Thursday, 20 October 2011

REVIEW: Phyllida Barlow

Published: LONDON FESTIVAL FRINGE, 20th October 2011

Phyllida Barlow’s exhibition at Houser and Wirth in Piccadilly closes this Saturday. So make haste – flag that cab or top up that oyster card – it’s blooming brilliant.

Huge, striking sculptures fill the gallery’s many spaces, demanding interaction and attention.

In the main room, an abstract sculptural forest reaches up into the ceiling. Large blocks with the appearance of concrete stand upon thin poles: craning your neck at these vertiginous objects feels intimidating and precarious.

Yet these seemingly heavy, dangerous blocks are in fact polystyrene. Like tricks in a joke shop: rubber plastic piles of vomit bought to horrify flat mates, Barlow’s work plays and deceives.

Materials are rough and ready. Smeared paint and slapped on concrete proliferate in the work on show. You can feel the process of making ooze from each artwork.

Many of the pieces feel as if landed from outer space.

In an upstairs room ominous and large painted plywood objects clutter the space, toppling and tumbling across the floor. In the attic, giant “pompoms”, as Barlow calls them, populate: bursts of garish multicolor in an otherwise shadowed hollow. Playful yet some how poignant. There is a sense of loss and neglect in their random placement.

Without subject or narrative, Barlow’s sculptures are visceral entities to experience of your own accord. What ever that accord may be, the art in this exhibition cannot help but arrest.

Highly recommended.

Until 22 October 2011, Hauser & Wirth London, Piccadilly


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