Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos – Lisson Gallery

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos construct site-specific sculpture and Maoist mythology at Lisson Gallery.

I was excited about the Richard Wentworth exhibition. I’ve always been moved by encounters with his work, his elevation of the ordinary to the extraordinary seems a valiant quest. I want to see the world as he does, alive to the importance of the outwardly unremarkable, the overlooked.

Wentworth’s reappraisal of everyday and industrial materials dares us to look at them with fresh eyes. And it’s not just an emotional experience, far from it. His interest in art as a tool for disrupting visual semantics is still interesting, still relevant.

Lisson Gallery explicitly references this linguistic approach to objects. Wentworth’s images are designed to be ‘read’ as texts, and he disrupts the grammar and usage attached to objects by deploying appropriation and recontextualisation. As I say, I was excited.

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos

Initially I was little underwhelmed by A Room Full of Lovers and the series of photographs that accompany it. The work, a steel chain which loops its way around the walls of the gallery, hanging from heavy duty hooks, was apparently inspired by Gaudi’s calculations for the structure of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

Apparently, the chains enclose the viewer and represent the highs and lows of human social and physical relations. I was not conscious of a sense of enclosure. The relationship to the Sagrada Famila was unclear; without a clue of the nature of the association I was entirely in the dark. I felt unable to square the material object with the narrative presented in the gallery’s text.

The accompanying photographs speak of materiality; chicken wire is framed by wooden portholes, beyond which we can see only black. Large nails fix the photographs to their mounts creating interplay between the real nails and the photographed materials; these everyday materials are ‘present’ in varying degrees.

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos

Wentworth’s visual vocabulary is lucid here; materiality is forefront, reference to that beyond the work itself is either oblique or absent. From a formal perspective, A Room Full of Lovers is articulate, the loops and twists beguiling, the relationship between chain and hook – the tension and interdependence, eloquent.

When viewed in this way, the title’s reference to lovers gains meaning and the work suddenly opens up. Ignore the Gaudi red herring and the quiet beauty of the work becomes apparent.

Also on show at the Bell Street gallery are works by American artist Mark Boulos.

No Fixed Address follows Communist insurgents in the steaming jungles of the Philippines. For eight-weeks Boulos documented the lives and political ideals of the New People’s Army.

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos

No Permanent Address commemorates the film’s subjects. It was made after receiving news from the Philippine Communist Party that most of the people featured in No Fixed Address had been killed by the military.

Boulos states that the work operates ‘between mythology and history’, it speaks of the self-mythologising of the subjects, who ‘reimagine who they are’, severing all connection to their previous lives and living as fugitives in the forest. This relationship between mythology and history is very much apparent to a Western audience for whom the NPA’s Marxist-Leninist and Maoist orthodoxy seems a rehabilitation of something ‘past’.

Richard Wentworth and Mark Boulos

While the earnest use of ‘comrade’ by the rebels put me in the mind of historical performance – emphasising the very immediate, personal struggles of this group situates them firmly in the present. The artist challenges the preconception that Communism is a thing of the past. But, beyond political specificities, these are films about agency and possibility. Of those things they speak with clarity and urgency.

Richard Wentworth, A Room Full of Lovers, 2013, Stainless steel welded chain, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.
Richard Wentworth, A Room Full of Lovers, 2013, Stainless steel welded chain, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.
Richard Wentworth, The Square Holes, 2013, C Print, Courtesy the artist and Lisson Gallery.
Mark Boulos, Comrade Suleiman, 2010, Photograph, © The artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London.
Mark Boulos, New People’s Army, 2010, Photograph, © The artist; Courtesy, Lisson Gallery, London.

-Laura Purseglove

Richard Wentworth,  30 January – 9 March 2013, Lisson Gallery, 29 Bell Street.

Mark Boulos, No Permanent Address, 30 January – 9 March 2013, 29 Bell Street.