James Hall

  • “Real World”

    There’s a strong sense of “back to the future” about “Real World,” a showcase for six contemporary sculptors, mostly in their thirties and all working in a wide variety of media. The exhibition “considers what sculpture might be at the beginning of the twenty-first century,” but its subtitle, “The Dissolving Space of Experience,” makes one wonder if anything much has changed. After all, the idea that modern sculpture is centrally concerned with dissolution or “dematerialization” has been around for decades.

    First of all, let’s set the record straight. The dematerialization of the art object never

  • Rachel Feinstein

    There’s something slyly diabolical about Rachel Feinstein’s imaginary universe. The American sculptor is fixated on the most hedonistic and decorative manifestations of eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century European court culture, whose visual codes she seems to enjoy re-creating in her own cultural backyard, but in an increasingly poisoned and desiccated way. Her sculpture used to be brightly colored; now it has become ghostly white and gray. To call this increasing austerity puritanical would make it sound too pious. Instead, hers is a sort of gleefully sabotaged rococo. This artist sets

  • Marion Coutts

    In her laconic sculpture and video installations, the British artist Marion Coutts mythologizes the mundane. With the insouciance and economy of a professional magician, she makes the one-dimensional multidimensional and transforms stale habit into compelling ritual.

    This is evident in her works of the last few years. Fresh Air, 1998–2000, consists of three Ping-Pong tables shaped and marked with the asymmetrical layout of three London parks; the rules of the game were completely changed, inside became outside, private became public, and the mind wandered away. In Eclipse, 1998, a small garden

  • Hamish Fulton

    Hamish Fulton has sometimes been regarded as the poor man’s Richard Long. Both artists attended St. Martin’s School of Art in the late ’60s, where they became friends. They simultaneously developed a new form of landscape art in which country walks and treks were documented using combinations of photographic image and printed text. But whereas Long made deft interventions in the landscape—most famously, making circles and lines of stones, which he subsequently recreated in the gallery—Fulton merely photographed what he saw and brought back no sculptural residue.

    The impressive retrospective

  • Juan Cruz

    Born in Spain in 1970, Juan Cruz has lived in the United Kingdom since he was eight, and his work so far has been a painstaking rumination on Spanish culture. Yet as a cultural ambassador he would have to be counted a distinct failure. In 1996, he sat for ten days at a small desk in the basement of the Instituto Cervantes in London (the Spanish Cultural Institute), reading aloud for three hours each day from Don Quixote, simultaneously translating the original text into English and thereby slowing the novel down to a donkey's pace. Subsequently, Cruz went to Spain to make a documentary, Sancti

  • Angela de la Cruz

    Since 1994, the London-based Spanish artist Angela de la Cruz has been making what she modestly calls “everyday paintings.” Her basic technique is simple. To begin with, she makes a blank, monochrome abstract painting in a conventional way, applying oil paint to stretched canvas. But having created an impeccable surface and shape, she then puts them through some grueling paces, distressing and manipulating the painting in a variety of ways. Seeing a group of de la Cruz’s paintings is like following a tragicomic abstract version of the Stations of the Cross. Let’s call it Stations of the Canvas.

  • William Tucker

    WILLIAM TUCKER'S CAREER has been sliced down the middle. Born in 1935, he made his name in the '60s as one of the younger generation of abstract sculptors associated with Anthony Caro at St. Martin's School of Art in London. In 1974, Tucker published The Language of Sculpture, a history of early modernist sculpture, which rather summed up this phase of his career. It led Albert Elsen to call him a “spokesman for an academic abstract art.” He emigrated to North America in 1976 and wound up on a farm in upstate New York Soon after, he abandoned constructed abstract sculpture, and started to model

  • Jane Prophet

    THE WAPPING PROJECT, managed by the Women's Playhouse Trust, is one of London's more ambitious attempts to turn a former industrial building into an arts center. It is located in a Victorian hydraulic-power station, which has been an occasional venue for concerts, performances, and installations since the early '90s—the best known being Anya Gallacio's Intensities and Surfaces, 1996, a thirty-four-ton block of ice that melted during the course of the show. What were formerly the boiler and filter rooms have been converted into exhibition and performance spaces, and a restaurant was created

  • Elisa Sighicelli

    The Turin-born, London-based photographer Elisa Sighicelli looks for signs of the numinous in empty and desultory spaces. For her recent series “Santiago” (all works 2000), she visited Santiago de Compostela, the most important pilgrimage site in Spain, but pointedly ignored the more famous and crowded landmarks. Instead, she photographed apartments that are usually rented out to students, but which were then uninhabited. Through a meticulous orchestration of light, she dramatized these dowdy, limbolike spaces.

    Sighicelli’s photographs are almost all square in format and mounted on light boxes.

  • “Domestic Bliss”

    The South London Gallery, founded in 1891, has become one of the liveliest venues in London since the appointment of David Thorp as director eight years ago. Despite operating on a shoestring budget—around half that of its worst funded counterpart in London, the Camden Arts Centre—Thorp consistently pulls stimulating exhibitions out of a hat. Many artists have been persuaded to show here by the gallery’s majestic navelike space.

    “Domestic Bliss” is a good example of Thorp’s intelligent opportunism. Four years ago the nearby Goldsmiths College set up an M.A. in Creative Curating (

  • Zaha Hadid

    The Baghdad-born, London-based architect Zaha Hadid is one of the most important contemporary exponents of sculptural architecture. This term—which became prevalent at the beginning of the twentieth century—is most often applied to asymmetrical, freestanding, and labyrinthine structures whose plan and layout cannot be reconstructed from a single frontal viewpoint. Rather, the viewer has to walk around and through the building to comprehend it. Sculptural architecture is thus the corollary to sculpture “in the round”: It is predicated o n movement and activity.

    The organizers of Hadid’s

  • Kasper König

    BIG THINGS ARE EXPECTED of Kasper König when he becomes director of Cologne's Museum Ludwig in November. A former Warhol Factory worker, founder of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design's influential publishing program, and most recently dean of the Frankfurt Städelschule and director of the institution's Portikus project space, the fifty-six-year-old König is incontestably a mover and shaker—and Cologne could use a little moving and shaking. Arguably Europe's most prominent contemporary art center in the '80s, Cologne's star dimmed during the '90s, a result of rising taxes and a slowed

  • Sarah Lucas

    Matisse may have wanted his art to be “something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue,” but many other modern artists have, on the contrary, sought an art that attains the condition of a bad one. There’s no chance of anyone ever sitting comfortably on the stool in Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel, 1913, on Beuys’s Fat Chair, 1963, or on Warhol’s Electric Chair, 1964. Salvador Dalí, who in the ’30s made a sofa based on Mae West’s lips and a stool whose back consists of a pair of predatory arms, decreed that a chair “can be used to sit on, but on condition that one sits on

  • London’s East End

    DILAPIDATED WAREHOUSES, abandoned industrial buildings, disused retail spaces—these would seem to be staples of the international postwar avant-garde milieu. In New York in the ’50s and ’60s such premises hosted Happenings, Warhol’s Factory, and the Castelli Warehouse. Usually, only minor renovations were carried out, and the primitive appearance of the structures jibed nicely with the rawness of the art that was made and displayed in them. On a more practical level, derelict industrial spaces also tend to be cheap, light, and spacious.

    In Britain, the intersection of this nostalgia for the

  • Matthew Tickle

    The English landscape is one of the most worked over in the world—barely a square inch of it has escaped the attention of landowners and developers. Arguably, England’s most important and ambitious contribution to the visual arts is “garden design,” whereby entire forests, hills, and lakes can be created and destroyed in the twinkling of an eye.

    Matthew Tickle seems to confront that state of affairs head-on in his new installation, ironically titled IDYLL, 1999. Tickle created a mock woodland in Matt’s Gallery, an installation space on the ground floor of a former industrial building in London’s

  • The Greenhouse Effect

    As museums in the age of the readymade increasingly resemble cabinets of curiosities (or sometimes of banalities), the separation of fine art from every other kind of object seems less and less tenable. “The Greenhouse Effect,” an ambitious two-venue exhibition mounted by the Serpentine's Lisa Corrin and independent curator Ralph Rugoff, aims to turn the distinction on its head. At the Natural History Museum, Henrik Håkanson plans to monitor the wildlife garden with surveillance cameras. Meanwhile, a field trip to the Serpentine will unearth tiny Play-Doh-and-hair replicas of spiders (Tom

  • Ana Maria Pacheco

    Every now and then, great institutions wake up in a cold sweat and—a bit like Kafka’s Gregor Samsa—discover they have metamorphosed into something resembling a dinosaur. The National Gallery awakens intermittently and tries various means of remedying the situation: appointing a trustee who is an artist (albeit a well-established one), for example, or inviting artists to select shows drawn from the permanent collection. Since 1990, another approach has been to offer artists a studio in the gallery for a two-year period, with the idea that they might make work inspired in some way by the collection

  • Trafalgar Square

    VISITORS TO LONDON are accustomed to the stately sculptures that occupy Trafalgar Square: figures of kings, military heroes, imperial lions. But a statue of a scantily clad Christ that resembles a cross between a Holocaust survivor and The Jungle Book’s Mowgli? This summer, Mark Wallinger’s haunting figure took its place among the staid, stony personages congregating at the touristic heart of London. Come January, though, it will disappear again. Whereas the other statues in the square are permanent, after only six months Wallinger’s work will be replaced by another new commission, which in turn

  • “Neurotic Realism: Part I”

    Charles Saatchi’s latest attempt to shape art-world taste got off to a brilliant start. Late last year, a blaze of publicity greeted the publication of his book The New Neurotic Realism, which featured an essay-cum-manifesto by Dick Price, art critic for the style magazine i-D, along with illustrations of work by some thirty-four British sculptors, photographers, and painters, most of them little known. NNR purports to be the next big thing after YBA and is now being showcased in a series of exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery—though it’s been abbreviated (perhaps somewhat neurotically) to “

  • Keith Tyson

    The mythology of Western art is full of stories about the “secrets” of the old masters—the special recipes, techniques, tools, and machines that incredulous viewers assume must account for the production of the great masterpieces. Today the cultivation of weird recipes seems to have become an end in itself—which may explain the proliferation of unconventional media and methods. No wonder the viewer of contemporary art so often feels like an initiate who is being let in on a secret.

    Keith Tyson (b. 1969) both celebrates and parodies this state of affairs. He says his prolific output of mixed-media