The collision of art, architecture, longing and loss is never more pertinent than in the new exhibition of work by Cyprien Gaillard at the Sprueth Magers gallery in London. The French-born, Berlin-based Gaillard has made a name for himself chronicling what he calls the 'beauty of failure', finding objects that have a lingering folk memory of a particular time or place, re-imagining the casually discarded detritus of modern life.
Gaillard's work is shown alongside a selection of Morris Louis' Color Field paintings, chromatically rich images from the early days of American abstraction that seem to tally with his own collages, abstractions and repurposings. Gaillard has also used the late American artist's life as a jumping off point for his work, creating rubbings of manhole covers from Louis' home city of Baltimore, then blending the results with covers from Washington, creating a strange, ad-hoc fusion of different times and spaces.
'Fence (after Owen Luder)' is the exhibition's centrepiece, a fragment of a once mighty concrete icon placed reverentially on a column in the gallery, crushed and abstracted by the demolition of the structure that surrounded it, the Trinity Square car park in Gateshead. For Gaillard, Luder is emblematic of the travails of post war modern architecture. The British architect's practice was unashamedly modern, yet the forms and buildings that resulted from his concrete aesthetic were frequently pilloried for being antagonistic and pugilistic, a visual affront to the existing streetscape. Where Luder and his supporters (who, it must be said, were mostly architects as well) saw idiosyncratic delight in the playful arrangement of forms, beautiful shuttering, elegant proportions and dramatic changes in scale, detractors saw rain soaked, lumpen brutalism.
Trinity Square was demolished in 2010, while one of Luder's earlier masterpieces, the fantastically complex Tricorn Centre in Portsmouth, gave way to the bulldozers in 2004. It's safe to say that Luder's lost oeuvre is still unmissed by the general population, implying that brutalism is a genre doomed to eventual obscurity. Gaillard's work embraces these contradictions between utopian modernism and failed reality, the romance of absence and the beauty they leave behind in memory.