Goldsmiths Curatorial Critique

Object Salon

Posted in Reviews by va801km on November 3, 2008

Object Salon

Anya Stonelake / White Space Gallery
October 14 – November 22

There is something endearing about this haphazard show and its eclectic small sculptures. Befitting the space itself, tucked away above the more prominent venues of Mason’s Yard and feeling like a storage unit, most of the works are arranged prosaicly on shelving within the single small exhibition space, whilst others (the ones the curators couldn’t decide about, perhaps?) are on tables and chairs in the office area amid piles of paperwork.

This presentation, consciously or not, is also befitting of the premise of the work. Curators (in this instance five: Thomas Beale, Kathy Grayson, Nadim Julian Samman, Emily Speers Mears and Anya Stonelake – this is the second ‘Object Salon’) asked artists to present 3-dimensional works which could be taken as hand luggage on a ‘plane. Knowing this makes the display protocol read appropriately like a depot.

For a small show, there are a lot of artists – 34 – whose ‘diverse practices’ range from traditional sculptural media, to kinetic objects using a prototype-design aesthetic, to mini-installations. Some of the pieces are weak, and would not stand up in a more traditionally curated exhibition, but get away with it in this luggage-hold of a show. Darren Bader’s ‘Untitled’ for example – two white T-shirts, complete with fresh fold-marks, are held in place on shelves by two heads of broccoli. Why? A tenuous joke about the disparate contents of hand-luggage? A misfiring comment about production and distribution or availability of commodities? Or a throwaway joke at the expense of the art market? It was certainly out of touch with the hand-crafted aspirations of the rest of the show.

There are pieces that make successful use of humour, social comment and subversive use of craft techniques, though. Cui Fei’s ‘Read By Touch’ is surely a poison-pen letter – a Braille of thorns, its partner-piece a revolving Christmas tree of barbed wire by Konstantin Novikov. FNO (Gluklya & Tsaplya)’s ‘Tramp’s Overcoat’ shows a richly embroidered lining sewn into a dirty mac, whilst Babak Radboy offers a portable rope bridge with beautifully finished wooden slats (you could have fun creating scenarios in which someone has packed that in their case).

Alas, the pièce de resistance – Meryl Smith’s ‘Excessory Luggage’, a Louis Vuitton-style handbag in the shape of a prone chihuaua, is missing due to a threat of legal action. I loved the fact that this was the mainstay of their advert in Time Out.

The show would have benefited from a more critical eye, particularly excluding the most obvious interpretations of the theme – a ‘suitcase bomb’, a case of personal photographs, and a couple of predictable takes on Hirst’s ‘For the love of God’; but when you read that it is intended to counteract the bombasity of Frieze and the recent trend for enormous sculptures it seems almost fitting: “…modestly scaled and hand-made creations are playing second fiddle to mega-objects. The curators feel that this is a shame”, the press release states with apparent innocence.

So don’t expect an intellectual work-out, but you’ll be sure to see something to reward the effort of finding the place. Who could not be a little bit charmed?

Image: Meryl Smith, ‘Excessory Luggage’, © evilmonito.com

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