Phyllida Barlow: RIG @ Hauser & Wirth Piccadilly

Hauser & Wirth is showcasing a solo exhibition titled ‘RIG’ by Phyllida Barlow, a large scale and ambitious show that takes over an entire building on Piccadilly, from basement to the attic.

The visitor is welcomed by a gigantic floor-to-ceiling artwork (untitled; block, 2011), which occupies the entire ground floor space; a forest of metal tripod structures set in solid concrete feet and ending to large cubes covered by colourful fabrics. Visitors are free to walk between these almost theatrically placed towers but somehow one feels threatened by them and prefers to walk around the complex instead.

Other rooms accommodate oversized objects that have been built in situ and their physical appearance obstruct the visitor’s path. Amongst some of the structures ‘hoops, 2011’, ‘stagechairs, 2011’ and ‘crushedboxfeud’ dominate the various rooms across the building whereas the industrial looking parts of ’emptyunits, 2011′ dominate the second floor. Again, visitors are free to walk between the objects and explore the area but the lack of space almost suffocates you, you want to escape from it.

Barlow’s structures echo images not only from the industrial world but also from the modern city and urban environment. Created with inexpensive materials such as cardboard, plaster, foam, cement, polystyrene and fabric her works appear as abstract oversized three dimensional collages that contain ugly items joined or forced together with industrial connecting substances and sometimes painted with vivid synthetic colours. The results of this process are entities free from symbolic meanings with direct references to our everyday life. “Anti-monumentalism” is a term used by the artist for her work, which, in fact, initially appears as monumental but we are soon to realise how an oversized and characterless structure can actually threaten our own life and existence.
|Kostas Prapoglou