Saturday, January 14, 2006

Bob & Roberta Smith

The pretence that Bob & Roberta Smith are two real people has served Patrick Brill well over the years. No one really believes it and his real identity is well-known, but the idea of Bob & Roberta allows him to leave a certain distance between himself and his work. I suspect it also helps to generate ideas when times are hard. Their new exhibition at Hales Gallery (the first since leaving Anthony Wilkinson’s stable) is probably their best yet in my opinion. He has scaled up, literally, by nailing together his trademark signs into groups, and building a big sculptural nest in the centre of the gallery out of long lengths of skirting board and planks. Everything is covered in deadpan jokes, epigrams and slogans and the overall effect is one of stepping into someone’s brain, or being cornered at a party by someone genuinely funny for a change. I like the way he often mentions the artworld and what is expected of artists – “You want me to do a project in a mental hostpital, do you think I am mad?” And I suspect that collectors enjoy being teased a little as well.
The simple idea of combining his signs into clusters works really well. You get an overall effect as well as being able to see them individually, which puts a kind of critical bracket around each one. Two of the clusters are titled “110% Pessimism” and “75% Optimism”.
I have always enjoyed his concrete sculpures too, and here the viewer is invited to put on a jacket with its pockets filled with concrete, in order to listen to a dead man’s record collection. Somehow, in spite of the humour and the clearly fictional narratives that crop up, there remains a seriousness and a connection with real life underpinning everything.


Anonymous canvas art said...

Love this artwork

3:35 pm  

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