Peter Fischli & David Weiss
Peter Fischli & David Weiss
Equilibres / Quiet Afternoon
Approx. 40 photographs, exhibition copies 300 x 400 mm
The photographs which make up the series Equilibres / Quiet Afternoon 1984 show precariously balanced sculptures at what appears to be the exact moment before their collapse. Perhaps not such a quiet afternoon then. Everyday items such as vegetables, kitchen utensils, tyres, chairs, and tools, are piled in elaborate configurations that – for an instant, at least – appear stable. ‘We discovered that we could leave all formal decisions to equilibrium itself’, Fischli has said of these sculptures. ‘There was apparently no way to do it ‘better’ or ‘worse’, just ‘correctly.’
Many of the titles suggest dramatic scenarios, endowing the objects with personalities. Mrs Pear Bringing her Husband a Freshly Ironed Shirt for the Opera.The Boy Smokes is a family tableau played out by shoes, a hanger and other items of domestic clutter. In Roped Mountaineers a tense scene unfolds. Suspend disbelief and a carrot, a wine bottle, a fork, two cheese graters, and some string become harnessed climbers engaged in a precarious mountaineering expedition. In these acrobatic still-lifes carrots are triumphant and bottles brave.
Flirtation, Love, Passion, Hate, Separation
English sculptor. His work is notable for its exploration of different materials, including found objects and raw matter of various kinds. Cragg's method of dispassionate ordering and composing seeks to make evident the vast array of objects and images that surround us, but with which he feels modern man has only a superficial relationship, based on function alone. In order to enhance our imaginative and emotional relationship with the world at large, Cragg proposed beginning with physical matter as the fundamental basis of experience. To this end, in the early 1980s, he began to work with objects arranged on the floor or wall in simple configurations, such as Postcard Union Jack (1981; Leeds, C.A.G.), made from sherds of plastic, or an Axehead composed of various real and fake wooden elements. By 1985 he had extended his range to include carved and machine-cut stone and castbronze and iron to make sculpture of simple, generic images or standardized prototypes, such as a house or a test-tube.
Postcard Union Jack
English sculptor, draughtsman and printmaker. She studied painting at Brighton Polytechnic (1982–5) and sculpture at the Slade School of Fine Art (1985–7). Employing traditional casting methods and materials that are commonly used in the preparation of sculptures rather than for the finished object, such as plaster, rubber and resin, she makes sculptures of the spaces in, under and on everyday objects. Her art operates on many levels: it captures and gives materiality to the sometimes unfamiliar spaces of familiar life (bath, sink, mattress or chair), transforming the domestic into the public; it fossilises everyday objects in the absence of human usage; and it allows those objects to stand anthropomorphically for human beings themselves.
Whiteread's choice of subject-matter reflects an awareness of the intrinsically human-scaled design of the objects with which we surround ourselves and exploits the severing of this connection, by removal of the object's function, to express absence and loss. Her early work allowed autobiographical elements. Later works move towards the expression of a universal human position, and their titles become correspondingly more prosaic.
Whiteread is one of the few artists of her generation to have produced monumental public sculptures. In 1993 she was awarded the Turner Prize just after creating House (1993; destr. 1994, see House) a life-sized replica of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London's East End made by spraying liquid concrete into the building's empty shell before its external walls were removed.
Tate Exhibition; The Unilever Series: Rachel Whiteread: EMBANKMENT
Untitled (Nine Tables), 1998
Untitled (Twenty-Four Switches), 1998
Untitled (Library), 1999
Wood, concrete, brick, metal, plastic, textile, cardboard and paper
Stack consists of a multitude of miscellaneous objects and materials packed tightly together to form a solid cube. Geometry meets random selection in this ordering of assorted detritus, which ranges from building materials to discarded magazines. Pieces of wood of varying dimensions are placed horizontally throughout the structure, compressing the materials into dense strata and conveying the impression of geological layers. Stack resembles a cross-section view of long-forgotten, buried rubbish. This reference both to geology and archaeology resounds throughout Cragg's career. He identifies as key themes in his work his relationship to the natural world and humankind's impact on nature. Insisting that what we call the 'natural world' is increasingly man-made, Cragg has said that he 'refuse[s] to distinguish between the landscape and the city', adding that man-made objects are 'fossilized keys to a past time which is our present' (quoted in Tony Cragg, p.26-28). He seeks to build a 'poetic mythology' for the industrially produced objects of our time. In 1992, Cragg said:
I see a material or an object as having a balloon of information around it. Materials like wood already have a very occupied balloon. The objects of our industrial society as yet have very little information attached to them, so even if something like plastic can be accepted as a valid material for use, it still remains very unoccupied. There is a lot of work to be done to actually make a mythology for this material, over and above its extremely practical and utilitarian value. (Quoted in Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Musée départmental d'artcontemporain de Rochechouart, Rochechouart 1992, p.61.)
This sculpture is one of five Stack pieces that Cragg made between 1975 and 1985, the first of which was produced while he was at the Royal College of Art. Cragg's policy at the time was not to preserve the materials used, but to recreate the sculpture anew each time. The Stack works were also Cragg's first large-scale sculptures and can be seen as transitional pieces. They relate closely to his very early works such as Combination of Found Beach Objects, 1970 (no longer extant), in which he orders and classifies materials as disparate as stones, shells and crisp packets by arranging them according to type within a roughly drawn grid. They also anticipate Cragg's later practice of composing images out of myriads of discrete elements, such asAxehead, 1982 (Tate T03791), and Britain Seen from the North, 1981 (Tate T03347).
Cragg's work has been described as a 'study of the relationship of the part to the whole', an idea derived from particle physics (quoted in A Quiet Revolution, p.54). Cragg, who trained as a scientist, complains that science lacks 'perceivable images' for its theories. He argues that art is thus 'an important supplement and expansion of the sciences' (quoted in Tony Cragg, exhibition catalogue, Société des Expositions du Palais des Beaux-Art de Bruxelles, Brussels, p.31).
In the late nineteenth century, Grove Road was a typical row of terraced houses of the kind built throughout the East End of London. Some of the road was destroyed in the Second World War and by the 1950s the area was covered with temporary housing. As new tower blocks were built the prefabs were removed.
By the early 1990s the terrace was no more – the final houses were demolished early 1993. From the interior of the last remaining house, Rachel Whiteread made an extraordinary sculpture.
Whiteread’s cast of a Victorian terraced house in London’s East End was hailed as one of the greatest public sculptures by an English artist in the twentieth century. Completed in autumn of 1993 and demolished in January 1994, House attracted tens of thousands of visitors and generated impassioned debate, in the local streets, the national press and in the House of Commons.
“Denatured by transformation, things turn strange here. Fireplaces bulge outwards from the walls of House, doorknobs are rounded hollows. Architraves have become chiselled incisions running around the monument, forms as mysterious as the hieroglyphs on Egyptian tombs.” (The Independent)