Exhibition

Seem
Richard Williams
March 14 — April 4, 1989

Catalogue published with text by Phil McCrum

SEEM: A SHORT ESSAY AROUND THE WORK OF RICHARD WILLIAMS
Phillip McCrum

The gallery is a white cube …mere the elements of art are constructed, The Gallery works as courtyard, church, theatre, arcade, located within the recesses and structure of it’s cultural heritage, The viewer can enter, repose, reflect, and exit. The Gallery remains entrenched, receptive, persistent, an articulation of empty desire until filled with the art object. The Gallery is a non-space within a space, invisible and silent, coercive and oppressive, a wilful architecture.

John Locke’s model of the mind, tabula rasa, is like an empty room, blank unimpressed by the experience of sensation. David Hume’s model for perception, abundance of sensations ordered into bundles of experience, much like the way pixels on the T,y’ screen order incoming electronic signals into meaningful images.

“Should 1 ever be placed in a position to exercise control over men, the first character 1 would call upon to stabilize that power would be the architect.”

Clifford Still

The phenomena of persistence is based on the idea that once constructed the architectual form persists on the axis of its development. That is, persistence depends upon a strong plan, a reason for existence, Persistence works through the accumulation of artifact to maintain vitality or becoming exhausted, a permanent sign, an artifact in itself.1

In every city in every urban landscape is the glass box, An elaborate cube that is the pivotal development of the modernist grid, Its cells the continuous repetition of the cube, The White Gallery suppresses history and frees the making of art in the secular shroud of this developed grid, creating a room for ‘everyman’, an ‘ideological space’.

“(Bums are the ideal clients of modern architecture: in perpetual need of shelter and hygiene, real lovers of the sun and the great outdoors, indifferent to architectural doctrine and to formal layout.) “2

The first live broadcast of a televised image occurred in 1939 at the New York World’s Fair, Farnsworth televised the Fairs vision of the ‘City of the Future, Democracity, ‘Democracity’, is…not a dream city but a practical suggestion of how we should be living today, a city of light and of green space as it would appear from 7000 feet’ (according to the official guide book, New York World’s Fair, 1939)3, Television was not available to the consuming public until after the end of the Second World War.

“There are two ways in which the grid functions to declare the modernity of modern art, One is spatial; the other is temporal. In the spatial sense, the grid states the absolute autonomy of the realm of art. Flattened, geometricized, ordered, it is anti-natural, anti-mimetic, anti-real. It is what art looks like when it turns its back on nature… In the overall regularity of its organization, it is the result not of imitation but of aesthetic degree, Insofar as its order is that of pure relationship, the grid is a way of abrogating the claims of natural objects to have an order particular to themselves;…the grid declares the space of art to be at once autonomous and autotelic.

In the temporal dimension, the grid is an emblem of modernity by being just that: the form that is ubiquitous in the art of our century, while appearing nowhere, nowhere at all, in the art of the last one. In that great set of chain reactions by which modernism was born out of the efforts of the 19th century, one final shift resulted in breaking the chain. By “discovering” the grid, Cubism, De Stijl, Mondrian, Malevich…landed in a place that was out of reach of everything that went before. Which is to say, they landed in the present and everything else was declared the past.”4

The Work

As you enter the archway of the gallery you are met with the sight of fourteen vertical units, spaced evenly around the four walls. They stretch from the floor and bend onto the ceiling towards the centre of the gallery space. Their placement divides the space into articulating black and white bands. Each unit is made up of three parts: an almost square base, a longer rectangular middle section and a curved top section. All the sections fit snugly together to form each unit. The units are constructed of gessoed and sanded doorskin, surrounded by cast iron frame. The bases’ surfaces are painted in a bright colour, ranging from yellow-orange to deep orange or red; the image is abstract, with gestural marks of an upward and downward motion. The middle section, predominantly dark has a range in colour from deep blacks and smoky greys to white, resulting in a marblesque surface, The crowning section is collage made up from the texts of several critics and artists, which is then drawn back into and/or burnt.

The overall effect is that of walking into an enclosure. The walls of the gallery, normally invisible under the auspices of the ‘usual’ object of desire, become enhanced, ornamented by the architechtonics of the structure and repetition of the units, The walls become receptive ground, revealed as complacent allies of the darker bands, a kaleidescope of compliant history, Each column supports the tenuous cube: all is a facade, an empty shell, the viewer is alarmed, and despairs. The opulence and the strength is fake, foreboding an impending collapse and doom.

“I think of the need to believe that the world can be made new at each moment, of the need to cut that belief down to size when it threatens to suffocate us: of the blunted edge that results when the belief is cut out all together.“5

The integrated circuit seen close up is, topographical view of a futuristic or ultramodern city; grided, ordered, clean and functional, with no decay or wear, people or history, a perfect instantaneous resolve of the problems of space and time, The Modern goal, of a wilful rejection of the recollection of history6 is collapsed within the acceptance of electromagnetic culture’s size and speed, The control over, and the successful rejection of nature is not achieved in the hard surfaces and minimal structures of modern architecture, but in the silicone and lithographic techniques used in the construction of the microchip.

Footnotes
1. Aldo Rossi, “The Architecture of the city”, (the MIT Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, England.) 1982, p. 59.
2. Ren Koolhaas, “Delerious New York”, New York, Oxford University Press, 1978, p. 207.
3. Ibid, p. 230.
4. Rosalind Krauss, “Grids, You Say.” Grids, The Pace Gallery, 1978, p. 5,6.
5, Herbert Muschamp, “Ground Up”, Artforum, volume xxvii #5, January 1989, p, 15,
6, David Deiter, “Drawing from Memory” The Art of Memol)’/the Loss of Histol)’, Library of Congress Catalogue, The New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, p, 15, In this paper Deiter points out that modernism’s lack of history was a wilful rejection of, not just history, but the recollection of history

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