Lisson Gallery, 29 & 52 – 54 Bell Street, London, NW1
18/05/2007 - 23/06/2007
In his first solo show in London since 1987 the celebrated French artist Daniel Buren has created a collection of site-specific installations for the Lisson Gallery’s two spaces. This exhibition forms a departure from the signature coloured stripes of Buren’s touch that are found patterning walls in Museum lobbies or even the billowing sails of boats. Here bold arcs and squares of colour collide with those familiar bands to create a complex collage of shades and textures. The space dissecting quality of the stripe becomes just one occasional element in a play of two and three dimensional forms.
Each room of the Lisson space has been transformed with distinctive assemblages from ambitious combinations of sculpture and wall paintings to a series of preparatory sketches. Bright reflective squares of Plexiglas form a shimmering expanse together with sculptural reliefs jutting from the walls like vivid buttresses. At the entrance of the first space two zigzagging sculptures greet each other jack-in-a-box-like on opposing walls. Their forms create a dynamic dialogue in contrasting yellow, green and orange. While these undulating sculptures set a playfully optimistic tone the all-over wall pieces such as ‘Emerging Cubes’ lend a somewhat overbearing presence.
This myriad of cubes, zigzags and arcs seems sharply distinct from the early striped works which took on the jovial reminiscence of bunting, or at their most startling, the regimentation of prison uniform. A simple bank of stripes might conjure a vibration of movement or a pattern of reflection when we follow its path as well as a heightened awareness of the different surfaces and anomalies within a space. Here the different ambiences at play between the rooms at the Lisson seem to witness Buren conducting the contrasting elements of an unruly orchestra. The resulting impression is of aesthetic showmanship rather than the incisive response to space that one might expect.
While some of Buren’s most memorable commissions have been for major institutions such as Pompidou and the Guggenheim one can’t help but wonder if these works translate successfully to the scale of this commercial space. In Buren’s various public art commissions set outside the confines of the museum part of the pleasure was also found in the surprise discovery of a work. Viewing these pieces in a comparatively domestic setting is somewhat claustrophobic. I congregated on the street with other visitors to look at the installation through the Lisson’s impressive glass frontage. The work seemed to require a little distance or breathing space in order for its abundance of shapes and colours to register.
Buren’s composition seems most effective when it is visibly attuned to the space. In the larger of the Lisson galleries coloured Plexiglas has been applied in strips to the skylight roof in brightest shades of rose, turquoise and orange which allows a pool of striped coloured light to spill onto the floor below. This trick of light Buren calls ‘Dislocated Skylight’, a touch almost reminiscent of cathedral-like decoration. The concept resonates with a simplicity that is quietly contemplative yet no less authoritative; it is in fact, enough.
Sophie Calle’s installation ‘Prenez Soin de Vous’ curated by Daniel Buren for the French Pavillion at the Venice Biennale can be viewed until 21st November, 2007 together with Buren’s commission for the Giardini Biennale site.
Tamsin Clark is a freelance art writer and curator. She has held positions at the Serpentine Gallery and Victoria & Albert Museum and currently works as Exhibitions Co-ordinator for R O O M artspace in East London. Recent projects include ‘By Itself’ a series of one week, one artist, one work exhibitions and an artist book project with the painter Tom Benson. Tamsin lives and works in London.
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