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)
Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'music
Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Scottish referendum: So how about the English now being given a chance to split from England?
- 2 Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
- 3 Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
- 4 The response to my Pizza Express review has been overwhelming, and taught me a lot about journalism
- 5 Free U2 album: How the most generous giveaway in music history turned into a PR disaster
Game of Thrones star Maisie Williams cast in Channel 4 drama about cyber bullying
Jennifer Lopez and Iggy Azalea's 'Booty' music video is just a load of butts
Friends 20th anniversary: Alison Jackson photographs reunited cast
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written
Friends 20th anniversary: The highs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Daniele Watts: Django Unchained actress detained by Los Angeles police after being mistaken for a prostitute
Scottish independence referendum: A nation divided against itself
Scottish referendum results: Cross-party consensus collapses amid Tory-Labour spat on the 'English question'
Scottish independence: David Cameron is becoming the 'George Bush of Britain'
Russia freezes Ukraine into submission: Kiev admits country doesn't have enough fuel for winter
Scottish independence: The Queen breaks silence on referendum debate – as think tank warns of £14bn black hole if Scotland votes Yes