In his solo exhibition Family at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Richard Deacon shows a group of new, small-format ceramic pieces entitled “Flash, Bang, Wallop.” The works showcase the British artist’s extraordinary approach to form and his deeply rooted interest in material, the unique handling of which makes him one of the contemporary art world’s most important and inventive sculptors. Following his beginnings in performance art, Deacon turned to sculpture in the early 1980s and was soon regarded as a central figure in New British Sculpture. Over the years, he has consistently and methodically developed his diverse oeuvre, which also includes writing and drawing. Deacon employs a wide range of materials, including laminated plywood, concrete, stainless steel, leather, plastics, and clay, in order to create an intense experience of form, surface, color and space.
Ceramics have played an important role in Deacon’s artistic practice since the mid 1990s. He conceives and shapes clay into objects that are organic or geometric, monolithic or made of several components and pushes the material to its limits. The works shown in the exhibition were created with Niels Dietrich, who runs a Cologne-based ceramics workshop and with whom Deacon has been collaborating for many years. The social dynamics behind artistic development and production have always been a central focus of Deacon’s work. Deacon sees his task as a sculptor as mediator between inner and outer, as well as personal and collective dimensions. As he explains, “I am interested in a particular process, material or technique—and I don’t really make a distinction between industrial and craft processes in this regard—and it could be that it’s the individual that interests me.”
“Flash, Bang, Wallop” is the title of a series of hand-sized, centimeter-thick slabs of clay. In contrast to the colored and glazed surfaces, the cut edges of the discs remain untreated. The polygonal pieces are held up with the help of thin metal sheets and presented individually on wall bases. Through these flat ceramic objects, Deacon continues his search for the pictorial in sculpture, which is repeatedly expressed in his extraordinary use and manipulation of the materials as well as in the innovative way in which they find their form. The final interplay of colors in each work only emerges after the firing process; a process which captures Deacon’s fascination with the interrelation between form, volume and color as well as the balance between premeditation and coincidence. The face of the object, partially painted with geometric patterns, serves as projection surface adding a dimension of optical distortion to the piece, and giving the small sculpture a pictorial quality.
Through his associative and open titles, Deacon creates a tension between the visual and the poetic. Family brings together a group of idiosyncratic, autonomous and individual pieces which are at once closely related and part of a larger context. And of course, with the way they are supported, each having one coloured surface, the have a certain resemblance to family photographs standing on the sideboard. Through their form, process and production, these perfect solitaires cut to the core of the most basic questions of sculpture in inventive ways. As a form in space, the sculpture is structurally expandable at will. It appears that if taken as individual pieces of a puzzle, the objects could transgress their own boundaries.
This summer, Galerie Thomas Schulte presents the installation Red, Yellow, Green, In Time by US-American conceptual artist Matt Mullican. Through the end of August, the gallery‘s Corner Space will feature three of Mullican‘s enormous, colorful fabric banners, one after the other, announcing their symbolic message into the urban space. The banners are part of a ten-part installation that was shown for the first time at the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin.
Mullican has developed a subjective cosmology that he translates into colors and pictograms as a means to order and make sense of the world and how we perceive it. With his banners, Mullican uses an extremely simplified visual language that can be captured in a matter of seconds. At the same time, they address complex interrelationships and universal, existential questions including the relationship between reality and its representation and how images emerge and the way they produce meaning. To that end, Mullican has developed his own reference system that divides the world and its perception into five categories: The level of objects and matter corresponds to the color green and to the basic geometric forms of triangle, circle and square. In the color blue as well as in the symbol of the stylized (unframed) globe, the everyday world is depicted, our environment and the daily reality which we do not question. The color yellow together with the symbol of the framed globe refer to human thought, to the arts and sciences, while black and white represent the level of communication, language, semiotic systems, and meaning. Finally, the color red and the sign of the head and brain symbolize subjectivity; a person’s own thoughts and sentiments.
The sequence of the featured banners are, as the title suggests, red, yellow, and green. In the Window Space, Mullican’s 3-part neon installation alternates in a similar fashion through the same colors and corresponding symbols. It is up to the viewer to decipher the different levels of meaning that Mullican aims to bring to light through art and which his pictograms paradoxically illustrate in such a simple and striking way.