Welcome to The Perimeter
March - July 2018
Welcome to The Perimeter, the first exhibition staged by the gallery, curates various media, from photography to assemblage sculpture, painting and conceptual installation, to showcase the work of several emerging and established international artists from the collection.
Laura Owens, one of the most celebrated painters of her generation and the youngest artist ever to be honoured with a retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Arts, Los Angeles, is represented by Untitled (2015). This work, which greets visitors as they enter the gallery, is a complexly layered piece borne from happenstance and technical innovation. After Owens fortuitously fell upon a corpus of The Los Angeles Times newspaper stereotype plates that had been stuffed beneath the siding of her Echo Park home, she had rubber casts made of the original negatives. These were then edited on Photoshop before being screen-printed on canvas. Struck by the startling contrasts of dramatic world events, such as the documentation of the weeks and months after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1942, against kitsch advertisements, personal classifieds, and extreme weather reports, Owens’ work is a meditation on the reception of media in all its forms.
On the Ground Floor, the room is curated as an immersive space that feels both interior and exterior, recalling both the security of living within sheltered domesticity and also the thrilling yet cold, hard world beyond – a world of industrial architecture at midnight, cruising, and urban freedom. First, visitors encounter an example of the way that Zhang Enli asks us to reconsider the mesmerising geometries of everyday objects. The Rubber Pipe (2012) contrasts the weight and contours of the titular item with the mathematical order of the grid behind. In an extraordinary state of equilibrium, the industrial pipe appears at once discovered against ceramic tiles of a washroom, or as a diagrammatic experiment of rectilinear and rectangular lines set in dynamic relation to one another.
In the space, Enli’s rubber pipe is linked to Wolfgang Tillmans’ Outer Ear which hangs opposite, was produced in the same year, but in its own representation of elegant curvature and balance addresses the shapes of the human body. Part of a series of 30 close-up photographs of ‘Karl’ and entitled Central Nervous System, the brain’s emotional sensory system, Outer Ear is a strikingly intimate photograph of friendship that shows us the world as it is, in all its eccentricity and beauty.
Also featured are works by Prem Sahib, Adam McEwen and Oliver Osborne that likewise share their subject in the pleasures and shapes of the metropolitan nocturne. Sahib’s Watch Queen Score (2013) pairs with Rubber Pipe insofar as it is constructed by the stacking of cubes that form a grid, and are likewise contrasted against the curving wire that might initially suggest raw functionality but actually serves to orientate the structure in a full-motion embrace.
Two oil on linen works by Osborne, both entitled Rubber Plant (2016), also engage with the visual language of industrial material but here the sensuous tactility of the rubber is shrouded in shadow, as in a dark room, leaving only the textured edges of its luminescent emerald-green to radiate through the image. Finally, McEwen’s Trash Can (2015), part of a series by the British artist in graphite, is an enigmatic object that resembles any flimsy office flap-bin – but in poise and proportion commands an autonomous position in hard-edged statuary.
From the street, Torey Thornton’s Untitled Guarding Eyes (2016) is a colourful and vaguely cartographic racket in acidic paint, graphite and spray on wood panel. The painting speaks to the artist’s practice of questioning ‘painting and its contradictions, while also evaluating modes of authorship and other more globalised topics.’
On the First Floor, an all-woman artist selection asks the viewer to contemplate their position within not only space but the production of art and the politics of its display. In Tomma Abt’s complexly layered work Opke (2015), the warped symmetry of the flush diagonal lines creates new space that both reveals and conceals the illusion of depth. The oppositions between line, cake-slice tetrahedron, and weaving cylinder create a vortex of movement, receding and circulating, which in turn urges the viewer to inspect the painting’s details from afar and up close. The tracings of detail and attention, of trial and error, can be seen in the uneven surfaces created by the methodical and measured reworking of the formal components.
An obelisk of kodak yellow in the near-centre of the room, Zoe Leonard’s Dealing with Difficult Situations (2016) negotiates the sculptural presence of the art book by engaging with aesthetic questions around image-making, the repeatability of the art object, and the myth of the artist to create original material.
Mixed media work by Turner Prize-winning Helen Marten is also featured in this room. Footsie Erosion (2016) is an assemblage of incisive thought, which was first shown in Marten’s 2016 exhibition Drunk Brown House at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery. In Footsie Erosion, a green cross orientates the relationality of this mixed media work by its placement in the absolute centre of the piece, representing a target point on the horizon line. But this ideogrammic reference of the pharmaceutical logo also poses a subtle critique of the proximity of corporate medicine in the display practices of contemporary art. The Footsie Erosion was shown at the Serpentine Sackler Gallery alongside the immersive Mr. Fatmate’s Litmus (2016), which featured the letters PHARMA spelt out in bones.
A sculpture by Carol Bove and four C-prints by Annette Kelm complete the room. Henry by Bove (2016) is made from stainless steel, urethane paint, and found steel, and interrogates the temporal qualities of these material objects, their processes of becoming and their ability to be transformed from likeness, in ways that recall the engineering ingenuity of David Smith but pushes the formal boundaries of cohesive statuary in ever bolder directions. Kelm’s compositions similarly express the lyrical correspondences of materials. In Pizza Pizza Pizza (2016), a brittle off-cut of bark appears suspended above the flush-side of a pizza box. The harsh migraine-yellow background recalls the palette of a late-night fast-food store but the shadow of the bark presents a solemn counterpoint, reinforcing the uncanny mystery of the composition as a whole.
The premise of the Second Floor is a celebration of angle, materiality and line in various key works from the collection. In the geometric contours of Carmen Herrera’s Blues (1991), we are drawn close to analyse the organisation of line and pigment and notice traces of the compositional process – flecks of overlaid paint, the micro-ridge of the canvas, the magnetic interplay between blue and blue. The spatial organisation of Herrera’s Colour Field is juxtaposed against Δd = df - dn (Harvest Season) by Christopher Williams (2016), an inkjet print featuring just an immersive blue but here it forms the background to the in-focus profile of wheat ready to be cultivated. Rebecca Warren’s hand-painted bronzes might straddle abstraction and figuration in a similar way to the thin, textured statuary of Albert Giacometti but here, in the off-centre of the room, Sechs (2013) controls the space like a Neolithic fertility goddess.
Downstairs, in the Archive and lower viewing gallery, works by Michele Abeles, Yngve Holen and Caragh Thuring are displayed. Optional Ash Tray (2017) by Holen is a sculpture produced using tomographic images from computer-processed X-rays, and is part of Holen’s wider practice to utilise the technological materials of contemporary industry to think about sculptural presence anew.
List of featured artists:
 Torey Thornton, interview with Alex Bennet, in Modern Matter (20 February 2020) <http://amodernmatter.com/article/i-want-for-my-work-to-have-several-lives/> [accessed 19 November 2020]