the gormley spectacle

Test Sites by Antony Gormley
White Cube Gallery (Mason's Yard)
till 10.07.2010

Breathing Room III (2010)

Antony Gormley's latest show is impressive, but lacking the lustre of a major artistic breakthrough.

At the ground floor of the gallery, a series of cast iron blockwork figures (like the one showing on the flyer below). Unlike his signature self-cast series, this set is more abstract and does not confine to his body dimensions. Instead they are of random proportions locally yet one can still easily figure out the parts of body at each sculpture. The official press release says these block works show "a tension which is indicative of our urban-bound human condition".

At the basement a single piece of installation has occupied the whole exhibition space. As some critics say it has a very "Tron" feel to it. From the gallery people we spoke to the installation consists of 15 hollow rectangular blocks which has a total volume equivalent to that of the exhibition space it is placed. The block frame is coated with fluorescent paint that can absorb ambient light and re-emit them when the surroundings go dark. Like a giant tanning booth, visitors are allowed to walk freely in and out of the blocks. And every 15 minutes of so the spotlights hung right below the ceiling are switched on temporarily to 'charge' the frames.

Official flyer

While one can foresee the popularity of Gormley would bring queues to the gallery in every weekend running up to the end of the show, it seems the works shown this time could not produce a powerful impact on the viewers compared to the artist's works in the public realm instead.

The abstracted bodies are of various different forms which makes it hard to relate them to the viewers compared to those casted by Gormley's own body.The blocks themselves are all covered with rust, similar to the style of Richard Serra. Previous cast bodies Gormley created are very personal but the randomly formed figures in this show are trying something new which is yet to have the same visual impact.

The glowing matrix at the basement looks like the previous site-specific piece by Cerith Wyn Evans showing at the same space. Both works has the element of changing illumination. And the spotlights fueling the glow in Gormley's work is ironic - people go to indoor tanning booths to get tanned rather than going to the parks or beaches; while Gormley's work situated in a commercial gallery have to rely on artificial simulation to create a physical environment (compared to his public art which are directly situated in an activated environment not controlled by any individual).  

For those preparing to visit the gallery for the show, it is likely that you would have to queue for entry to the basement as the gallery has limited the number of people getting into the space for the experience. And once you are in, remember to stay until you experience the moment which the spotlights charge the fluorescent paint of the matrix - it is worth the wait!

Further Reading - 
Review by Laura McLean-Ferris for the Independent, 04.06.2010
Official page of the exhibition at White Cube Gallery's website