Everything I say is art is art. Everything I do is art is art.” [sic]. However Kristine Stiles (Process. In ibid, 582) says that although Mark Thompson’s work was structurally formed by attention to processes, “he asserted that process alone was not enough to sustain the production of art, but needed to be integrated into the resultant formal structure of a work of art.” Hence whilst the process of working with tools might be considered art, by transferring that process into painting Morris has built more of a practice with substance, objectifying process.

Tool Box Morning (2015) by Matt Morris

Tool Box Morning (2015) by Matt Morris

Meanwhile Phil Amy at the Wimbledon College of Arts BA show has painted a shelf, light switch, tap and two pins left in a wall that must have previously supported an artwork. We are left with the aftermath of a studio, vacated upon conclusion of the course.

Phil Amy

Phil Amy

Both these artists seem to have succumbed to boredom and taken to looking around the studio for inspiration.  Lars Svendsen (A Philosophy of Boredom 2006:33) writes “Boredom is connected to reflection… Reflection decreases via diversions… Work is often less boring than diversions, but the person who advocates work as a cure for boredom is confusing a temporary removal of the symptoms with curing a disease.”  We might analyse that these artists use their studios as a diversion to boredom, creating a programme of work around them, but that these are not sustainable practices in the long term.

Emilie Peyre Smith in the Goldsmiths BA show has demonstrated an interest in the construction and materials of the studio/exhibition space, P.S. Standing Pair consisting of a pair of 12’x6′ sheets of MDF, which have been contorted by ratchet straps, suggestive of interest in the shipping and transportation of art. In essence Smith has transformed a two-dimensional plane into a three-dimensional object. There is a performative aspect to this piece as there is the potential energy built into it that one day the ratchet straps could break and the boards spring back to being flat.

P.S. Standing Pair (2015) by Emilie Peyre Smith

P.S. Standing Pair (2015) by Emilie Peyre Smith

More importantly, however, by the way this affects the viewer’s vision of and movement through the space Smith references Richard Serra’s Tilted Arc and the discussions and controversy surrounding it.  Serra wrote (Letter to Donald Thalacker, 1985. In Kwon, M. One Place After Another, 1997. In Kocur, Z. ed. Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, 2005:33) that Tilted Arc was a site-specific work and not to be relocated. He elaborated in 1989 (Tilted Arc Destroyed. In Kwon, M. op. cit.) that:

Site-Specific works deal with the environmental components of given places. The scale, size, and location of site-specific works are determined by the topography of the site, whether it be urban or landscape or architectural enclosure.

We are dealing with the architectural enclosure of the studio space. Extracted from this (to a larger environment) Smith’s work would not impact upon the viewer to as great an extent, Winter’s work may be viewed on purely aesthetic grounds and Phil Amy’s paintings may be viewed as domestic objects.

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The Sculpture of Gabriel Kuri and Others

9 Nov

Gabriel Kuri’s exhibition at South London Gallery includes a variety of sculptural work that appears to draw wide-ranging artistic references and political comment. Untitled (Scoop) (2011) feels like a twist between Richard Serra‘s Tilted Arc (1981), tilted further until it is elevated off the ground, and Ellsworth Kelly‘s similarly segment-shaped canvas White Curve (1974), whilst it is painted with a smooth block of dark red colour in the Field Colour Painting style of Kelly, but taking this into a more three-dimensional form. Meanwhile the steel nature of this work and red painted finish also seem to reference the sculpture of Sir Anthony Caro. Where Kelly’s work is hung away from the wall, Kuri’s similar Untitled (3/4 Blue) (2011) is raised off the ground on a blanket, seemingly suggesting installation work is still in progress.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes), 2011, prototype voting table and mixed media, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

Some of the works may appeal to smokers (and those anti-smoking) as cigarettes feature. In Untitled (Charted Topography) (2011) a series of resin casts have been made in the ribbed bottom of plastic bottles which have been used as ashtrays and hence Kuri has preserved the evidential cigarette ends like fossils, probably even locking in a trace of DNA like a fly trapped in amber as used in Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park. Beneath the table sits a wholesale pack of water bottles, seemingly suggesting that one is used each day. I recently saw Lewisham Stop Smoking campaign advertising funding for relevant public projects; perhaps they should commission some of Kuri’s art. However, which way do you think the giant roll-up cigarettes or cigars of Untitled (Shells and Stubbed-out Cigarettes) (2011) leans? Are they a smoker’s dream, like the giant billboard cigarettes of the past or do they highlight the dangers of smoking, with the title potentially referring to them as a ticking explosive device?  On the other hand, this work may discuss gender politics through sexual connotations of phallic cigarettes and concave shells, with the prototype voting table dividing the objects into heterosexual and homosexual couples, and creating boundaries between them.

Gabriel Kuri, Untitled (Shelter), 2011, mixed media, dimensions variable, installation view South London Gallery. Photo: Marius W Hansen. Image courtesy the artist and the South London Gallery.

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London Art Fairs 2011: Bold and Textured

16 Oct

So, it’s show time for the art world in London.  Across the fairs and events visited thus far it seems there are trends for colourful work in bold primary and secondary colours and for textured work.

These themes began to emerge at the Pavilion of Art & Design London, where works for sale particularly include a number of pieces by Agostino Bonalumi on Galerie Vedovi’s stand, which build geometric patterns by stretching the canvas over various obstacles, some slashed work by Lucio Fontana, several Antoni Tàpies relief paintings, and a collection of collages by Roy Lichtenstein plus a design for a contemporary tapestry.  Here there seemed to be a particular choice of works with texture as the fair also contains a number of design stands, whilst the majority of work for sale is mid twentieth century.

At the Frieze Art Fair, Marc Quinn has left his Fingerprints all over Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac’s stand.  Indicating personal identity, authorship and uniqueness, the coloured version of this relief work seems to highlight the bacteria we may come in contact with in our daily lives, each secreting itself in a different groove in the texture of the finger print.

Fingerprints by Marc Quinn at Frieze Art Fair

Magali ReusBalance Sheet series on Galerie Fons Welters’ stand contrasts roughly textured silicon rubber with shiny, smooth aluminium grilles.

Balance Sheet Series (2011) by Magali Reus at Frieze Art Fair

Nick van Woert’s Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) on Yvon Lambert’s stand references Liam Gillick’s work and acts as a room divider almost akin to Richard Serra’s Titled Arc (1981), but is partially transparent.  A series of equal blocks are stacked horizontally, each containing different textured materials in different bold colours, including liquids, loft insulation, wire wool, chippings and powder.

Not Yet Titled 7 (2011) by Nick van Woert at Frieze Art Fair

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Drawing in space

5 Feb

Bridget Riley‘s Composition with Circles 7 (2010), installed at the National Gallery, London, makes use of circles in a similar manner to Susan Hiller‘s Magic Lantern discussed in my previous article ‘Curated to Confuse?‘.  Riley and her assistants have drawn a series of meticulously accurate, large, monochromatic circles across the entirety of a vast gallery wall.  Like Hiller’s projection, they build up layers, overlapping and forming a series of Venn diagrams.  However, where Hiller explores colour, Riley explores ways of tesselating the circles, creating a vast array of different size and shape sections of overlap and space, whilst maintaining a fairly ordered overall plane.

Adrian Searle furthers the link between the two by saying this work of Riley’s “… seems to envelop you as if one were consumed by bubbles of light.” (http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/video/2010/dec/15/bridget-riley-national-gallery-wall-circles).  However this work feels much more rigid and defined than flowing light.

This is an installation of drawing which looms over the viewer, affecting our perception of space.  It also physically alters the gallery walls in a museum that, due to its collection, usually retains works within a frame.  Hence it is an intervention in the space, much like Doris Salcedo‘s Shibboleth (2007), a crack in the floor of Tate Modern‘s Turbine Hall.

Besides this piece, it is a small exhibition and predominantly represent’s Riley’s current work, not necessarily her most interesting.  On the other hand it is interesting to see how her modern abstract style has been inspired by some more traditional sources.  A couple of Riley’s older Op Art style works are included, and these create the optical illusion of three dimensionality.  The exhibition Common Logic at IMT Gallery, however, exhibits a series of experiments which take drawing literally into three-dimensional space.

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