Category Archives: Hauser and Wirth Gallery

Guillermo Kuitca at Hauser and Wirth

By taking architectural floorplans from the first, published encyclopaedia as a source for seven large scale works made of graphite and acrylic, Guillermo Kuitca sets up an enquiry into the processes and history of organizing knowledge. Encyclopaedias exhibit the best impulses of human curiosity but also carry inherent doubt and contingency . Kuitca’s large and impressive canvases appear to scatter original drawings of neo-classical buildings into intricate fragments as if we are observing a puzzle being re-assembled on a floor. While aspects of ‘Encylopedie VII’ remains coherent and identifiably reproduced from an original, printed plate, other areas of the image appear to be in a state of chaotic collapse. ‘Untitled’, 2010 is a  work almost measuring 2 by 4 metres and  occupies a room to itself, but unlike the other pieces in the series, this image is taken to the edge of legibility. Details are so atomised that the original source becomes elusive.
There is a familiar, contemporary technique here of digital imaging because these fragments are so confidently severed from each other as if Kuitca had applied ‘desktop’ strategies to manipulate copies. These enlarged and altered architectural plates, retrieved from history, extend Kuitca’s ongoing interest in epistemology, which he locates within the impulse to collate comprehensive information together .
In an adjoining gallery, the artist was exhibiting untitled paintings that extend the same theme within a contrasting formal style. These canvases mimic the painterly, analytic brushwork of cubist painting and yet originate in unidentified maps. Like the scattered architectural plates, these paintings reconfigure pictorial facts. However, these abstract paintings almost lose any power of communication except for lines of paint in red and yellow that may suggest roads or landmarks on a map. The viewer is left with a series of painterly marks that conflate analytic description with instinctual expression. Our bearings are lost as we are left with implied information within images seemingly driven by subjectivity.
Kuitca’s works inspired by the invention of the enclycopaedia brilliantly opens up a post-modern dialogue around meaning and authority, but the reconfigured maps are overly conceptual and are left adrift in a deep gap between invention and quotation so that they feel contrived and inert.

Martin Creed’s ‘Mothers’ at Hauser and Wirth

It’s rare that a work of art entails genuine danger, but Martin’s Creed’s new sculpture is a billboard – sized, illuminated sign that rotates at increasing speed. Giant neon letters construct the word ‘MOTHERS’, which illuminates the surrounding space with a harsh light. To step into this space is to risk significant injury, confirmed by a sign on the wall anxiously imploring us not to touch. This work demands a tentative encounter. Elevated by 2.03 metres, there is sufficient height to stand beneath the beam, but it is still low enough to instill serious trepidation. 
The absurdity of this object on a scale suitable for a Los Angeles Freeway is evident. Squeezed into an interior, the sheer physical impact of the sculpture is shocking and yet undeniably funny. With all its universal significance, the word here becomes a menacing and mesmerizing obstacle. This maternal surrogate literally threatens to give you a smack round the head. Our filial ambivalence is given discomforting, concrete form and we are compelled to survive this confrontation. To Ed Ruscha’s questioning the size of words, Creed replies that they can be as large as you want to build them.
MOTHERS has an audacious self-sufficiency, but it is accompanied by work that might stem from another practice entirely. Creed paints geometric shapes and patterns onto small canvasses. Using wide brushes, he builds broad strokes of uniform or contrasting colours that narrow upwards like an stepped ziggurat. Elsewhere, he stacks thin and loose horizontal stripes in acrylic, enamel, ink, oil and watercolour pigment, meeting at varying lengths in a spectrum of blues or reds. Avoiding a finished quality, these small, raw paintings convey direct sensation and an aesthetic authenticity.
Incongruously, three large photographs of a big hound and a tiny lapdog suddenly appear in the hang and interfere with any hint of seriality. The dissonance is intentional. Furthermore, a silent black and white film of closely cropped female breast floats in a dark room without any apparent relationship to the adjacent work.
Creed’s disavowal of linked scale, subject and media is, he explains, a conscious enjoyment of freedom and a denial of expectations. However, such an exhibition strategy runs the risk of upstaging the value of the works themselves, which tend to embody a brave and playful artistic enquiry.