Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Gary Hume, White Cube Bermondsey


The YBAs still have their appeal for me, so the promise of a new work - a sculpture, no less - by Gary Hume pulled me over to the White Cube's franchise in Bermondsey (always been a sucker for Gary Hume). Indeed the gallery itself is quite a draw for me, a newbie to the site. I wasn't disappointed by either.

The gallery has a super, wide open forecourt, making it look like a municipal building of the late 1950s. The doors are tall, heavy and give onto a wide foyer and corridor down the centre of the building. Plain, serviceable gallery space, as suggested by the name of the chain. It's not disimilar to either its parent White Cube in Hoxton - or even the Gagosian on Britannia Street, King's Cross. Uniformity of space is fine by me, as long as there it is to the advantage of the work on display.

Hume's Liberty Grip is a tall bronze, constructed from reproductions of the limbs of shop mannequins. There was a fair bit of curatorial guff about figurative suggestion (a hand) and mischief or irony. I saw a bit of Magritte in it, maybe even Degas. It is shown in a room called 9x9x9, presumably as these are the dimensions in metres. Goodness knows how they moved the piece in.

The main room of the gallery is currently home to a major exhibition of the print work of Chuck Close. The space is indoor recreation centre-sized, with a central block creating an effective display ring. There is also a smaller room showing Eddie Peake's performance installation Adjective Machine Gun later in the week. All we had to look at was a bloke in a body stocking on roller skates, which is a bit Hipster for Bermondsey, frankly.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Detatched, Rachel Whiteread, Gagosian London

It felt about time to revisit the super space in Britannia Street (near King's Cross) operated by Larry Gagosian. The current exhibition that occupies all the floor space is Detatched, a arrangement of work by Rachel Whiteread.

In the main hall are three concrete casts of the interiors of sheds, works which lend their name to the exhibition. These are familiar works, dull, massive blocks that occupy space to no end, resolutely the opposite of the secreted interior from which they are cast. Of course, each one of these building casts makes one mindful of the purpose to which now-saturated space might have been used. The claustrophobia of using a garden shed, traditionally a place of retreat, of quiet and rumination is a clear metaphor.

Turning that mataphor inside out is the adjacent room which houses a number of doors cast in coloured resin. The original doors would have been solid, of course, the casts created to invent some sort of space in that mass; permeable to light they become even more permeable to the imagination. Moreover, a door occupies a space separate from it, filling out a doorway. This is the sort of metaphysical examination that one may well be expected to indulge in when faced with one of these pieces. The resin door exists, even if one can see through it. However, the inside of a door isn't an obvious place to imagine as a space - not even semantically (when 'inside the door' is used in coversation, it invariably means inside the room on the other side of the door). Equally, a doorway is really referring to the frame that creates that doorway. In fact there is nothing there.

So much for the simplest of conceptual artworks (though the coloured resin casts are rather beautiful on their own terms). The lobby area of the gallery houses a number of pieces in which everyday items are painted, plated or cast from different material to revise their worth. A cardboard beer bottle pack is made from precious metal and plaster. Here is a step further from Duchamp's Fountain, where more than the moniker of 'art' is being conferred on an unlikely object, rather our modern-day associations of value and exclusivity are being churned up in a single piece. I was reminded of Jeff Koons' 2009 exhibition at the Serpentine with its steel-cast replica inflatables.

Beside this are a number of cardboard boxes, collapsed back to their original envelope and painted silver. The reassertion of the two-dimensional packaging is completed with the introduction of a small piece of coloured celluloid film, like a window (dare one say, a stained glass window, with all those ecclesiastical associations). Flat in a frame, the window is redundant. Applied to the completed boxes, it is a way of looking into its space, beyond its container-function.