Beware the (dangerous) Orange at Pace

New York artist Joel Shapiro’s sculptures suspended in mid-air at Pace London appear to defy gravity creating an unsettling effect which, as it turns out, is not entirely unmerited. Geometric in strong but subtle colours, they form striking and exhilarating combinations in the gallery.

A visitor contemplates Joel Shapiro’s OK Green at Pace London

Each time you look at one, it will tend to provide the foreground or background for another. But they are nonetheless separate. There is nothing human about these objects; their corners are sharp; their lines are hard. Their names provide little enlightenment about their meaning. Really Blue (after all), shown below I suspected was a reference to the process. Perhaps earlier it had been slightly blue.  I liked it really blue. Yellow May seemed more bile green but I don’t think this had political allusions.They were in place before the election!

OK Green was a pleasant but indeterminate colour, but wasn’t it pale blue?  No, perhaps not, and again such a debate must have resulted in the name it was given.

Joel Shapiro: Really Blue (after all) and Orange

One of the pieces had a rather plain name – Orange. There was no debate about it. And Orange it certainly was. But perhaps that should change. By and large the wires that suspended the hanging pieces were unobtrusive yet visible. The eye took note that they were there and ignored them. Orange was different it was low hanging and, as it is positioned in a bizarre and intriguing angle, naturally, you are tempted to walk round it.

Joel Shapiro: Orange and OK Green

I did so and suddenly tripped but recovered; there was a wire about knee-height tethering it to the floor;  the wires that are plain to see in the air,  fail to show up against the parquet.  About ten minutes later my companion also attempted to walk round Orange, tripped and fell headlong on the floor. Orange wobbled alarmingly as though laughing. Perhaps there was a human element to them after all. It needed, we decided a less plain name, Dangerous Orange? or Trickster Orange. On the way out we noticed a small sign cautioning trip hazard. Tripster Orange would be perfect.

Joel Shapiro will be at Pace London, 6 Burlington Gardens, London W1S,  until 17 June


Tamara Henderson’s crowd at Rodeo

Tamara Henderson: Seasons End: Painting Healer

When I first entered Rodeo’s second floor gallery to see works by Canadian artist Tamara Henderson,  my first impression was that too much had been crammed into too small a room. In most art galleries these days, paintings or sculptures have plenty of room to breathe. Indeed, often they can seem quite lonely surrounded by white wall. Not here. Every bit of wall and window is covered and the room is stuffed with 30 different creations.

Apart from the wall coverings, most of them are roughly human size and roughly human shaped. The bodies are a sort of kaftan, rectangular, made out of elaborately decorated and appliqued fabric. There is in each case a discernible head, albeit one made of something like feathers or metal coils. They all have block-like feet. A tremendous amount of work has gone into making them.  Some of  them are almost transparent; that, plus the sheer numbers, made photographing them difficult.

This first reaction that they needed a room at least twice the size, quickly gave way to pleasure as I realised that each of these creatures had a personality and, wandering through them, was like wandering through a crowd. The attendant at the gallery described them as costumes but they weren’t costumes – I decided; they were people. It turned out they had names.: some of the names illuminated. My mother in Ashes sadly seemed clear enough. The figure contained a representation of an urn.

Tamara Henderson: My Mother in Ashes

in other cases, the names made you wonder about their history. Who was Brenda? What was the story behind Wait in Blue Pearls? I really wanted to know more.  I visited an earlier exhibition of Henderson’s work at Rodeo a couple of years back and enjoyed it but this time the work seemed far more complex and exciting. The crowding is part of what makes it.


Season’s End: Painting Healer is showing at Rodeo, 125 Charing Cross Road
London WC2H 0EW,  till 29 July