Laura Gascoigne

I wish John Chamberlain was still around to crush this hideous toothpaste-blue Ferrari

Plus: watch shiitakes sprout and vases explode at Gagosian Britannia Street

‘Untitled’, c.1967, by John Chamberlain. Collection: Cy Twombly Foundation © 2020 Fairweather & Fairweather LTD / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York, NY

For three months art lovers have had nothing but screens to look at. As one New York dealer complained to the Art Newspaper in May, ‘Everything is so flat — except for the curve,’ referring to the infection rate.

Flatness isn’t such a problem for paintings, which are flat anyway, or for digital media obviously. The art form that has suffered most from the lockdown is sculpture, since no 360˚navigation technology yet invented can replicate the experience of walking around a 3-D object. So it’s fortuitous that Gagosian is unlocking its three London spaces to a trio of new exhibitions of 3-D works, under wraps since March.

A woodcarving impregnated with mushroom spores promises to sprout shiitakes during the show’s run

Crushed, Cast, Constructed at Grosvenor Hill contrasts three approaches to sculpture in the works of John Chamberlain, Urs Fischer and Charles Ray. The main space is occupied by three of Fischer’s massive silvery forms moulded from small lumps of clay kneaded, squeezed and twisted in the hand, then scaled up 50 times for casting in aluminium. The last time I saw examples of these tortured metal clumps magnifying the epidermal ridges on the artist’s palm to the size of ribs on a side of beef was in Paris in 2011, plonked down in the courtyard of the Rodin Museum beside ‘The Gates of Hell’. There is certainly something Rodinesque about the torsion of these inchoate forms, with their hints at human and animal shapes: a giant knee here, a protruding foot there, a nose, an ear, an eagle’s back, a sea lion’s snout. They’ve been compared to ancient rock formations, but no human hand can beat wind and weather at natural form. Despite their fancy tongue-in-cheek titles after Stéphane Mallarmé’s fashion magazine bylines, they are basically sculpture about sculpture.

Charles Ray’s sculpture is about a particular object he’d like us to look at more closely: a dilapidated 1938 Cletrac tractor found rusting in a backyard in San Fernando Valley which he took apart, recast piece by piece, and painstakingly reassembled in gleaming aluminium.

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