Opening today at the Henry Moore Institute are two new shows which cast distinctly different eyes over the techniques, environments and possibilities of sculpture.
In Galleries 1, 2 and 3, the main exhibition brings together works by the contemporary American artist Carol Bove and the Venetian architect and designer Carlo Scarpa, who is primarily represented by works from the 1960’s. As many of the Scarpa pieces are in the main functional – including examples of exhibition furniture – they form a strong contrast to the organic elements in Bove’s sculptures, including peacock feathers and coral.
The central display is a large platform on which Bove has placed her own work alongside sculpture by Scarpa. This is the most immediately eye catching element of the show. It dominates and seems to alter the space around it. Here we see the two artists’ work fused into a dramatic hybrid. Individual details such as a golden, egg-like object become apparent as the viewer walks around it, finding new angles to see from.
Elsewhere in the show, the relationship between the two artists’ work feels more muted and it becomes easier to discern what separates them and indeed to choose a favourite. While the examples of Scarpa’s craftsmanship possess a certain immediacy, I found myself more drawn to the playfulness inherent in Bove’s pieces. Although her sculptures are often stark, the different and contrasting elements within them form pleasing relationships with each other and with their surroundings.
Both Scarpa and Bove were interested in the meaning and importance of context. This show provides a context in which the lines between the works of two artists and two times are blurred. The result is ambiguous and hard to pin down, which seems to have been the intention.
In the Upper Sculpture Study Gallery, the Institute is presenting a collection of over one hundred industrial photographs from the early 1970’s by Garth Evans. These were taken during his involvement with the British Steel Corporation and they treat the apparatus, equipment and detritus of the industry as though it were a form of sculpture in itself. The results have both documentary and abstract qualities. Some photographs feature dramatic – though natural – lighting effects which demonstrate the potential for visual impact in a functional object.
One of the most striking things about these photographs is how contemporary and even cinematic they feel. With the rise in popularity of Urban Exploration photography and of games and films like Silent Hill, industrial settings have a strong currency in popular culture. It’s tempting to wonder whether David Lynch was aware of Evans’ work when he dreamt up the nightmare surroundings of Eraserhead.
It’s also interesting to note how the photographs benefit from coming from a time before Photoshop. They are absolutely raw and in this case, all the better for it. Evans’ work finds beauty, elegance and mystery in a working environment. This a great show for anyone who likes their photography a bit different, especially if you can’t walk past a factory without wondering what’s inside.