Since Wakefield’s art collection was established in 1923, it has had an aim of nurturing an understanding of contemporary art and its relation to modern life. The Hepworth Wakefield continues to develop the collection with this core aim, showing how art can help us understand and explore current lived experiences. This exhibition will showcase a number of important acquisitions made over the last two years, which will be displayed at the gallery for the very first time.
Phyllida Barlow’s monumental sculptural installation RIG: untitled; stagechairs, 2011 reaches 3.5m high and 4m wide. The work explores the idea of sculpture as stage and invites the viewer to explore the relationship between object and architectural space. ‘There’s something about walking around sculpture that has the possibility of being reflective, like walking through a landscape,’ Barlow has said. ‘The largeness of sculpture has that infinite possibility to make one engage beyond just the object itself and into other realms of experience.’
Alvaro Barrington considers himself primarily a painter, but employs a multimedia approach to image-making, using a vast range of materials from postcards to clothing. The large-scale painting (2m x 2m), incorporates carpet and wood on burlap paper, with a custom-made concrete frame. It is from a series of work comprising multi-layered square canvases made from textiles, in which he combines traditional craft techniques with references to modernism and street culture. In Em reclining sofa bed w/ Burberry pillow, 2021 Barrington reinterprets the traditional representation of the reclining female figure. The subject is painted a vivid blue and adorned with a single gold hoop earring. The sofa bed and Burberry pillow signify modern domestic interiors, the intimacy of their setting emphasised through Barrington’s use of warm colour, the yarn’s softness, and the subject’s relaxed pose.
Armorial Memento, 2019 is from a group of works by Cecily Brown,commissioned by Blenheim Palace. Brown’s work combines figuration with abstraction and draws on the history of painting as a lens through with to explore contemporary image-making. Her works are characterised by gestural and dynamic handling of paint in which the movement in her scenes is heightened. Brown commented on her Armorial paintings: ‘I wanted to infiltrate the Palace quite subtly, by quietly replacing existing paintings and weaving my works into the collection. I’ve chosen traditional subjects like the hunt, the kind of genre painting associated with old country houses, because I want visitors to do a double-take, to think for a second that my work belongs there, but then to see that it’s a slightly distorted vision of the world that’s depicted around them.’ This is the first work by Brown to enter Wakefield’s collection and provides a contemporary counterpoint to works in the collection by an older generation of painters including Frank Auerbach, David Bomberg and Peter Lanyon.
In 2020, the Contemporary Art Society awarded The Hepworth Wakefield its Great Works grant, which supports UK museums to acquire a major work by a British contemporary artist who has established an international reputation. Following her nomination for the Hepworth Prize for Sculpture in 2018, The Hepworth Wakefield sought to acquire a work by Mona Hatoum, one of Britain’s most celebrated artists. Hatoum’s work examines ideas of displacement and otherness through a language of sculpture that draws on the forms and symbolism of everyday objects. For The Hepworth Wakefield, Hatoum has created a new work Electrified (variable III), 2021 in an important series wherein domestic objects are suspended in a floor-to-ceiling column and charged with an electric current. The work monumentalises and makes threatening humble everyday objects to provoke a questioning of notions of home.
The Hepworth Wakefield curated Dana Schutz’s first solo exhibition in the UK in 2014, so is delighted to have been given the opportunity to add a bronze work by this renowned American artist to the collection. Atlas, 2019 is part of a series that marks the artist’s move into sculpture. The surfaces of Schutz’s recent paintings are thickly impastoed, almost sculptures created in paint. The figurative sculptures transform elements of the paintings into 3D objects that are first moulded in clay and then cast in bronze.
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