Garth Evans

Garth Evans, Untitled No. 1 (1974), plywood.  Courtesy Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Gift of the artist
Garth Evans, Untitled No. 1, 1974, plywood.
Courtesy Arts Council Collection, Southbank Centre, London. Gift of the artist

I admit that before walking into the Longside Gallery at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week I was woefully or rather shamefully unaware of Garth Evans’ work. The Arts Council Collection exhibition, Garth Evans, which closed this past week, rectified such ignorance. The first major show of Evans’ work in the UK in over twenty years, the exhibition reads almost like a primer of the major developments of sculpture in the 1960s. A student at Slade between 1957-1960, Evans did not begin his career with the ” New Generation” group that emerged around Anthony Caro at Central St. Martins and left to teach in New York by the time the artists loosely classified under the label New British Sculpture, including Richard Wentworth, Tony Cragg, and Richard Deacon, broke onto the scene in the 1980s. Evans’ work, however, influenced and was influenced by this especially rich and complex moment in the history of British sculpture. It only seems right that it was Deacon, a friend and former student, who served as the curator of an exhibition meant to re-situate Evans within this history.

The work on view immediately struck me as significant; completely of its historical moment while still fresh and relevant in the contemporary sphere. Selected from the roughly first two decades of his career, the sculptures in the exhibition are diverse and include “student work” from the late 1950s and early 1960s that reference cubist constructions and Mondrian geometries, large free-standing fiberglass abstract forms, and colorfully coated, steel minimalist structures. A separate gallery has a selection of drawings and fantastic black and white photographs Evans took during his two year fellowship with British Steel, which focused on the material in a variety of forms and were included in the publication Some Steel.

Garth Evans, Breakdown, 1971/2013, steel
Garth Evans, Breakdown, 1971/2013, steel

While Evans describes this period as frustrating in terms of producing work, it did result in a significant shift in his sculpture in the 1970s, most notably in regards to materials and their manipulation.  Breakdown reflects this change and Evans’ interest in creating, as he states, a sculpture without creating an object. Using a lattice type approach, numerous pieces of narrow steel are joined together but are adhered in a manner that denies any clear or logically repetitious pattern. Though the original version was stolen shortly after its first installation in 1971, a new version was made specifically for this exhibition and installed outside the Gallery, amidst the rolling Yorkshire landscape that wonderfully counters the piece’s hard geometric angles.  As Deacon suggests in the video below, works like Breakdown question where a thing ends. Continue reading “Garth Evans”

The Bay Lights

Today, a special guest post from Dr. Bridget Gilman on bridges and the remarkable Bay Lights project. Bridget studies postwar American art and is particularly interested in representations of the built environment. She received her Ph.D. in the History of Art from the University of Michigan.

by Bridget Gilman

It is difficult when writing about a bridge not to indulge the form’s metaphoric resonance. Bridges, of course, are built to connect landmasses, but also connote human mobility, connection, and transcendence. Like trains, highways, and other conduits of mass transportation, bridges are also often part and parcel of nation shaping and thus bear the weight of the governmental ideologies that propel their construction.

White City, World's Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893 (Image source: Flickr)
White City, World’s Columbian Exhibition, Chicago, 1893. Brooklyn Museum Archives, Goodyear Archival Collection. (Image source:

If bridges are inevitably metaphoric, light is likewise unavoidably symbolic—both in material and spiritual realms. Thus conceptions of the modern city are enmeshed with the presence of electric light, not simply on a utilitarian or technological level. To think of the world’s largest cities—and many of their monuments—is often to envision them at night, their skylines transformed from hulking masses to twinkling bodies of light and shadow. Iconic moments of urban luminosity range from the famous “White City” of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exhibition in Chicago to New York’s “Tribute in Light” memorial at the World Trade Center site, the combination of artificial light and architecture signifying an array of hopes and losses.

Neon Signage, San José, California (Photograph by author)
Neon Signage, San José, California (Photograph by author)

City lighting and urban infrastructure are clearly topics with deep, complex histories; discussion of their import and associations can get bogged down quite easily. But they are also things encountered in the everyday, and thus are fundamental to daily paths and routines. As someone fairly obsessed with the look and structure of the postwar American environment, practically nothing delights me more than the spectacle of vintage neon at old dive bars, motels, and restaurants. Likewise, there is perhaps no more thrilling ordinary spatial experience than a car ride over a large bridge. For just a moment life seems to become both distinctly physical, defined by the opposing pulls of the terrestrial and atmospheric, and existentially precarious, as the smallness and insignificance of a single body becomes all too clear.

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Thinking about Things… Mark Leckey’s ‘The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things’

David Musgrave, Animal (1997) [left];  Elad Lassry, Devon Rex. 2011 [right].
David Musgrave, Animal, 1998 [left]
Elad Lassry, Devon Rex, 2011 [right]
“Things that gather cannot be thrown at you like objects.”
-Bruno Latour, 2004¹

I published my last post on boxes from the Nottingham Contemporary café. Beyond being a rather banal statement on what still strikes me as the remarkable portability of today’s technological age, I wanted to begin this post with that admission because moments after, I walked upstairs to see The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, an Hayward Touring exhibition curated by the British artist Mark Leckey. These two activities – writing a blog post, and one specifically about the unsettling and categorically suspect presence of boxes as sculptural things, and seeing an exhibition described by Leckey as a Tumblr page or Google Image search come to life – became, in my mind, perfect complements. At the heart of the exhibition is a profound questioning of what it means to bring something “to life,” the ways that technology animates seemingly inanimate things, and how things shape our understanding of the world in which we live.

Mark Leckey, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, installation view (detail) the Bluecoat, 2013
Mark Leckey, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, installation view (detail), 2013, the Bluecoat, Liverpool

Mark Leckey won the Turner Prize in 2008 and is primarily known for his video pieces, but he often speaks of his practice in sculptural terms, as an artist whose primary concern lies in objects and their power as things. During a lecture at the University of Nottingham-Trent shortly after the exhibition opened, Leckey frequently spoke of totems and fetishes, of technology as a tool of transformation that constantly shifts things between registers, between two and three dimensions. He described a simultaneous fascination and terror in how “smart objects” – the iPhone that “talked” with my computer giving it internet access on a cafe patio, for example, or iPads that can control the climate of your home from across the world – are irreversibly changing how we interact with and understand not just the virtual world but the physical world. These objects will, and already have, altered how we think about things, especially sculptural things.
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A Box is a Thing around a Thing it is Not

Robert Filliou, Création permanente, 1969, three wooden boxes on a wooden board, framed. Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach
Robert Filliou, Création permanente, 1969, three wooden boxes on a wooden board, framed. Museum Abteiberg Mönchengladbach

On a recent visit to Robert Filiou: The Institute of Endless Possibilities at the Henry Moore Institute, I stood for a long time in front of an odd little object, or rather an odd little collection of objects. At its center was a plank of blonde wood set on hooks as though a module in a much bigger accumulation, with three diminutive boxes containing a small red sock, an even smaller red sock, and a tacked piece of paper with its title, Création permanente, scribbled on it. I did not come into the exhibition with much knowledge of Filliou or his work, and neither is my concern here. My reaction to this object was not academic, but felt personal, intimate even, and certainly without regard for any artistic intent. The aspect that set the whole work off for me was the vitrine-like frame around the interior objects. This enclosing, museological box initiated a deeper interrogation into the mechanics of the smaller boxes contained within; which in turn, created reciprocal dialogues of scale and the (in)accessibility to interior space. The structure of the outer box prompted me to think of preciousness, of the things we long to preserve, to contain, to separate, to keep hidden, to move or to share.

Andy Warhol, Brillo Box, 1964, silkscreen and ink on wood, 17 x 17 x 14 inches
Andy Warhol, Brillo Box, 1964, silkscreen and ink on wood, 17 x 17 x 14 inches

The encounter with Filliou’s “permanent creation,” this box of boxes, also caused me to reflect more broadly on the nature of boxes and the fine lines separating them from other inanimate things, from the things they contain, transport, or put on display. A quick google image search for the word box unsurprisingly generates hundreds of banal images of plain wood and brown cardboard cubes, stamped with “fragile” and “handle with care;” objects existing to help you move and store other objects. Scattered amongst these results – besides an alarming number of cat-related boxes (litterboxes, how to make a hammock for your cat in a box, etc.) – was an image of Andy Warhol’s Brillo Box.  Now leave it to Warhol to collapse so many complex concerns into such a tidy, seemingly straightforward thing. He gives us no access to the inside of his box. We only have the silkscreened surface, almost perfectly replicating the wrappings of a mass-marketed household product, and yet we know, either from looking at the object in front of us or by reading a caption/wall text, that this is a wooden box, clearly constructed and placed within an institution for the display of art. We are left then knowing or not knowing what is inside (nothing, structural armature, fun surprise, actual brillo pads…).

Joseph Cornell, Pavilion, 1953, box construction, 18 7/8 x 11 7/8 x 6 1/2 in. Art Institute of Chicago
Joseph Cornell, Pavilion, 1953, box construction, 18 7/8 x 11 7/8 x 6 1/2 in. Art Institute of Chicago

Continue reading “A Box is a Thing around a Thing it is Not”