You can pretty much ignore the curatorial premise here, which is all about opening up the gallery to new artistic networks. All that really means is that Open Cube is an open submission exhibition. But since the 17 artists in this ‘international group exhibition’ are all young, all London-based and all the products of prominent art schools, it’s hardly the most profound overthrow of established art world values.
When it comes to the works themselves, though, there’s a lot that’s intelligent – and intelligently selected. One strand of the show revolves around notions of wealth and status – such as Jacopo Trabona’s sheets of paper slashed with a diamond and Martin John Callanan’s photographs of a penny, a euro and other units of currency, enlarged and illuminated like archeological treasures. Several other works focus on pattern and decoration, from delicate charcoal tracings of ornamental tiles by Rodrigo Garcia Dutra, to Fay Nicolson’s complex, colourful prints of kaleidoscopic rippling effects.
In fact, the show functions best as an overview of what an emerging generation is interested in. It’s smart and enjoyable, if not quite the system-challenging experiment it reckons itself to be.
Like many curators, I have been hugely influenced by Brian O’Doherty’s wonderful and seminal book, Inside the White Cube, the Ideology of the gallery Space (1976). The book, which began life as a series of Artforum essays, defined new ways of thinking about exhibitions and the contemporary white walled art gallery. So, when I heard that the latest Mason’s Yard White Cube gallery exhibition, Open Cube, guest curated by Adriano Pedrosa, was inspired directly by O’Doherty’s book, I had to go and see it.
I wasn’t disappointed. Not only is it a fascinating exhibition, but also reflects a great deal of what Artfetch believes in, and is working to achieve. The 17 artists in the exhibition were selected from an open call out for proposals – a brave thing for a gallery with the branded reputation of White Cube – as an open call invites a deluge. The gallery received over 2,900 applications, from which the curator interviewed 38 to select the final group.
This process of deliberately working with artists new to the curator breaks down the idea of curator/artists networks, drawing its concepts from O’Doherty’s ideas about the ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ relationships of a gallery. The idea of opening up the application process and allowing audiences, the gallery and the curator to push themselves in terms of looking for, working with and presenting a new stock of artists is incredible, though only in terms of how top level galleries usually work. By this I mean, it shouldn’t be so unusual, and as I considered this, I began to wonder at how difficult it is for new artists to break into these ‘inside’ relationships.
This relates directly to what we are doing at Artfetch, as we believe it is vital to open the processes of becoming an art world insider, so that talented artists can come to the publics who would otherwise not have a chance to see their work. And although internet–based, face to face meetings are a vital part of our commissioning process. If the relationship and quality of work is there, we invite the artist to work with us.
Open Cube itself is broken down into two parts: on the ground floor the exhibition concerns itself with commerce, value and currency; meanwhile, the lower floor of the Mason’s Yard building looks at different forms of abstraction: including constructivist and geometric, as well as organic, amorphous, and fluid types.
Particular stand out works were by Fay Nicholson’s A is for Albers, a small stack of photocopied postcards, sliced in two by a sheet of Perspex; a series of large photographs of foreign coins by Martin John Callanan; and Jacopo Trabona’s Untitled, which was a simple few cuts on a sheet of paper made by slicing a diamond across it. But my particular favourite was Nicky Teegan’sVoid a flat circle of woven VHS tape over a bent steel ring. It summed up the show for me: defunct material (the VHS tape) re–used to create a typical fine art image – the circle. It was creating something new and conceptual from the old and familiar.
This exhibition is excellent, from its concept to realisation. It is a must see show that I hope is the start of a new way of thinking about artist/gallery networks, and about how we produce exhibitions and create new associations. The process itself also questions the role of the physical gallery space, as the open method of calling for, and selecting works, echoes the opportunities offered by the internet – something Pedrosa realises, as he notes his ambition for the show: to break down the “seemingly closed systems that exist in the criteria for staging exhibitions”. About time too.
Open Cube, is at White Cube Mason’s Yard, London, until 21 September 2013
Artists: Matt Ager, Frank Ammerlaan, Adriano Amaral, Helen Barff, Sarah Bernhardt, Martin John Callanan, Nuno Direitinho, Venisha Francis–Hinkson, Rodrigo Garcia Dutra, Rowena Harris, Alan Magee, Fay Nicolson, Daniel de Paula, Nada Prlja, Nicky Teegan, Jacopo Trabona and Caitlin Yardley.
SIGGRAPH 2012 Art Gallery: In Search of the Miraculous presents exceptional digital and technologically mediated artworks that explore the existence of wonderment, mystery, and awe in today’s world of mediating technologies and abundant data. Of the nearly 400 submissions, 12 were hand-picked by a jury to be exhibited at SIGGRAPH 2012, 5-9 August at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The jury included a wide range of artists, designers, technologists, and critics hailing from academia, industry, and the independent art world.
In what at first may look to be a common Earth globe, Callanan’s A Planetary Order makes a poetic statement by shifting our attention from the usual geographic information by voiding the usual terrestrial markings, and instead presents an immortalized ephemeral instant, eternalizing a fleeting moment shared by the global whole, giving us pause to reconsider what really matters in this world.