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.
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”