Perry Roberts/Craig Wood

Chisenhale Gallery

This was an old-style exhibition: two works, both straightforward, both site-specific. Perry Roberts’ monochromatic drawing occupied one entire wall of the gallery (approximately 70 by 15 feet). The rectangular shape of the wall was framed with a broad black band, and the enclosed white area was then divided into three equal parts by two more horizontal strips of the same width as the frame. Finally, these white bands were themselves divided into three by dropping two black strips from the ceiling to the floor. The overall effect was that the wall was overlaid by a schematic window frame.

At first glance the gridlike appearance of the white bands looks regular, but it isn’t quite. The positioning of the vertical strips is determined physically, according to the arrangement of the ceiling joists, and not mathematically by dividing the length in three. Consequently the right-hand stack of “openings” is slightly narrower than the other two. This has the effect, depending upon which end of the gallery the space is viewed from, of either accentuating the sense of perspectival recession or of perceptually countering it.

Roberts’ interest in surface is primarily an architectural one, a concern with façades that obscure and belie what lies behind them. In this case, the solidity and breadth of the black markings is as much a denial of access to the space as an attempt to delude the viewer. Any content his paintings have lies in their status as physical objects and in the particularities of their relationship to their surrounding architecture. They are themselves far from collections of ordinarily prepared stretchers, each one being a subtly engineered structure visible in and through the materials that cover it.

Craig Wood’s large-scale works customarily employ thin, water-filled, transparent polyethylene sacks laid on the floor. Their shapes are usually informed by the configurations of the surface upon which they are to be placed: thin rectangles echo the herringbone pattern on the underlying parquet. They effect a kind of superposed drawing or a marking out of their environment. The concern with surface here is less an architectural than an archaeological one, since the transparency of the plastic sheeting and the water allows one to see through, or back, to earlier structural and decorative information. The work exhibited here is the record of an accident, not a history of purposive action. A short while ago, a new concrete floor was installed in the gallery during a severe cold spell, and as the concrete dried cracks appeared between the areas covered by different pourings. Wood covered this whole space with one enormous sack, tailoring its shape to the slight deviations that the cracks inevitably make. As with Roberts’ drawing, the vagaries of circumstance take precedence over idealized geometrical form. Industrial archaeology meshed with art history, unearthing the precedents upon which the operative possibility of such installations rests.

Michael Archer