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After You Left: Alex Hartley at Victoria Miro

SEEN is delighted to have had a glimpse of a unique exhibition of the work of British artist Alex Hartley, taking place from 19th November to 16th December 2016 at Victoria Miro’s Gallery I and garden. The exhibition, titled 'After You Left', includes a spectacular major architectural intervention in the Gallery’s waterside garden which has been on display in the Wharf Road gallery garden for several weeks now.

SEEN is delighted to have had a glimpse of a unique exhibition of the work of British artist Alex Hartley, taking place from 19th November to 16th December 2016 at Victoria Miro’s Gallery I and garden. The exhibition, titled ‘After You Left’, includes a spectacular major architectural intervention in the Gallery’s waterside garden which has been on display in the Wharf Road gallery garden for several weeks now.

Hartley’s new works blends the artist’s thoughts of modernism with his Romantic ideas of the ruin and the picturesque. ‘After You Left’’s most striking work is the major architectural intervention called A Gentle Collapsing II, which has transformed the Gallery’s garden into a scene of poetic dereliction and decay, apparently abandoned to the elements.

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Alex Hartley A Gentle Collapsing II, 2016 Timber, render, bricks, steel, paint. 1800 x 900 x 430 cm, 708 5/8 x 354 3/8 x 169 ¼ in

Built on the canal bank and into the water itself, the work encapsulates classic modernist tropes – the clean lines and horizontality of Bauhaus architecture (as exported to the US by Mies van der Rohe in the 1930s). Yet the structure and what it appears to portray – a home vacated without explanation, open to the elements, its white rendered walls peppered with black mould rising from the waterline – stands in stark contrast to images of domestic architecture and attendant aspirational lifestyles from the period. This work offers poignant reflection on themes of entropy and decay. It is, in some ways, emblematic of a wider collapsing – of ideals or even spirit. Running contrary to such thoughts, however, is the undeniable aesthetic pleasure we find in ruins – their compelling, transportative quality. In this sense, A Gentle Collapsing II becomes a kind of time machine that frees the mind to wander, gently collapsing or dislocating a sense of linear time as it does so. SEEN can attest to the piece as an example of sublimely unstable space. We found ourselves constantly checking where our feet were, for fear of falling into the ruin and disappearing.

Hartley’s work always encourages us to consider how we experience and think about our constructed surroundings – through surface and line, scale and materials, locations and contexts. A Gentle Collapsing II breaks down rigid categories of production, referring as much to painting as to architecture, landscape design, sculpture or even theatre. Similarly, in a new series of wall-based works in which photographic, painterly and sculptural elements are brought together, the idea of the boundary – between interior and exterior, private and public space, manmade and natural environments, two and three dimensions, object and image – is subject to constant re-evaluation.

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Classic examples of modernist domestic architecture, photographed by Hartley in Los Angeles, form the basis of a series of monochrome wall-based works in which the photographic image and hand-painted elements are separated by a layer of semi-transparent perspex. Caught up in these works are ideas of privacy and voyeurism, and the contradiction of modernist aspiration as epitomised by the glass-walled pavilion, giving rise to the desire for boundaries of other kinds.

Comprising sculptural and photographic elements in which the supports of plinth and frame are merged, further large-scale works present fragmentary architectural details in front of dense jungle scenery. As with A Gentle Collapsing II, these works allude to the manmade world versus the natural environment. Narratives of entropy and decay are ever-present. Yet, for Hartley, this is a surprisingly fertile territory, one that allows the imagination to roam freely, to envision what might have been and what might be to come.

Alex  Hartley | After  You Left
22 November – 16 December 2016

www.victoria-miro.com

Victoria Miro
16 Wharf Road
London
N1 7RW

Credits

Photography courtesy of the Artist and Victoria Miro, London ©Alex Hartley

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