Nov 06 2017
Going Public Project Curator, Ashley Gallant gives an introduction to works on display in the current exhibition at Graves Gallery, Going Public – The Kirkland Collection.
The Kirkland Collection exhibition is the latest instalment of Going Public, a major initiative led by Museums Sheffield to bring work from private international art collections to the city and explore how public galleries and collectors can better work together.
The Kirkland Collection is the 6th collection we have bought to Sheffield and within this exhibition thirteen works have never been publically displayed in the U.K.
Jack Kirkland’s collection displays a passion for photography, minimalism and geometric abstraction. Private collections often focus on a movement or selection of artists in depth, allowing a fuller understanding and clearer picture than that offered by a broad museum collection. From the beginning Jack had a clear idea of the works he wanted to display, with key artists in the history of minimal art placed alongside younger artists who are continuing this style. It’s also been enlightening to work with a collector with such a clear vision on the placement of the works of art in the gallery space.
As you enter the exhibition to your left is New Industrial Parks by Lewis Baltz. This grid of photos depicts industrial American landscapes, with close cropping and contrast creating geometric compositions. His work was critical in the development of American photography, rejecting romantic and pastoral landscapes to draw attention to the creep of urbanisation.
This grid is reflected and disrupted in the opposite wall in Menu in progress, by Abraham Cruzvillegas. Unlike the strict formation of Baltz, the broken grid of food creates references an organic Latin American approach to architecture, and can be installed differently at each location.
Speaking of reflections, sitting in a canoe, noticing the flatness of the lake was what led Carl Andre to remove sculpture from the plinth. In flat floor works, such as Nineteenth Copper Cardinal, Andre rejects the process of carving from material and instead reduced sculpture to simply placing factory produced materials.
The two painters in this room continue the theme of reduction. Carmen Herrera, like Baltz, rejected romantic works of art and uses only straight lines to create geometric abstractions. Hélio Oiticica, like Cruzvillegas, broke out of the restriction of the grid. In Metaesquema (meta-structure) colour pushes at the constraints of an underlying structure. In later work the colour escaped the flat surface and these forms became large hanging structures, paintings the audience could walk within.
Diagonally from the unifying black squares of Cruzvillegas sits Untitled (Black), Ad Reinhardt’s investigation of colour. Reinhardt’s paintings do not attempt to represent anything outside of themselves; as you view the seemingly black rectangle, it slowly reveals an underlying geometry of subtle colour interactions.
Josef Albers also spent a career exploring colour. Homage to the Square: "Post Autumn", forms part of a series of works in which the same underling composition of squares is taken through multiple colour combinations to create seasons of colour. The colours seem to recede in and out of the canvas, a visual illusion created by his expert handling of tone and hue. Similarly, Bridget Riley’s expansive Red Overture explores colour relationships in paintings that seem to actively shimmer and vibrate.
Jack Whitten’s work STA Alpha II jolts the minimalist aesthetic created by Riley and Reinhardt. By placing objects under the canvas and using a ‘developer’ made from afro combs to drag paint across the surface he creates a hybrid print-painting process.
Whitten’s grid like structure converses directly with Richard Tuttle’s small painting, How Red and Blue Become Yellow. Described as his ‘Homage to Minimalism’, this small two colour grid could be read as textiles, fencing, an aerial maps or a decorative pattern.
This idea of multiple reading of a work of art leads us into Study for Triadic II by Anni Albers, a teacher at the Bauhaus school which dismantled the barriers between fine and decorative arts. Her textiles, inspired by trips to South America, were simultaneously decorative and practical, baffling sound or reducing light reflection.
This joining of process and aesthetics continue through the work of Donald Judd, who believed that art should stand on its own and not represent anything. His geometric forms made from industrial materials like the one on show in the exhibition came to define the minimalist movement (even though it was a term he hated).
As the eye takes the straight lines of Judd through 45 degrees we land at the iconic symbol of minimalism, Dan Flavin’s The Diagonal of May 25, 1963, a commercial light strip which broke all conventions of sculpture when it was first exhibited, using light and space as sculptural materials within themselves.
And finally, another 45 degrees onto the floor and we land on Pi by Lara Favaretto, found scaffold poles lying on their side, their usual strength and support redundant in this prone position. The geometric mass of the poles laid out like a rug eloquently quotes the voids, squares and cubes of the other artists in this exhibition who have led art history to this point.
Going Public – The Kirkland Collection continues at the Graves Gallery until 2 Dec 2017. Entry to the exhibition is free.
Top: Going Public - The Kirkland Collection (l-r Untitled (Black) by Ad Reinhardt, Red Overture by Bridget Riley, Pi by Lara Favaretto and The Diagonal of May 25, 1963 by Dan Flavin) © Museums Sheffield
Middle: Carmen Herrera, Untitled, 2013 © Carmen Herrera; Courtesy Lisson Gallery.
Bottom: Bridget Riley, Red Overture (2012) © Bridget Riley 2017. All rights reserved