Space Shifters – Hayward Gallery, South Bank Centre
Space Shifters is a major group exhibition brings together sculptures and installations that explore perception and space.
Featuring 20 artists and spanning a period of roughly 50 years, the exhibition includes innovative, minimalist sculpture from the 1960s as well as recent works that extend the legacy of this ‘optical’ minimalism in different ways. It also features new commissions that have been made in response to the architecture of the Hayward Gallery.
Many of the artworks in this exhibition are constructed from translucent materials such as glass, acrylic and polyester resins. Others involve the use of reflective materials, including stainless steel, polished bronze and, in one case, engine oil. Luscious and seductive – and often demonstrating huge technical accomplishment – these objects act as optical devices that enable us to see our surroundings in new and unexpected ways. In bringing together artworks that activate our perception of Hayward’s unique building, Space Shifters provides a dramatic and fitting conclusion to the gallery’s 50th anniversary year.
Leonor Antunes, Larry Bell, Fred Eversley, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Jeppe Hein, Roni Horn, Robert Irwin, Ann Veronica Janssens, Anish Kapoor, Yayoi Kusama, Alicja Kwade, John McCracken, Josiah McElheny, Helen Pashgian, Charlotte Posenenske, Fred Sandback, Monika Sosnowska, Daniel Steegmann Mangrané, De Wain Valentine and Richard Wilson.
26 September 2018 – 6 January 2019
Hein’s kinetic sculpture 360° Illusion V (2018) – situated in the first room of the exhibition – consists of two large mirrored panels that have been placed at right-angles to one another. As well as reflecting the surrounding environment, each mirror also reflects its twin. As the artwork rotates, we see ourselves and other visitors suspended within its curious double reflection, a visual effect that prompts Hein to ask, ‘Are you outside or inside the work? You don’t really know’.
For his installation 20:50 (1987) – first presented at Matt’s Gallery in 1987 – Wilson has flooded one of Hayward’s upper galleries with engine oil, leaving only a narrow passageway through the centre. The surface of the dark, dense substance mirrors the space above it and creates for the viewer the vertiginous impression of being suspended within a curiously doubled and seemingly infinite environment.
‘We all have preconceptions about architectural space, about rooms, about buildings – whether they’re galleries or museums or not’, Wilson has said, ‘– and if you can do something that unsettles those preconceptions, you can generate a whole new way of understanding your place in the world.’
In her large-scale installation WeltenLinie (2017) – which in Space Shifters takes over almost the entirety of one of Hayward’s lower galleries – nothing is quite what it seems. Using double-sided mirrors and carefully placed, paired objects, the artist achieves the illusion of sudden and surprising material transformations. As we move around and through Kwade’s steel-framed structure, the way we read and understand the objects within it shifts dramatically, depending on our perspective. Speaking of WeltenLinie, the artist has said ‘I hope that it is more like a feeling or an experience than a solid sculpture’, more like a ‘phantasm rather than an object’.