February 17 – May 8, 2022
Images courtesy of Hauser & Wirth
Los Angeles… British artist Phyllida Barlow has constantly challenged the conventions of sculpture. Infusing humble materials such as cardboard, fabric, plywood and cement with boundless energy, she persuades the viewer to experience form on their own terms rather than reflexively projecting meaning onto it. ‘glimpse’, the artist’s first solo exhibition in Los Angeles during his celebrated five-decade career will be an ambitious presentation of large-scale new works assembled on site and in response to the gallery’s physical adaptation of the Globe Mills, a collection of late 19th and early 20th century buildings. Here Barlow will respond, manipulate and punctuate the distinctive architectural features of the complex with his sculptures, producing an intimate and conflicting encounter between form, environment and viewer. Visitors will be encouraged to walk around and below, and look up and above the sculptures. Such interaction is an essential part of Barlow’s work, typical of his long-standing exploration of the ways in which sculpture can open the mind to different realms of experience by summoning the body forward.
Alongside her studio practice, Barlow worked as a teacher for over forty years before retiring in 2009 from the Slade School of Fine Art, University College London, where she was appointed Emeritus Professor of Fine Art. On the occasion of her first exhibition in Los Angeles and in the spirit of her acclaimed teaching career, Hauser & Wirth Publishers recently published “Phyllida Barlow: Collected Lectures, Writings, and Interviews”, a publication which brings together 50 texts by Barlow – a range of prose, presentations, reflections on exhibitions and conversations with art world luminaries, critics and other artists – from across his esteemed practice. This volume highlights Barlow’s unique ideas and serves as a compelling complement to the works featured in “Preview”.
Barlow has exhibited extensively in international venues, including the 2017 Venice Biennale where she represented Britain. Recent solo and group exhibitions include ‘act’, a site-specific outdoor sculpture at London’s Highgate Cemetery (July 24 – August 30, 2021), the major retrospective ‘frontier’ at Haus der Kunst in Munich (March 3 – July 25, 2021 ), and “Another Energy: Power to Continue Challenging”, a collective exhibition of 16 female artists aged 70 or over at the Mori Museum in Tokyo (from April 2 to January 16, 2022). Last summer, the artist was commissioned to create the scenography for the Munich Opera’s new production of Mozart’s “Idomeneo”.
About the exhibition
Upon arriving at Hauser & Wirth’s South Gallery, viewers will be confronted with Barlow’s new works
– sculptures of such magnitude and fruitfulness that they radically transform the environment of the former neoclassical bank building of the Globe Mills complex. On any other day, this grand hall, with a mezzanine floor and 21-foot-high vaulted ceilings, can draw viewers’ eyes upward to contemplate the vastness of space. But by dint of imagination and innovation, Barlow encourages viewers to do the opposite: to glimpse, from above on the mezzanine or from below on the ground floor, the subtleties and energy of works gargantuan sculptures that deny a prescribed narrative in favor of a pure sensory. live. Like a director, she dictates the movement of the spectators in space, pushes them around forms and in narrow passages, leading them into encounters with other works and unexpected points of view.
In the center of the South Gallery, Barlow will place a sculptural structure reminiscent of a stage – a proscenium for the other surrounding sculptures. Although composed of cement, this work will be delicate, prohibiting visitors from crossing its seemingly reliable surface. A mix of nearby stilts will support two stair-like shapes, keeping them in a state of entropy. Nearby, a cluster of poles and draped scrims may induce a sense of danger, but will draw visitors under its wooden poles and brightly painted fabric skirt.
The mezzanine of the south gallery will host a collection of smaller wall and floor works, more organic in their construction and evocative of figuration. This grouping will include a new sculpture that recalls a visual trope of Barlow’s practice in the 1990s: a playful form, reminiscent of rabbit ears, rests on a gold base composed of two cubes. This signature combination first appeared in Barlow’s 1994 work “Object for the television”, which resides in the Tate’s permanent collection.
In the following text titled “sneak peek”, Barlow shares a memory from a time in his childhood, highlighting the inspiration and evolution of the works exhibited at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles.
It was a long time ago –
A paddock, on the moor, an outcrop in the heather and the gorse; A circle of rusty, decrepit, on the verge of collapsing, ominous railings – We ran wildly around this broken construction,
reveling in its anonymity and ambiguity,
but aware of the notice boards attached to the railings,
weathered into blank facades, but sounding warnings and threats of danger, It was our discovery, and it would be our place;
We huddled in the empty space, enclosed by these disintegrated posts; we rushed around the inner perimeter –
stumbling over the big tufts of grass,
landowners of a place unknown to the rest of the world, happy, ecstatic and filled with excited fear of what this place might be, this ring of dissolving steel syncopating earth and sky…
the staircase splits in two, on the left and on the right – on the left, a door leading to the long and narrow attic,
a small window, a horizontal half-moon, at the back;
this dark space seems detached from the rest of the house; the water tanks gurgle, the pipes groan and rumble;
on a gray blanket, shells, stones, dried plants are laid out in rows; a secret museum has found its place…
it’s high, distant,
an adventure where treetops are framed by the half-moon window, and life below is miniature.
one staircase faces another – above, the air;
so much empty, gaping, intangible space; out of reach,
but that’s where the adventure lies,
climbing into the empty space, looking up, hoping for the sky; to feel the weight, the light and the time of empty space penetrated by the scope and extent of unnameable things –
plaster, cement, color, awkward, elegant, surprising, hanging, leaning, stretching… the excitement of perilous moments, the sensitive fear of vertigo…
and here, these large, anthropomorphic shapes watch and wait, mute, curvaceous, motionless, waiting for time…
–Phyllida Barlow, 2020