Michael Craig-Martin

Whitechapel Gallery

In Michael Craig-Martin’s work, although everything is laid out upon the surface, there is more here than meets the eye. In this, his first retrospective, which includes constructions, neon works, wall drawings, relief sculptures, and paintings, he succeeds in making the invisible visible. An Oak Tree, 1973, guarding the entry, is the only piece that clearly goes beyond appearance. It consists of a glass of water perched on a glass shelf some nine feet up a wall, together with a short text in which the artist says that he has turned the glass of water into an oak tree. The difference between the invisible oak and our seeing, say, a flat Craig-Martin steel drawing as an actual globe is that, in seeing the globe, we can see that the drawing has been physically altered to accord with our seeing. With the oak, we see that the glass of water is still a glass of water. For this reason, to see

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