Friday, 5 June 2015

WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING: 23 APRIL - 20 JUNE 2015



WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING


Curated by Paul Carey-Kent



At Maddox Arts, 52 Brook's Mews, London W1K 4ED



24 April –  20 June, 2015 - one week extension!

I'll be at the gallery to take people round the show on  Sat 9 May 11-12 am and Sat 6 June 2-3 pm



Photos from the opening:  Thurs, 23 April, 6-9pm

Jen Harris and Liv Fontaine (who run the HA HA Gallery in Southampton)


Levi van Veluw, Nico Kos & Steph Carey-Kent


Me with Liv


Levi van Veluw, David Rickard and Carlos Noronha Feio


Ben Austin, Selma Parlour & Liz Elton


Uliana Apatina & Juliette Mahieux-Bartoli



Liv Fontaine performance - Plinth Piece






Post-performance Liv with Juliette

Pre-tour installation shot on 9 May


Of the many competitors for our attention when we look at a work of art – meaning, narrative, form, colour, gesture, scale, sound, movement – its weight is not generally high in the list, heavy as much sculpture and some painting may be (Bram Bogart's super-thick applications or Analia Saban's container canvases come to mind). Indeed, although WEIGHT FOR THE SHOWING is themed around weight, all the works have other interesting agendas, most notably perhaps the frequency with which they skew logic and the zest with which they engage with art history.  



Some artists  playfully substitute the heavy for the light or vice versa:  Gavin Turk’s bronze bin bags are well known, Andreas Lolis has made marble look very like card or polystyrene; Fishli & Weiss fashioned all manner of items out of polyurethane; and Sarah Sze recently made rocks out of photographs of rocks, which she showed alongside real boulders. Others have used surprisingly-weighted items, e.g. Andrew Palmer attaches rocks to paintings, and Aselm Kiefer fixes anything from soil to submarines to his canvases; Damien Hirst’s ping pong ball pieces might be the opposite end of that scale.


Such play is allowed here, but the show concentrates more on two other aspects: the relative weight of elements within or between works, which latter may be down to evident heaviness of mark, or else be a matter of ‘feeling’ heavy or light for no obvious literal reason; and the metaphorical association of weight with seriousness and being weighed down by troubles or history. There’s no neat division, but Barlow, Rickard, Schur, Ferro and Martinez are perhaps more in the first category; and Serra, Jankowski, Marin, Feldmeyer and Fontaine in the second.


Enough weight may also lead to collapse. Nietzsche worried about the possibility of Eternal Return, in which we’re doomed to repeat events for eternity, making existence a heavy burden, given the impossibility of escaping the cycle. Buddhism provides a potential way out of that by embracing the cycle, as does Milan Kundera when, assuming in contrast that such a cycle is impossible, he holds that 'life which disappears once and for all, which does not return is without weight...and whether it was horrible, beautiful, or sublime...means nothing'. Decisions are then 'light' -  they do not tie us down - but meaningless and potentially empty. That isn’t entirely welcome either, hence the 'the unbearable lightness of being'. A more pragmatic view would be that we’re in the space between the baggage of the what's gone and the disintegration to come - but the interim phase may last a while yet, and we might as well enjoy it.  Just so, there’s plenty of wit in these works, so I hope they raise interesting issues but also contribute to visitors enjoying a few minutes of the gap.

INSTALLATION VIEWS





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WORK BY WORK




Christian Jankowski: (Born Göttingen, 1968, lives in Berlin) Heavy Weight History (Ronald Reagan), 2013 - b/w photograph on baryt paper, 140 x 186.8 cm





           

Christian Jankowski’s full Heavy Weight History project, as shown at the Lisson Gallery last year, consists of an installation, a 25-minute film with an over-the-top sports-style commentary and a series of photographs. The German artist invited a group of champion Polish powerlifters to try to pick up massive public sculptures in Warsaw, including more than one Communist-era memorial and the statue of Ronald Reagan seen here. That provides a light-hearted and populist way of engaging with the contemporary relevance of such monuments, and as the past they represent. The weightlifters’ attempts to hoist the burdens of history onto their shoulders had variable results: Reagan was among those to resist their efforts successfully.

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David Rickard (born New Zealand, 1975, lives London) Ouroboros, 2013 Suspended weighing scales - dimensions variable



                                 



The hanging installation Ouroboros interlinks a series of weighing scales, each of which measures the cumulative weight of those below. With the lowest scale registering no weight the dials incrementally step around the face of successive scales up the height of the work as they weigh the increasing number of scales below them. Maddox’s 2.85m ceiling height allows for eight scales, such that the top one registers halfway round the 25 kg dial. That implies the self-reflexivity of the ancient symbol of a snake eating its own tail. You might think, incidentally, that 16 smaller scales would have completed the full cycle in the given height – allowing the physicists’ puzzle question: why is that not so? 


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Richard Serra (born San Francisco, 1939, lives New York / Nova Scotia): Level IV, 2010 – Etching, Paper 73.7 x 165.1 cm - Edition of 22







Richard Serra’s fame rests on his mighty sculptural explorations of weight and space, but his super-dense applications of paint stick, and linked prints, capture much of that spirit. He draws as an act, giving process precedence over results. That leaves a residue which depicts nothing but the logic of that action on his material: the paint stick fuses with its support, so there’s no figure/ground relationship.  Black helps in this: Serra regards it as the most objective hue, and says that since it the densest colour material, ‘it absorbs and dissipates light to a maximum and thereby changes the artificial as well as the natural light in a given room’.  Level IV defines its space in just those terms.


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Nicolas Feldmeyer (born Switzerland, 1980, lives in London) 


Something heavy on something melting, 2010 – video, 1.03 mins



Trained in Zurich, San Francisco and London, Nicolas Feldmeyer’s varied practice tends to explore the energies of the world in ways which suggest, he says, that ‘there is much more to things and between them than I can understand’. ‘Who breaks a butterfly upon a wheel?’, we might ask along with Pope, seeing how weight picks on a substance which is losing its shape without any help.  Perhaps there a critique here of how we’re treating the arctic - an alternative end of times to go with Levi van Veluw's take. There's also a strong formal pre-echo of Serra’s Dead Load, 2014. Clearing Up II also hints at the meteorological, and contrasts with the Serra etching by making an evanescence out of blackness, by being medidatative where Something heavy on something melting is existential


Clearing Up II , 2013 – charcoal on paper 

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Richard Schur (born (1971) and lives in Munich) 
 


    Summer Lawns, from the Manhattan Series, 2015 - Acrylic on canvas 120 x 160 cm
              


The internal organisation of Richard Schur’s creamily sumptuous abstractions is all about comparative balance, weighing one colour and volume against another: look at the effect  such small sectors of yellow can have in these pictures.  But the whole painting can also seem ‘heavy’ (as in Up - though this had to replaced in the show by the somewhat lighter Silver Sun) or ‘light’ (Summer Lawns).  Yet Schur’s lightest touch is reserved for the tiller of art history - most obviously Mondrian – as he paints his way around the world in a series of residencies. History of painting meets a sense of place as his ever-mutating sequence of abstracts sails into actively serene visual spaces suffused with the light of those various locations - here, New York, the architecture of which is also evoked. 






Up, from the Manhattan Series, 2014 - Acrylic on canvas, 100 x 80 cm (nb substitute painting in exhibition due to a scratch)


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Livia Marin (born Chile, 1973, lives London): Nomad Patterns, 2015
       
  
Livia Marin presents objects from the series Nomad Patterns, in which the ceramic seems to have been arrested mid-melt, or knocked over only to spill instead of breaking, and then retained an improbable continuity of pastiche Chinese pattern. That poses questions of literal and metaphysical weight. Is that china or water?  A destruction or a restoration? Casually playful or threatening instability? Our judgement is likely to be affected if we know that much of Marin’s work deals with breakage and repair in the context of seventeen years of oppressive dictatorship in her home country of Chile… Technically, by the way, Marin buys plain white vessels, smashes them, creates the spill, then paints the matching pattern across both.
 

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Levi van Veluw (born Hoevelaken, 1985, lives in Arnhem): The Collapse of Cohesion, Archive, 2014 – video, 8.36 mins, 2014







In 2011, Dutch artist  Levi van Veluw built three versions of his boyhood bedroom, covered with thousands of symmetrical wooden shapes to symbolise his ‘urge for order and fear of losing control’.  He has since developed that theme of the world on the edge of order or just tipping over it through charcoal drawings, installations, photography and film. Archive is part of his major project The Collapse of Cohesion. It shows cabinets laden with geometric forms crashing down in slow motion:  not only might that stand in for the failure of attempts to impose odrer on the world, hence for emotional trauma, the molecular references could easily link it to the ‘Big Crunch’ which will be the ultimate end of times.  And yet the fabulous aesthetic offsets that sufficiently to leave us in an ambiguous space. Archive is a performance of sorts, in which eight assistants pushed over the shelving: we see the four seconds action slowed to six minutes at intensely high resolution..Slowness might lead us to assume the ponderous edging towards heavy, but here it brings light and silent grace to what was a heavy cacophonous crash.  Van Veluw shows in Amsterdam with Ron Mandos, and also has a London solo lined up for 2016 with Rosenfeld Porcini.
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Phyllida Barlow (born Newcastle, 1944, lives London): no title: brokenboxtube

2014 - Cardboard, ply, polyurethane foam, scrim, bonding plaster, cement, paint, spray paint, PVA, sand - 40 x 30 x 33 cm








                                  

Phyllida Barlow has recently taken over Tate Britain, Hauser & Wirth Somerset and the Venice Biennale with her mock monumental installations, which act as obstructions to viewers’ progress through the space as they parody the pompousness of phallocentric traditions. She employs workaday builders’ materials, which used to get recycled into the next exhibition until her rise to international prominence in the last few years. Consistent with the deflation of portentous weight, her work typically looks a lot heavier than it actually is. That facilitates her putting sculptures on the wall, which plays up their often painterly surfaces, as in this mini-anthology of forms which looks as a whole disturbingly like a heart, as if to debunk in a parallel manner the symbolic importance of the heart as the location of sentiment.

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Knopp Ferro (born Cologne, 1953, lives Ammersee):   Raum 22-37, 2010 - iron and red colour - 124x109x87cm





                       

The Austro-German sculptor Knopp Ferro has a performance background including circus and rock music, and also evident  in early drawings he made by slashing paper with a knife. That's also implicit in his delicate mobiles. They repeat their slender units to lyrical effect, demonstrating a trembling lightness one might not – despite the precedents of Calder and Rickey - naturally associate with iron rods. The contrast is heightened when the sculpture hangs overhead, drawing a cloud in space. Here Knopp’s playful yet extreme deconstruction of the grid counterpoints  Phyllida Barlow’s rumbustious approach. The one bright colour stabbing through the centre could be a reference to Dan Flavin's first, diagonal, light tube work.

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Cipriano Martínez  (born Caracas 1965, lives London) 

  




                      Orthodrome, 2012 and  - oil on canvas, 180 x 120 cm

                           


If Ferro’s mobiles are grids in a constant, yet always balanced, state of change, Cipriano Martínez’ paintings and silkscreen prints are static works which use optical dynamics to resist any stabilization of their grids. That may represent the constant, and so never quite conclusive, change in urban environments and the systems which keep them going – nowhere more so than in his home city of Caracas. His background is in civil engineering, and Orthodrome has an architectural feel as well as referencing the op-art legacy of both Britain (Bridget Riley) and Venezuela (notably Carlos Cruz-Diez and Jesús Rafael Soto). It feels to me as if we’re looking up at architecture looming above, whereas the fluidity of the Colour Test series suggest a more open view, perhaps out of windows. Doubt, it has been suggested, defeats reason in Martinez’ world of cartography corrupted to the cusp of abstraction. A heavy agenda, perhaps, but delivered with a shimmer.




             Untitled (From the Series Colour Testing), 2013: oil on canvas, 180 x 180 cm



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Liv Fontaine (born (1989) and lives in Southampton), Plinth Piece, 20 min video loop +  performances



           



Liv Fontaine’s lively performance practice, recently seen at Shoreditch House and the ICA, typically uses alter egos to address sexual politics. Perhaps that cues in the phallic aspect of her would-be-flexible body’s battle against the constraint of a large and rigid plinth. Sculpture, of course, descended from the plinth fairly decisively in the early sixties, but nowadays it’s pretty common, nonetheless, to see small ceramics and sculptural items set atop a column – indeed, Fontaine says it was the number of such presentations which triggered her performance. Anyway, the plinth has come down along with the artist, cast here to reference the classic nude and so emphasise just what a weight of art history there is to be dragged around - and there is suffering involved...  maybe it's personal, too.  

Postscript:


Performance on 22 April 

It's the way of performances that they should take on a logic of their own, and Liv's half hour on 23 April certainly achieved that. Comments to me included:


'Does she need help?' 
 'I have been wondering her falling off her plinth only to have to carry it around - the burden of man's shifting gaze strapped to her back'. 

'Cruel and exploitative'

'I found myself drawn away from plinth and body towards the face the longer it went on...'

'Liv's performance aptly balanced aesthetic sensitivity with meaningful confrontation. It drew in art historical references of the nude and her objectifying podium, denounced that podium as burden through the evident effort of scraping across the floor, and used it as a weapon of confrontation (I was nearly pinned to a wall on the night of the opening!) as well as a compositional device (very obvious when 'paused'), thus anchoring this performance strongly in the visual tradition it is wryly critiquing.'

There's a fascinating account at http://blog.artlyst.com/the-artists-statement/this-is-not-a-plinth-anxiety-performance-and-the-weight-of-sharing in which Nico Kos says that 'there was a general confusion amongst the onlookers as to how they ought to react. It was closer to the theatre of cruelty Antonin Artaud than what we have come to expect from performance art, although it carried the same anxiety. Soon the voices around began to hum with indifference – interest in this woman as snail was fading. And perhaps this was the point – the disinterest of a crowd to a woman clearly mortifying herself for a reaction. The crowd decided they were finished and the performance, so sensational to begin with, ended without even an applause. However this fade of interest in the actual experience was diametrically opposed to the conversations that followed, in particular the sharing of iPhone video clips. It was like a rash spreading far and wide. To me – despite her obvious physical discomfort – it was an important visual milestone. Seeing a real, un-photo shopped, naked woman dragging around her own plinth made me feel a profound sadness about the representation of women today. Her paler than pale flesh more reminiscent of marble statues from another century became grey as she wormed her way round the gallery floor. This was anything but a celebration – she seemed also to be suffering with the burden of her own naked body. I wanted to go and pick her up, rip off what was binding her to the plinth, stand her up, and put her on it.

Liv herself said later:

'Since doing the performance I feel very differently about the whole piece, I had expected to feel vulnerable and uncomfortable during but actually I felt powerful and commanding. Previously I had felt my body being strapped to the plinth made me fragile and pathetic but as the performance went on I felt I was taking ownership of the plinth and the audience’s gaze was transferred to me, this is how I found pleasure within the performance. 

Its that point when the audience stopped being so interested that the performance changed. Actually it was almost like two different performances in that respect. The arranged 'performance' where the audience is told what do look at and how to feel and then this after performance where I had to behave differently, all of a sudden without such organized gaze I became very relaxed experimenting with ways of how to regain the attention but perhaps becoming more of a uncomfortable distraction for some. The pressure of 'performance' wore off and I just felt like myself again just on the floor without any clothes and with a plinth on my back!

I very much enjoyed it, although I am still hurting even today!'  





After the performance a video of a previous version was run on a tablet placed on the plinth so that it was ready for Liv to be strapped to it again on 22 May. It is, as one visitor noted 'opposite Richard Serra's piece, so that an unknown woman is up against the heaviest-hitting man in the show, and also the heaviest work in the show, given the metal frame on Volume 4'. Only too late for the weighing did it occur to me that I should have listed the work by weight, not by dimensions...

Performance on 22 May with Liv's highly supportive mother Joyce nearest the camera!

Liv’s second performance, on 22 May, felt very different. Instead of the opening night’s audience, mainly of artists and regular visitors to London openings, it was watched by a more international crowd of 30, with a high ration of collectors. There was silence, where on the opening there had been chatter, and so the sound of the plinth dragging across the floor was far more prominent; and the audience attention was more constant and intense, Liv said it felt far more ‘staged’, and that she was under more scrutiny.  Responding to that, perhaps, her actions were more aggressive – as if, said one spectator, Liv was out of Kafka’s Metamorphosis, a beetle with a plinth wing-case advancing on us.  The performance was also shorter, 15 minutes feeling like enough of that more focused attention. What didn’t change was the interest and attention Plinth Piece generated… See also i-d.vice.com/en_us/article/liv-fontaine-is-getting-naked-in-the-name-of-art-history






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About Me

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Southampton, Hampshire, United Kingdom
I was in my leisure time Editor at Large of Art World magazine (which ran 2007-09)and now write freelance for such as Art Monthly, The Art Newspaper and Border Crossings. I have curated five shows in London during 2013-15 with more on the way.Going back a bit my main writing background is poetry. My day job is public sector financial management.

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