Liam Gillick, Standing on Top of a Building: Films 2008-2019
Madre Museum, Naples, Italy
22 June - 14 October 2019
In the early 1990s, British artist Liam Gillick (Aylesbury, 1964) started producing a multifarious corpus of works using a variety of media and genres – installation, video, sculpture, text and digital animation – which is accompanied by his intense theoretical and critical production. At the heart of Gillick’s work is a complex whole of extremely topical themes which are deeply correlated with one another: the relationship with space – understood to be not just physical but political, social and economic – the central role of the viewer as active agent and producer of meaning, the world of communication, and the relationships between the Late-Capitalist economy, art and the institutions. Indeed, from the very beginning, Gillick placed the confrontation with the viewer at the heart of his work by creating situations – both formal and performative – in which certain parameters linked to the enjoyment of art, the function of the institutions that are related to it, and the creation and transmission of the concept of value, are critically discussed. To this regard, noteworthy are the so-called Platform Sculptures, a series of sculptures and installations which the artist began to conceive in the mid-1990s, and that would soon become among the most iconic in his output: these are sculptures based on a simple modular structure made of metal and colored Plexiglas, arranged in space as if they were elevated or hanging platforms, whose titles encourage the viewer to use them as a point of encounter and discussion. With this series of works Gillick explicitly refers to the tradition of Minimalist sculpture – especially to the pure forms, materials and industrial procedures used by Americanborn artist Donald Judd – but at the same adding to their interior an element of interaction and use by the public, emphasizing how the critical potential of Minimalist aesthetics was absorbed and neutralized by the architecture of the corporation and the structures of contemporary entertainment.
A similar synthesis between references inside art history and a discourse of an analytical nature on the present is at the core of the works and the installations produced in the following decade, in which bright colors and modular structures are often used to modify space. Through these interventions – which again occupy an ambiguous space poised somewhere between sculpture, installation, architectural intervention and design – the artist expands his field of interest and includes multiple references to the history of geometric abstraction (from Bauhaus to Kinetic Art), exploring the intersections between the utopian and social ambitions of these movements and their subsequent articulations in the world of communication, civic and urban decor, and corporate identity.
This form of tension also breathes life into … And Upheld (2012), a work in the museum collection exhibited on the occasion of the artist’s first solo show at Galleria Alfonso Artiaco in Naples. The work is part of a larger series in which three-dimensional aluminum elements are fastened to the wall according to a basic grid with a regular repetition; the arrangement once again cites the type of modularity that characterized the research of American Minimalism in the 1960s and 1970s, and in which Gillick takes the premises for this artistic season to extreme, formal and conceptual consequences: that is, the exploration of the materials and industrial procedures within the artistic language, including research into color and standardization via the methods of international classification currently referred to, such as the RAL color chart, used to identify colors based on a method that is universal and thus not liable to subjectivity.