Glasgow

Martin Boyce, Untitled, 2017, painted perforated steel, aluminum, painted steel, steel chain, blackened nickel-plated steel, blackened cast bronze, 78 5/8 × 118 3/8".

Martin Boyce, Untitled, 2017, painted perforated steel, aluminum, painted steel, steel chain, blackened nickel-plated steel, blackened cast bronze, 78 5/8 × 118 3/8".

Martin Boyce

The Modern Institute

Martin Boyce, Untitled, 2017, painted perforated steel, aluminum, painted steel, steel chain, blackened nickel-plated steel, blackened cast bronze, 78 5/8 × 118 3/8".

Staged to resemble a spacious domestic interior, Martin Boyce’s exhibition “Light Years” expressed a poised interplay between standardized industrial materials and the refinement of high art. Three works that the artist compares to large Color Field landscape paintings (all works Untitled, 2017) anchored the overall installation. To create these, Boyce first applied beige primer to perforated steel panels, then layered on pale washes in rose, aqua, or yellow—colors selected from the German RAL system—yielding streaked and muted pastel fields. The effect is similar to that of the subtle ink-wash paintings of China, particularly the Song-dynasty landscapes of Ma Yuan, noted for his idiosyncratic vision and asymmetrical compositions. Ma would typically position the most significant element of his design—a branch, or a flower on a vine—off to one side, leaving the greater part of the surface empty, thereby providing a poetic, meditative ambience. Inspired by these “one corner” compositions, each of Boyce’s paintings contains a form based on chain lanterns that extends in relief from one side. Constructed of industrial nickel-plated steel and blackened cast bronze, these elements recall Ma’s natural forms, while the swaths of atmospheric space in each work leave room for the imagination. In the gallery, the felicitous play of natural light streaming through the windows lent a softening effect to the washed surfaces, which were animated by the ever-changing shadows cast by the metal reliefs.

Six sculptures placed around the space—four standing, one perched on a table, and one leaning against a wall—evoked the familiar shapes of mass-produced household lamps. Belonging to Boyce’s “Dead Stars” series, 2013–, they had no utilitarian purpose and took great liberties with the conventional forms of the domestic objects on which they were based, transforming the value and meaning of the lamp to allow contemplation of its formal elegance as sculpture. Each possessed a dignified bearing. Most were cast in bronze, except for one, made of patinated and waxed brass and placed on a painted and stained steel table. The most animated work leaned against a wall; it was crooked and had a delicate pink fringe resembling a lampshade, which responded to the slightest passing movement or breeze from an open door.

Boyce’s objects each convey an individual emotional presence, and together they produced a complex web of affective relationships. The environment the artist created for “Light Years” denoted a landscape reflective of both exterior reality and subjective perception. Referencing historical composition and methods, he powerfully explored simplicity and concentration, evoking serenity and the lyrical moment.

Lauren Dyer Amazeen