Thursday 29 April 2010

Formalism two ways

To find Robert Heald's new gallery, you turn off Cuba Street into the Left Bank Arcade, and then head towards the light.

It's exciting to see a new dealer space open, especially when it's with a show of a new (or not-well-known-in-the-market) artist. Patrick Lundberg's altered found pieces make for a subtle but interesting inaugural exhibition - they're works that grow on you, that reward taking some time to observe. I'm looking forward to seeing more work by artists who so far I've only really had the chance to follow online.

A visit to the Adam Art Gallery to see the Anthony McCall show that closed over the weekend was less fun. If Lundberg's formalism is somehow warm and personal - a record of action, a kind of archaeology - then McCall's felt more coldly cerebral, a well-produced technical spectacle that somehow manages not to be at all affecting.

In his review, John Hurrell observes that on visiting the show "you realise that the online documentation of McCall’s sculptural work often looks slick, as if digitally tidied up and possibly a little bland." He goes on to say that "accidental components" bring an "unanticipated richness" to the experience.

I don't think these components - such as the fog machines - were in the least accidental, and I'd actually apply Hurrell's first sentence to the way I felt about the whole show. In an age where so much is technically possible, I sometimes feel it's getting harder for artists to distinguish what they do from other visual productions.

I don't think I'm arguing about hand-made versus digitally or mass-produced here, but more pondering how artists can continue to make objects or create experiences that stand out to you in a way that other things (or 'not-artworks') don't.


Patrick Lundberg, installation view, Robert Heald Gallery, 2010. From the Robert Heald Gallery website.

Anthony McCall, Installation view of Breath (The Vertical Works) at Hangar Bicocca, Milan, 2009 (Photograph: Giulio Buono). From the Adam Art Gallery website.


Robyn said...

In Anthony McCall's artist talk at the City Gallery, he mentioned that when he was originally exhibiting his projected light works, it was in grungy galleries and old warehouses that were naturally full of dust for he projected light to catch.

When he moved to exhibiting in nice galleries, they were so clean there was no dust.

He had to wait about 15 years for the invention of the modern smoke machine to be able to exhibit his works so that the projected light could be seen between the projector and the screen.

Meanwhile, the Town Hall screening of one of his films from the late '70s was quite a different experience. The scratchy film and experience of being in the old Town Hall was quite different from the cleaner environment and video at Adam.

Courtney Johnston said...

That's kind of way I mean. The technology was so seamless that there didn't seem to be any striving for effect - and no chance. Just very smooth production values.