Saturday, February 04, 2006

Richard Deacon - Lisson

No one really knows what Richard Deacon’s art is meant to be about, or if it’s meant to be about anything. He skips merrily from form to form, happy in the workshop turning out pieces for customers worldwide, and everyone is happy. In many ways he is the consummate artist. I always liked his series “Art for other people” best, since they were smaller scale, and somehow more problematic in the relationship between material & making. The larger gallery work can be spectacular but cold.

After working with bent wood for a couple of years Deacon has now turned his attention to ceramic, and characteristically has apparently come up with a whole new way of approaching it to make some interesting shapes. The series that gives this exhibition its title, “Range”, consists of medium sized blocks of clay that he has sort of hollowed out, leaving just a cluster of thick struts that outline a twisted polyhedron. The shapes are notable for their heaviness, rather than elegance, for their lumpen solidity. This is underlined with a glaze that is flicked and drizzled on like salad dressing, leaving glossy blobs and streaks over the surface and allowing much of the natural fired texture to show through. Unbelievably, it is actually an original and genuinely sculptural approach to clay – who’d have thought it possible these days?

The carved forms are each mounted on custom plinths, which I also rather liked. A few years ago Deacon curated an exhibition of medieval sculpture at Tate Britain for which he also designed a set of weird and wonderful plinths in various bright colours. The effect was fantastic and it seems like once the traditional modernist aversion to plinths is put to one side, there is a whole new vocabulary just bursting to get out and find its application. Plinth revival, anyone?

There’s a scaled-up set of struts in the front room in steel, which doesn’t work, and a set of collage drawings upstairs that I’m rapidly tiring of now. But tucked away in the side mezzanine space around the corner are two lovely floor pieces, ribbons of unglazed ceramic as if freshly extruded from a machine, spilling all over with wanton abandon. Richard Serra for ants. Great stuff, as long as you don't mind getting off on purely formal thrills, but I for one wouldn’t want to be responsible for picking it up at the end of the exhibition.


Anonymous canvas art said...

Love his large steel sculptures

3:30 pm  

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