A Review of Suspension at Olivier Malingue, London
The concept of the exhibition Suspension is to present an overview of the last century of abstract hanging sculpture. A history, which began in 1918 with the first hanging sculpture Sculpture de voyage by Marcel Duchamp. The curator, Mathieu Poirier highlights the poignance of this survey exhibition, because abstract hanging sculptures have never been treated as a genre in itself in museums nor in books.
Alexander Calder and his mobiles - to borrow Duchamp’s term - with his unprecedented success, has perhaps outshone the contribution of other artists such as Rodchenko and his Spatial Constructions to this specific area of sculpture. Not forgetting Burno Monari and his Macchine Inutili (Useless Machines).
Mathieu Poirier, curator and initiator of this exhibition hopes to break down these barriers. Thus creating bridges amongst those artists who regardless of their generation or nationality were all driven to create works that redefined the status of a work of art. Neither did their work hang on a wall or sit atop a plinth, but instead it levitated in the exhibition space.
This exhibition takes an in-depth look at the evolution of abstract hanging sculpture as a specific genre from its early form to its contemporary continuation with artists such as Xarver Vailhan, Haegue Yang and Tomàs Saraceno. The entire exhibition, which is spread across spaces in both Paris and London, features a diverse array of 50 sculptures by 33 artists from over 15 nationalities.
As niche as the term abstract hanging sculpture might appear at first glance, the exhibition demonstrates that in reality this theme is acknowledged by most of the major modern and contemporary art movements. From Russian constructivism to Bauhaus and Neoclassicism as well as kineticism and minimalism or even postminimalism to today’s most contemporary sculptures. As an extension of the two exhibitions, a book has been produced, which broadens the scope of this survey as it includes more than 180 artists.
Unveiled during Frieze Week in October and open until mid December 2018, the London exhibition takes place at the Oliver Malingue Gallery in Mayfair. The intimate setting and the narrowness of the space invites the visitor to take an immersive approach to the work as they circumambulate the sculptures.
Shadows play a crucial role in the dematerialisation of the objects, as they transform the 3D sculptures into 2D abstract shapes. On this note, Mathieu Poirier recalls that: “Marcel Duchamp even suggested that 3D objects were only the shadows of objects found in the 4th dimension.” Which leaves us as spectator to a wide range of metaphysical speculations. At the heart of abstract hanging sculpture seems to lie an ambition to dematerialise the artwork while simultaneously materialising the movement.
Most sculptures are mobile as they respond to the invisible force of the air generated by the movements of people around them. However, some are almost immobile, such as Saiph (2018) by the Brazilian artist Artur Lescher. The elongated sculpture - which seems to be the result of the work of a glass-blower, so the ends seem thin and fragile - is part of his series of pendulums. The movement of these sculptures made out of brass is significantly more subtle, almost invisible as they capture invisible waves.
The Parisian exhibition coincides with an important event on the autumn art calendar; the Foire Internationale d'Art Contemporain (FIAC). Therefore, from the 16th to 28th October the show was installed at Palais de l’Iena. Here the decor contrasts that of the London location. Far from the enclosed white spaces we find in blue chip galleries, the impressive windows of the Palais de l’Iena let the sun plays with the sculptures. Built in 1937 by French architect Auguste Perret, the building is one of the most remarkable contributions of modern rationalism to European architecture.
Using the 1500m2 and 9m high ceilings, the curator had the opportunity to play with this space by displaying more ambitious pieces such as a Calder of 3.50m wingspan or a Francois Morellet of 1.30m diameter. All of the 38 socleless sculptures, which explore the duality of forces between gravity and elevation are suspended by a complex system steel cables. This incredible achievement is the result of a close collaboration with some of the best engineers in defiance of gravity.
Consequently, the two-part exhibition not only offers the possibility to discover or rediscover the poetry of movement through sculptures from May Ray to Bruno Munari as well as Sol LeWitt and Tomás Saraceno. By looking to the past and realigning it with the future, this exhibition resurrects past narratives to rewrite the history of suspended artworks as a subcategory of modern sculpture. As spectators, this makes us aware that history is always in flux and can never truly be contained by a specific timeline or location.
Written by Maude Cuérel, a Contributor to Arteviste