United Enemies looks at work made by artists in Britain during the 1960s and 1970s, a time when the idea of sculpture was being radically contested.
Installation view of Reception, showing: Roelof Louw, 'Pyramid of Oranges / Soul City' (1967) Courtesy Leeds Museums & Galleries (Art Gallery). Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
Installation view of Reception, showing: Roelof Louw, 'Pyramid of Oranges / Soul City' (1967)
Courtesy Leeds Museums & Galleries (Art Gallery). Photo: Jerry Hardman-Jones
“Edible pyramids, rural walks, posing pop stars: how British sculpture went wild in the 1960s.”
This was a period of particular importance for sculpture, a time when it could no longer be defined only as an object. United Enemies cuts across practices, publications and institutions to present artworks arranged around three provocations: 'Manual Thinking', 'Standing' and 'Groundwork'.
The exhibition begins with Roelof Louw’s 'Soul City (Pyramid of Oranges)' (1967): a work containing over 6,000 oranges painstakingly composed in order to be physically participated in and enjoyed. Over the course of the exhibition, the pyramid depletes as visitors help themselves to oranges.
Sculpture from this period took the form of performance, film, drawing and photography. From Keith Arnatt’s 'Art as an Act of Retraction' (1972) showing the artist eating each of the words of the sentence 'Eleven portraits of the artist about to eat his own words', to McLean's photographic work 'People Who Make Art in Glass Houses' (1969) where the artist is pictured surrounded by the debris of his own work, other media was pulled into the sculptural argument.
In the photographic album 'An English Frontier' (1972), Richard Long took sculpture out of the gallery, documenting a walk conducted in the company of Tony Cragg, Roger Ackling, Jim Rogers and Bill Woodrow. The location of sculpture was further contested through its place in the pages of magazines, journals and newspapers.
Sculpture is a constantly expanding field, mired in contestation and interrogation. United Enemies demonstrates how this highly fertile and experimental period formed the ground from which contemporary sculpture has grown.
Sculptures in action
Bruce Lacey's 'Old Money Bags' (1964)
“The spectacle of mass-consumption turned into a fully functioning robot dictator made out of his own discarded products, simultaneously hilarious and terrifying.”
'Old Money Bags' is an electronic robot, assembled from found rubbish, including an old tailor's dummy, the hand from a shop mannequin, a bike chain and the counting mechanism from inside a till.
It is designed so that whenever a viewer shouts into the attached microphone, the contraption slowly grinds into action, pumping bags of money through the 'heart' of the piece.
Barry Martin’s ‘Programmed Shape Development’ (1968)
'Programmed Shape Development' is a wall-mounted kinetic sculpture, made in polished aluminium, with double-axel discs mounted on metal rods projecting from the surface and four motors, one connecting to each quadrant of discs.
The discs spin around, reflecting the light and the surrounding environment and creating complex optical effects in which the discs seem to share the same surface despite their staggered composition.
“Statically developed shapes generate new classes of shapes and forms in movement. Front and back shapes move independently from each other. The aluminium shapes were thought of as fragments of the space they inhabited.”
The circular or rotary movement is typical of Martin's work of the 1960s - in a contemporary interview, he described his interpersonal relationships in terms of a circular movement between himself and the outside world.
Complete List of Exhibited Artists
Ivor Abrahams, Keith Arnatt, Clive Barker, Phyllida Barlow, Boyle Family, Stuart Brisley, Laurence Burt, Shirley Cameron, Anthony Caro, Angela Carter, Brian Catling, Helen Chadwick, John Cobb, Tony Cragg, Hubert Dalwood, John Davies, Paul de Monchaux, David Dye, John Ernest, Garth Evans, Barry Flanagan, Gilbert and George, Katherine Gili, Ed Herring, Peter Hide, John Hilliard, Roy Kitchin, Bruce Lacey, John Latham, Liliane Lijn, Richard Long, Roelof Louw, Jeff Lowe, Michael Lyons, Barry Martin, Leonard McComb, Bruce McLean, Roland Miller, Keith Milow, Martin Naylor, Paul Neagu, John Panting, Roland Piché, Carl Plackman, Nicholas Pope, Colin Self, Mathies Schwarze, Peter Startup, Wendy Taylor, William Tucker, Stephen Willats, Bill Woodrow.
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