The centrepiece of Marc Quinn’s new show at the White Cube, Bermondsey edition, is Frozen Wave (The Conservation of Mass), a kind of withered, weathered take on Anish Kapoor’s crowd-pleasing Cloud Gate, the giant, mirrored bean that sits in Chicago’s Millennium Park (Quinn makes clear though that no direct reference is intended. The pieces are of similar material but not intent). Almost 25 feet long and nine feet taIl, Frozen Wave dominates its allotted space. Most visitors on preview night were, inevitably, drawn to its smooth, polished steel side and perhaps even repelled by the creases and wrinkles that face the other way.
The Conservation of Mass is the biggest, and most abstract, of a series of stainless steel Frozen Wave sculptures that are based on conch shells, eroded by seas and oceans until nothing is left but a thin, fragile mineral arc, a little wave. For Quinn they are a kind of accidental self-portrait, relentless and impervious natural forces leaving an odd echo.
The show in its entirety is called 'The Toxic Sublime'. And the theme, as the title suggests, is nature derailed and despoiled. Thirteen Toxic Sublimes appear here, crumpled aluminium sheets with dirty sunsets, mostly unrecognisable as such, bonded on their surfaces. They all start with the same garish sunset, a photograph on canvas. This photograph is sanded and gaffer-taped and then taken out into the streets to be branded by Thames Water manhole covers. These are then applied to the aluminium sheets, which Quinn batters and bends and twists into a sort of seascape.
They look like debris of course, but of what? In some, the ruined sunset comes off as nuclear. There are odd scrawlings which might make these artefacts. They are all toxic Turners, questioning whether we have the right to call anything sublime anymore, given our dumping and disrespect.
For a unique and exclusive take on 'The Toxic Sublime', check out the September issue of Wallpaper*, on sale come 13 August. Quinn has collaborated with us on a truly remarkable – properly sublime, perhaps – fashion shoot, featuring some of the works in the show and his new muse Jenny Bastet.