Critics’ Picks

View of “The Invisible Show,” 2012.

View of “The Invisible Show,” 2012.

London

Brian Griffiths

Vilma Gold
6 Minerva Street
January 12–February 19, 2012

Brian Griffiths’s brand of quasi-Victorian Arte Povera reanimates the detritus of fantastical culture to carnivalesque effect. He is known for large-scale sculptures and motley object-constellations, which have contained puppet-size porcelain clowns, baby grand pianos perched on dark oak china hutches, and a moon-faced panda head carved into stone. Griffiths’s imagination is baroque––prey to the adventure and exoticism of a certain era of the British Empire (from the invention of science fiction through to the cold war)––and nostalgic for the now-obsolete mechanics of transformation, titillation, and the new.

Yet Griffiths’s current solo show is something of a departure from his recent explorations of antiquated entertainment value. It engages the problem of cultural wastage––the sorry remnants of consumptive pleasure-seekers––in shockingly topical light. Five massive cubes in slightly variable dimensions (two Small-, one Medium-, and two Large Invisibles, each 2012) compel the viewer to trace a labyrinthine circuit through the room. Draped in layers of ungessoed canvas in varying shades of beige, the unspectacular forms obscure a space where a sculpture might stand.

As a kind of verso to the circus tent, “The Invisible Show” remains perfectly coy––the adolescent who has eaten mushrooms and, hiding behind long hair, presumes her presence imperceptible. With nothing much to see, one could accept the premise––the volume, the undulating surface––as antidote to a general exhaustion with imagery, or perhaps find a treatise on contemporary painting’s problematics. In any case, on the back of Griffiths’s previous work, this starkly reduced theatricality approaches the conceptual to rival Minimalism’s iconoclasm, providing a strange relief in aesthetic quietude.