Antony Gormley, Still Standing (2012)
13 July – 15 September 2012
White Cube Hoxton Square presented ‘Still Standing’, an exhibition of cast iron blockworks by Antony Gormley. These sculptures, shown in Gormley's exhibition at the State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg in 2011, reflect a dynamic new direction in the artist's work: an attempt to describe the internal mass and inner state of the body using the language of architecture and the built environment. This was the largest group of unique blockworks to be exhibited at White Cube and formed an important precursor to the artist’s first exhibition at White Cube Bermondsey in November 2012.
In the ground floor gallery, Gormley created an installation of 17 body forms, orthogonally arranged within the architecture of the gallery space. Each sculpture has been built up from a series of small, rectangular iron blocks; modular architectonic forms that diagrammatically map the body's internal volume, radically departing from anatomy. The works evoke imbalance and even entropy since key blocks in their visible support system have been removed and subtle displacements of weight mean that they are shifted from their own centre of gravity. Gormley has described these works as ’a kind of weaving of mass with void; a push and pull between blocks that are present and blocks that are absent‘. Poised in a suspended state, the works could be seen to investigate the verticality of the body, both in spatial terms but also in relation to the evolutionary trajectory of humans, progressing from an animal on all fours to an upright, cognitive being.
Three of the poses in the installation represent a body at rest: standing still, lying down or curled up in a foetal position. The remaining works describe disturbed bodies in a state of tension, as if the body has been caught mid-movement in an involuntary spasm. The body-positions derive from poses done for the artist's earlier series of work entitled ‘Ataxia’ (which began in 2007). Ataxia is a Greek word that implies a state of disequilibrium and is used in medical language to describe a state of dysfunction or a progressive loss of coordination of one's body, attributed to severe dysfunction of the central nervous system. This sense of tension is confirmed by the works’ titles, which all describe a physical state of being: for instance, Clasp (2010), Clutch VIII (2010) or Stall (2011), actively pathetic they call upon the viewer’s empathy.
In the upstairs gallery, Gormley presented a single new sculpture from the ’Propper‘ series which further experiments with blocks as the fundamental basis for building or sculpture and uses the tectonics of post and lintel architecture – in the form of vertical and horizontal blocks – to translate body mass into the equivalent of a high-rise tower. Although these works appear like carefully constructed body-forms, their formation is actually more playful and free, reflecting the childhood game of placing blocks one on top of another, each time attempting to reach new levels of height and width before collapse and drawing attention to the eccentric loan paths of the build.
The minimalism of Gormley's blockworks, with their austere construction and geometric principles, relates clearly to the language of modernity and its prioritising of the grid as an organising principle. Gormley has said of this work that it is an attempt to apply ’the formalism of modernity to the body in order to see what that contradiction brings up in terms of an emotional language’.
Born in London in 1950, Antony Gormley has had a number of solo shows including Centro Cultural Banco do Brasil, São Paulo (2012), Deichtorhallen, Hamburg (2012), The State Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg (2011), Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2010), Hayward Gallery, London (2007), Kunsthalle zu Kiel, Germany (2010), Malmö Konsthall, Sweden (1993) and Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk, Denmark (1989). Major public works include Angel of the North (1998, Gateshead, England), Another Place (2005, Crosby Beach, England) and Exposure (2010, Lelystad, The Netherlands). He has also participated in major group shows such as the Venice Biennale (1982 and 1986) and Documenta 8, Kassel, Germany (1987). Gormley won the Turner Prize in 1994 and was made an Officer of the British Empire in 1997. Since 2003 he has been a member of the Royal Academy of Arts and since 2007 a British Museum Trustee.
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