From the man behind the hugely successful current Postmodernism exhibition at the V&A, Glenn Adamson, comes this spin-off group exhibition in the heart of Mayfair.
What Adamson brings to Bischoff/Weiss is a clarity which surely comes from curating such a major institutional show, that must be intelligible to a plurality of people.
Taking the chain as a metaphorical starting point, Adamson has brought together a group of artists who he believes can ‘slow down’ the passage of what he refers to as the ‘commodity chain’, elucidating the process by which artists introduce value to the world. The exhibition, he explains, explores the interplay between the three ways of making art – ‘handmade, readymade, and management’. Moving from the literal to the abstract, each ‘Chain’ of the exhibition’s title groups the artists: Loz Chalk, Nicole Cherubini, Susan Collis, Isabelle Cornaro, Leo Fitzmaurice, Lucie Gledhill, Gyan Panchal and Zoe Sheehan Saldana. While such explicit groupings can often be reductive, here they are fundamental to the Dantesque structure of the show.
Nicole Cherubini, White Box, 2009, Earthenware, glaze, 61 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm;
The first group, the ‘handmade’, includes Lucie Gledhill's three-metre long chain crafted in fine silver by hand using the traditional technique of wire-pulling; Isabelle Cornaro's photographs also feature chains, along with other pieces of her family's jewelry, arranged to form landscapes in South Africa. The symbol of the chain, with its wealth of associations and connotations – psychological binds, labour, freedom and slavery, is evoked with sensitivity and dexterity. The viewer simultaneously admires the craftwork of the artists, and identifies with their plight. Secondly, we move towards a more conceptual interpretation of the workings of the chain of capitalism, with sculptures by artists Gyan Panchal, Leo Fitzmaurice and Nicole Cherubini, unpicking the language and aesthetics of branding, mass production, and value. The third ‘chain’ can be seen as the link between the artists within the exhibition, but also, their connections to the world around them. Susan Collis, an East End-based artist, who often insidiously slips luxury materials into her recreations of banal every day objects (here, a stack of A4 paper topped with Renaissance gold leaf), has replaced a piece of the plaster in Bishoff/Weiss with a piece of plaster from the wall of Seventeen Gallery, Kingsland Road, who represent her. This is a concise statement about the movement of an artist’s work, the touting of an artist’s commercial presence and progress.
Zoe Sheehan Saldana, Life-Jackets, 2008-9, Coated and heat-sealed nylon, polyester webbing, thread, buckle, reflective tape, safe whistle, milkweed fluff, Adult size : 24 x 18 x 5cm. Child size : 16 x 13 x 3.5 cm, Adult size Edition /14. Child size Edition /6
It’s an old adage – the interdependence of art and capitalism, and as Adamson remarks, one that isn’t going away. In an era of economic instability, we have new reasons to examine what it means to create, market and sell art works. But Adamson’s insight, via the efficacious, neat emblem of the chain - the fulcrum around which this exhibition turns – is illuminating in many ways; the chain of his ideas is incontrovertibly taut, and each of the carefully selected artists in this exhibition forges an important link in that chain.
This is an exhibition that delights visually as well as intellectually, a rare gem within the hub of commercial galleries.
All images courtesy Bischoff/ Weiss
top image: Gyan Panchal, Courtesy of the Artist and Bischoff/Weiss.