Martin Creed: Mothers, Hauser & Wirth, Savile Row, London
Friday 28 January 2011
This twinset of behemoth galleries near Savile Row, opened by Hauser & Wirth last October, feel more like something that you would find in the post-industrial landscape of New York's Chelsea gallery district, than they do premises located on London's historic tailoring street. They opened with an exhibition of work by the late Louise Bourgeois – her menacing, crouching steel spider sculpture patrolling the galleries. And so, now, we welcome Martin Creed to the space to give it to give it a lick of his likeable shtick. The Turner Prize-winning artist often works in a rule-based way – regularly letting his materials dictate the work. Some of the paintings in this exhibition are made by taking a set of brushes and making a single stripe with every size, so that you end up with something that looks like a set of stairs or a stack of colour, in yellow, green or pink. They are like comical Frank Stellas: they are what they are. What they are, in this show, however, is overabundant, and the hang is a bit hodgepodge.
Among the best of these paintings are the works in which it seems as though Creed has looked for all the shades of, say, blue paint he can find – oil, ink, watercolour, you name it – and made a small, horizontal stripe with each until the canvas is full of colour. These are actually quite beautiful – it's as though, no matter how hard he tries, Creed can't stop the beauty coming in. The vertical set of black crosses, painted straight onto the wall, running from a huge cross at the top, to a teensy one at the bottom, by the floor, are funny. Gently humorous, too, are Creed's large photographs of two dogs, Orson (shaggy, big and dumb-looking) and Sparky (a tiny chihuahua that looks perpetually alert and worried). In the video for the artist's single, which he has released alongside this exhibition, it is these two that star. "I was thinking," sings Creed, as Sparky nervously trots past, "and then I wasn't thinking," as Orson bounds across the screen, dopey and oblivious. His interest with these two states (thinking and not) also surfaces in a film in the gallery of a woman's nipple becoming erect and then soft: just a body, reacting, rather than a mind, thinking.
However, in all honesty, there's only really one piece in this exhibition. It's the only one to take this big new space on its own terms: that is to say, it's a sculpture that is enormous and frightening, but also (and here is Creed's particular contribution) perplexing and very funny. It's an enormous neon sign that reads "MOTHERS" in capital letters, which spins around above your head on a giant steel beam at 6'8" high. It speeds up and slows down, and, no matter how many times it goes past, each time, you wonder if this is the time that it will hit you, kill you, crush you. I wonder if the act of mothering, and of giving birth, is intriguing to Creed because it is the most unthinking state – a survival state – a strange engine for humanity. In itself, however this work is persuasive and strange, hilarious and non-macho, especially given its huge size. I like it a great deal. Perhaps Louise Bourgeois would have liked it, too.
To 5 March (020 7287 2300; www.hauserwirth.com)
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