White Cube Hong Kong presents ‘Remembering Tomorrow: Artworks and Archives’, an exhibition organised to mark the 25th anniversary of the gallery.
The first group show to be held in the Hong Kong space, it includes 36 artworks contextualised by a selection of previously unseen material from the gallery’s extensive archives. Featuring painting, sculpture, photography and drawing, the exhibition draws attention to the broad scope of White Cube’s exhibition history, which has taken place in six locations across three continents.
This landmark exhibition, configured as intimate viewing spaces arranged around a central ‘memory capsule’, explores the theme of memory in relation to time, myth, material culture, social history and the sublime. On the ground floor the idea of memory is considered as a contemplative state, through works that focus on the poetics of gesture and the evocative associations of materials. Gabriel Orozco’s delicate watercolours on gold card, reference the historical tradition of Japanese brushwork, while Virginia Overton transforms found materials, in this instance a scratched gold mirror rear lit to create a luminous painterly surface suggesting memory is inscribed through use. Rachel Kneebone’s porcelain sculpture employs a contained explosion of limbs, plants and spheres covered with a bone white glaze, to explore psychologically charged states, white Josiah McElheny’s trio of hand-blown glass objects adapt shapes borrowed from the futuristic forms of Giacomo Balla and the curvaceous silhouettes of iconic Dior dresses, transposing culturally dominant forms onto the insistently poetic and tactile material of glass.
In the adjoining ground floor gallery, memory is explored in relation to notions of time and myth. Antony Gormley’s sculptures record emotion via specific physical poses, each holding a moment of lived time, as with BUTT (2010) which is suggestive of tension or emotional strain. Both Fred Tomaselli and Darren Almond register specific moments of time through painting. Tomaselli’s interventions onto the front page of The New York Times highlight the reality, tragedy and absurdity of global politics through the addition of abstract, sardonic and cosmic imagery, while Almond’s paintings are a record of his memories of starry night skies viewed from South America’s Atacama Desert. In the same space, Anselm Kiefer’s sculpture Daphné (2014) elegiacally explores the enduring Greek myth of Daphne, with a signature glass vitrine housing a ghostly white dress, while Raqib Shaw’s mythological creatures are inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s, The Garden of Earthly Delights.
In the first floor gallery, the works articulate the idea of memory as a means for social enquiry, political and cultural history and autobiography – or the intersection of all three. Miroslaw Balka consistently references personal experience, historical memory and materiality in his work, transforming humble objects into potent and charged cyphers. 2 x 40 x 33 x 20 (2000) consists of a pair of neutrally-coloured felt masks with cut out, downward-cast eyes: muted witnesses whose material warmth and specific height relates directly to the artist’s own body. Etel Adnan’s small scale, vibrant paintings appear like crystallisations of particularly vivid memories, abstracted and condensed images recalling the landscape of her childhood in Beirut, or the years spent living on the West Coast of America. Similarly, Mona Hatoum explores memory through familiar places and objects. Bukhara (red to pink) (2009), is part of an ongoing series of sculptures that use antique, hand-woven carpets similar to the kind she lived with as a child, to create low-relief maps of the world
Both Damián Ortega and Jac Leirner use everyday industrial products, which are reconfigured into works that suggest memory, action and time through their collective form. Leirner’s sculpture Blossom (2017), comprised of a series of spirit levels, become objects of abstract beauty when installed together across the corner of a gallery, while Ortega’s casts of the moulded interior packaging used for consumer products, set out in a line on the floor, appear like an extrapolated and frozen timeline in material form. Works by Georg Baselitz and Tracey Emin highlight more personal memories and themes. Baselitz’s dark, almost monochromatic painting Es geht weiter abwärts (2017) presents the artist’s legs and torso upside down, emphasising gravitational pull and suggesting a sense of falling or collapsing through the deterioration of physical mass.
The two ‘memory capsules’ situated at the centre of each floor of the exhibition provide a historical framework for contextualising these artworks. In these spaces a curated selection of archive material, including objects, images, films, texts and printed ephemera, serve to highlight key moments in the gallery’s past. Maquettes for Kiefer’s towers installed at the Royal Academy of Arts, London in 2014; Shaw’s lavishly encrusted lobster claws for a monumental sculpture; or delicately embroidered appliqués by Tracey Emin, for example, are presented alongside hand-written notes by artists, press cuttings, invitation cards, publications and photographs of past exhibitions. Amassed together they provide a unique and fascinating insight into the artistic process and methods of exhibition-making, as well as White Cube’s extensive gallery programme of the past 25 years: from its beginnings in 1993, to its current international status with two locations in London and one in Hong Kong.