Whitehot Magazine

August 2011, Objet Dada @ Edel Assanti

Benedetto Pietromarchi, Untitled, 2011 (installation view)
Seven glass spheres with metal filaments, dimensions variable
Copyright and courtesy Edel Assanti, London

Objet Dada
Edel Assanti
276 Vauxhall Bridge Road

London, SW1V 1BB
23rd June through 20th August

Through a simple pairing of two words, the title of the current exhibition at Edel Assanti, Objet Dada, brings together pure tangible fact, ‘objet’ or ‘object’, with a theory of pure nonsense, ‘Dada’. At the same time the title draws attention to the art movement’s most well-known legacy, the Duchampian ready-made, born, as myth would have it, from Marcel Duchamp’s urinal, an everyday object that carried with it a gesture that questioned authorship and opened the realm of art to the conceptual. Though in essence a simple, arguably juvenile, statement against the art world establishment, the legacy of the ready-made and of Dada as a larger movement has become infinitely wide and complex, so much so that even to position oneself against Dada or the readymade would in itself be a ‘dada-esque’ move.

Edel Assanti’s current exhibition attempts to bring together the work of eight artists under the umbrella of Dada’s legacy of the ready-made. However, it is worth wondering if the show would have been better served simply with the title Objet. For what seems to draw together such an eclectic assortment of sculptures is their individual manipulation of materials, not so much their quick wit, sharp criticism or humour, elements so pervasive in Dada as a larger movement. The exhibition's greatest strength is not its relation to the legacy of Dada but to the way in which it showcases the state of contemporary sculpture in an expanded field.

Robert Lazzarini, Phone (White), 2011
Plastic, metal, rubber, paper, 10 x 47 x 17.5 cm
Copyright and courtesy Edel Assanti, London

In their physical quality and appearance, the work by the eight artists on display could not be more different, ranging from the thin chiffon used in the work of Jodie Carey to the hard steel present in the pieces by James Capper. However this variation produces a richness, and not a strain, and the works find themselves in an atmosphere where they acheive more from their individuality than from any attempt to draw them all together into a neat conclusion. Even works such as Livia Marin’s Broken Sculpture Series (2011) and Robert Lazzarini’s Phone (White) (2011), which at first sight both seem to be simple feats of trompe l’oeil, upon further inspection reveal very different approaches to questions of distortion through their manipulation of materials. In Marin’s pieces, the appearance of porcelain objects melting into the wall is achieved by a clever mix of porcelain, ceramic and resin, a distortion which uses materials to create an illusion, to trick the eye by making one substance masquerade as another. However in Lazzarini’s work, the misshapen phone is made from the exact materials – plastic, metal, rubber and paper – that comprise the original object as we know it. Here it is specifically the artist’s handling of materials, their own craftsmanship that creates the distortion, pulling and stretching the phone so that its looks more like an image you might expect to see reflected in a mirror in a funhouse than a device you would use in your daily life.

The highlights of the exhibition are Benedetto Pietromarchi’s large light bulbs that house intricate wire sculptures. Much like Lazzarini, Pietromarchi is true to materials, his light bulb will actually illuminate, however their large scale and the arrangement of the metal filaments inside transfer these pieces out of the ordinary. While the glass bulbs are prefabricated, the structures within the glass are made by the artist and shapes are derived from the safety ladders and fire escapes visible outside and attached to buildings and along railway lines. Pietromarchi further explains that the ladders represent pathways of the mind and individual passages of thought. Playful and mesmerising, the sculptures invite the viewer to linger, letting their own thoughts climb up and down the ladders.

Anne Blood

 Anne Blood is the Assistant Editor of The Burlington Magazine and the Contributing Art Editor for .Cent. She lives in London.

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