Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Weaving a Thread: Fall shows in London and Beyond

Report from… London

Richard Tuttle: I Don’t Know. The Weave of Textile Language at the Whitechapel Gallery and Tate Modern, October 14 to December 14, 2014, October 16 to December 6, 2014
Pedro Cabrita Reis: The London Angles at Spovieri, 23 Heddon Street, London W1, October 16 to December 6, 2014
Gerhard Richter at Marian Goodman Gallery, 5-8 Lower John Street, London W1. October 14 to December 20, 2014
Jill Baroff: For Your Love at Bartha Contemporary, 25 Margaret Street, London W1. October 14 to November 22, 2014
Platform A Gallery, Middlesbrough Railway Station, Zetland Road, Middlesbrough

Richard Tuttle, Compartmentalization, 2008. Mixed media, overall installed size 21 x 100 x 72 inches.  Courtesy of Tate Modern
Richard Tuttle, Compartmentalization, 2008. Mixed media, overall installed size 21 x 100 x 72 inches. Courtesy of Tate Modern

The Whitechapel Gallery’s recent survey of Richard Tuttle is part of a wider project that extends to a show of monumental sculpture at Tate Modern and a collaborative book with Tuttle that focuses on historic and contemporary textiles. The title for both Whitechapel exhibition and the Tate Modern sculpture, I don’t know: The Weave of Textile language, references the artists’ belief that textiles are underappreciated–Tuttle is himself an avid collector of textiles. The survey takes in a period between 1969 and 2014. Early works from 1971-2, the Wire Pieces, are typically humble yet complex and made using a simple and direct principle – a length of wire used to follow a wall drawing is then released. Now standing away from the surface and casting a shadow that reads as a vital part of the work, it completes this slight but precise composition. Slight, in this context becomes a virtue, as Tuttle eschews any obvious use of material in favor of inventive combinations of discarded (or at least not art store purchased) finds. Tuttle accompanies each work with a short poetic text. The use of words together with his choice of materials directs us to the richness of small, ubiquitous,quotidian things. In contrast, the vast sculptures at Tate Modern, the largest works Tuttle has made to date, span the extensive void of Tate’s Turbine Hall. With brilliantly colored textiles used over the planer plywood structure, it looks like a cross between a hovering schematic tree and an ancient aeronautical device. Throughout both installations, textile’s essential qualities of adaptability and ubiquity are repeated – literally, a weaving together of material in different forms for different functions. A number of London galleries currently exhibit artists who have somewhat adjacent concerns in their focus on resourcefulness and transformation across media.

Portuguese artist Pedro Cabrita Reis’ first exhibition at Spovieri, The London Angles, investigated familiar concerns for this artist. Foremost here is the window as a subject, both its literal construction and its philosophical implications vis-a-vis Renaissance concepts of framing and space. The sculptures combine vernacular elements in such a way as to cause a relational balance between sculpture, painting and architecture. Undisclosed #1, (2008), is a wall based assemblage comprising, glass, aluminum, acrylic on wood, found wood objects, armatures, fluorescent lamps and electric cables. The reconfiguration of elements familiar as parts of the built environment balance light and matter toward, as Cabrita Reis puts it, “a reality in its own right, instead of reproducing it.” The particular reconfiguration that envelops an acrylic painting on raw linen in another work situates the painting as a found object; if it weren’t under an assembled double glass and aluminum frame, for instance, it would be Ryman-like. The works often have trailing wires and even lean against gallery walls, increasing the impression of contingency and resourcefulness that results in an adequacy that never seems over worked.

Installation view of  Gerhard Richter;s exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery, London. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery
Installation view of Gerhard Richter;s exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery, London. Courtesy of Marian Goodman Gallery

The inaugural exhibition of Marian Goodman’s impressive new digs in London’s West End consisted mostly of recent work by Gerhard Richter, and is that artist’s first gallery exhibition in London on such a scale – with over 40 works –in almost 20 years. Included were new works from the three series, Strip, Flow, and Doppelgrau, as well as a glass sculpture and a number of earlier paintings. The Strip paintings are a result of photographically deconstructing a 1990 oil painting by Richter. These consist of digital prints mounted between Alu Dibond and Perspex . In Strip 926-7, (2012), which measures five by almost ten feet, the color sampled from the original painting is organized as sharp narrow horizontal bands. The ochers and greens that dominate the lower 2 thirds, and the blues and reds of the top third, pulse and oscillate rhythmically. Robert Storr has described the Strip paintings as the most retinal paintings ever produced.

Jill Baroff’s fourth exhibition at Bartha Contemporary, a gallery in the Fitzrovia district run founded in 2000 by a Swiss couple, was titled For Your Love. The installation comprised five ink drawings and a floor-based cluster of red corrugated disks in which data is scientifically amassed and aesthetically realized. Variations of phenomena recorded from the physical world – tidal movement for example – are mapped as abstract line and form. Inherent fluctuations of space and time are seen here not as statistical data, though this is their source, but as objects and images to be contemplated. The ink drawings are made on Gampi paper (discovered by the artist on recent trips to Japan) together with the wooden discs that trap changing light in their surface grooves. This characterizes Baroff’s attitude to craft and material, which are as consistently important to her as the conceptual rigor of her ideas.

Clem Crosby, Penmanship is desirable, 2014. Oil on Formica on aluminium, 36 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London
Clem Crosby, Penmanship is desirable, 2014. Oil on Formica on aluminium, 36 x 36 inches. Courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London

Leaving London (but barely leaving the railroad car) and heading northeast to Middlesbrough, Platform A’s exhibition in that station’s former parcel delivery room brought together six artists for whom the physical forming of a painting or a sculpture is vital to any reading of completed work. The artists in this meticulously curated show – Andrew Bick, Katrina Blannin, Clem Crosby, David Ryan, Francesca Simon and Kate Terry – each in their way use gesture as a decisive formal element. This is most obvious in the paintings of David Ryan and Clem Crosby, for both of whom spontaneity and working in the moment are crucial, though this manifests differently for each artist. Ryan emphasizes adjustment and improvisation within a specific limit of contested parts – part gestural sign, part schematic shape.. Crosby’s painting on aluminum, Penmanship is desirable, (2014), on the other hand, represents the final stage of a process that allows almost complete erasure of previous states. Leaving only the trace of any moves subsequently rejected, the fluid linear event that results is – including the knots of line that create shape – almost kinetic in appearance.

Simon’s two-part painting, In Construction, (2014), is situated across a corner, one canvas on each adjacent wall. The compositional elements echo and mirror each other asymmetrically. Another multipart painting, Blannin’s Three-Piece Suite: Pink/Black (Double Hexad: Contracted Root and Expanded=123/321 Tonal Rotation), (2014), comprising three abutted horizontal panels, , deploys a repeated linear permutation across each panel. The rational logic is clear from the reflected and refracted planes that accurately meet at defined edges. From diverse directions, these artists all arrive at a notion of making as an integral part of the finished work.

Jill Baroff, For Your Love, 2014.  Acrylic on wood, size variable.  Courtesy of Bartha Contemporary
Jill Baroff, click to enlarge