Sunny season: Pace hosts Agnes Martin-influenced and Yto Barrada shows
Summer art season events and happenings are stacking up, from exhilarating outdoor installations to gargantuan projects stretching the entire breadth of cities around the globe. Now it’s the turn of Pace, gracing us with not one but two summer exhibitions – the Agnes Martin-influenced ’Signal Failure’ and Yto Barrada’s ’Faux Guide’ – on show at the gallery’s London outpost at Burlington Gardens, just a stone’s throw from the Royal Academy’s main courtyard.
Echoing the towering Agnes Martin retrospective recently unveiled at Tate Modern, the gallery has allocated the upper floor of its West End hub to the late abstract impressionist, gathering contemporary artists – such as Sara Barker, Philomene Pirecki, Cédric Eisenring, Mathis Gasser, Scott Lyall, Sergei Tcherepnin and Tobias Madison – to reinterpret her geometric universe of clean forms and lines.
’Signal Failure’ aims to address not just Martin’s life and work, but also – more importantly – the way in which she responded to her fast-evolving surroundings, permeated by mediated relationships and communication. Her response was simple yet unusual; she worked with ‘her back to the world’. Martin took her time and remained faithful to traditional, physical means of working, resisting the swift proliferation of digital imagemaking in the 1960s, sketching timeless pencil line images in primary colours and shapes.
Mathis Gasser and Cedric Eisenring’s Yellow Gate is the exhibition’s most striking piece, overshadowing the whole space with evenly-spread, repetitious yellow metal grids. The massive ’gate’ channels Martin’s desire to explore and exploit space, physically exporting her drawings into the material world. The work moreover toys with the viewer’s perception of space and time – altering our physical instincts and slowing us down.
On the ground floor is a new show of work by Yto Barrada, entitled ’Faux Guide’, an exploration of the psychology of collecting that sees the space dotted with peculiar creatures and artefacts, displayed as archaeological findings.
The Moroccan-born artist’s interest in the gap separating intangible truth and physical ambiguity made paleontology an ideal choice of subject. Aptly reflecting this, the intensely personal exhibition features collections of floating rocks, human-sized dinosaurs, crushed ping-pong balls and colourful rugs – the artist herself as the titular ’faux guide, like the casbah hustler bringing tourists into a city of his own invention.’ The exhibition design further adopts the structure of a geological time scale, demarcated by the Berber carpets’ coloured bands, that correspond to painted sections of the wall.
Placed within the fields of archaeology, museology and science, these artefacts evoke a strong quality of subjective knowledge. A guide which may not necessarily be faux, then, but rather personal nonetheless.