reviewed by Amy Berk
Late One Afternoon
It was very late indeed, almost the end of my time in Britain. Successfully extricating myself from family commitments, I rushed to see some of London's hot happenings, past and present. "Early One Morning", a quirky exhibition of five young artists at the Whitechapel Art Gallery, was steeped in British sculptural tradition taking its name from a 1962 Anthony Caro sculpture.
That seminal work, a series of red abstract constructions, and other works by Caro’s students at St. Martinšs College of Art defined an important movement in British sculptural history. Whitechapel Art Gallery exhibited many of these students in their 1965 show "The New Generation."
Now, a new "New Generation" emerges — all mid—90s art school graduates using abstraction as a start, not a finish. They are interested in form and color and scale but form, color and scale infused with a pop cultural sensibility. Glasgow-based Jim Lambie, whose work can be seen in the Bay Area at Jack Hanley, told an interviewer, "...I decided to make work with materials that I was interacting with a lot on a day to day basis - cigarettes, sticky tape...record decks...also records... Whenever I present pieces, I hope that it’s something anyone can connect with and recognize - that there’s an inroad to the work. "
Lambie’s use of street materials does allow access to work, in pedestrian ways as well as sublime. In ZOBOP (2002), viewers’ connection to the work is physical—you literally walk onto his psychedelic gold, silver, black and white vinyl tape floor patterns—into a heady visual vortex which leaves you off balance. With the work of Gary Webb, viewers plug in through auditory channels as well as visual. His installations combine Plexiglass, wood and metal forms in various sizes and arrangements. The contradition of making organic arrangements out of rigid manufactured elements creates a disconnect oftentimes added to (or broken down) by an incongruous sound element.
Culturally savvy and multi disciplinary, these young artists do not restrict themselves to strictly formal devices, creating environments that are rich in social constructs and connotations. Eva Rothschild plays with materialism and spirituality in witty arrangements such as Nun, Hothouse and Midnight (all works 2002). With Collars and Woodseers (2002), Claire Barclay presents an absorbing netherworld of seductive yet structural investigations into the meanings of commodity and craft.
While their works are not, perhaps, the start of a new movement, all five artists in "Early One Morning" relish materiality and exude intelligence about the world that we all inhabit. I for one look forward to seeing the work of these exciting artists as they continue to evolve, and as late afternoon encroaches on the development of their careers.