The Shape of Things to Come: New Sculpture, the current exhibition at London’s Saatchi Gallery (until 16 October), not only promises to clarify the heterogeneous and indefinite nature of sculpture today in all its diverse and malleable forms, but to also prophesise as to its future. One expects a large-scale, bombastic and coherent exhibition.
Yet what emerges through the 15 rooms and works of some 20 international artists is a far subtler refection on the history of sculpture and an ambiguous relationship between past and future. Rather than being struck by a futuristic newness, the viewers are instead approached with a more nostalgic, dystopian and reflective collection of works that look ambiguously towards the future. A rich layering of historical references – whether that is Marcel Duchamp’s readymade, modernist sculpture, Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light sculptures, Picasso’s blue period, or abstraction – create a sculptural language with many temporal references.
This ‘looking back’ also feeds into a conscious looking-forward. This future is not heroic but dystopian, instable, and is subject to urban decay. There is a decidedly unmonumental aura about the works on display, something that is reinforced by the fragile, scavenged and mutable quality of the materials used. The metamorphic nature that imbues many of the works on show, their anarchic quality and suspension between figuration and abstraction, speak to our present state of instability – economic and social – and to the effects of globalisation. The past reverberates into a much less certain future, and this subtle dialogue allows for a consciousness of the present moment. These sculptures have a great reflective, sober quality that speaks more of the unmonumental, non-heroic every day than of the utopia found in the future.
For my full review of the exhibitions – and a gallery of images taken from the show – follow the link to Bareface Magazine.