Marian Goodman Gallery New York presents an exhibition of new work by Richard Deacon, titled House & Garden.
House & Garden includes new photographs, ceramics and sculpture from the past year, exploring relationships between these materials and processes. The exhibition represents recent innovations in Deacon’s thinking about sculpture, considering the relationship of image to surface, object making to the pictorial, and sculpture to the plinth, all notions that have been present in his work and are at the nexus of his steadfast interest in a multiplicity of modes of production.
In the North Gallery, two new series of works are shown in a grid. Glazed ceramic table reliefs titled Flat are identified by number and each rest on individual tables. These are shown in conjunction with paired photographs, titled Home & Away, displayed on tilted sides of house-shaped structures, and each again identified by number. Representing a move from large scale sculpture to smaller scale works, Flat are directed towards the perception of a horizontal surface and allude to the table top itself as a site of interest, each undulating and brightly hued ceramic becoming a vessel itself for smaller, patterned polygonal shapes embedded inside it. The photographs shown on tables are “akin to small house models, with images on their roofs”, Deacon says. “House & Garden, as an exhibition title comes, in part at least, from this broad association, and more straightforwardly, from the fact that a proportion of the images are taken inside the house, or looking out of a window, or in the garden.”
House & Garden suggests Deacon’s relationship to landscape through sculpture and photography, which continues into the adjacent gallery where wall mounted photographs are shown with ceramic objects, and then into the South Gallery where they are shown in tandem with three larger sculptures in stainless steel and wood, Wave, Mire and Under the Weather.
Deacon’s ceramic practice has occupied him over the past twenty years, allowing for material exploration and an investigation into the interrelationships of color, surface, and form, with the rich glazing of the works providing improvisation and chance compositions in the outcome. Deacon says, “Whist most of the objects I make have a sense of being able to be taken apart, the work in ceramic by virtue of the final firing process, undergoes an irreversible change of state. …The interest in making ceramics has a beginning close to that of the sculptures I started in the early 1980s. A group of drawings produced in New York in 1978-79 was first followed by throwing clay on the wheel as a way of working on the inside and outside of an object at the same time and as a paradigm for a way of working that produced volume around a hollow.” Precursors to the group Flat include, most recently, rectilinear ceramic blocks with colored surfaces shown in 2016 at Skulpturenhalle, Neuss in Under the Weather, and presented directly on the floor, returning Deacon to the notion of the plinth as a point of interest.
As Dieter Schwartz writes in the catalogue for Under the Weather, “Deacon’s work has always incorporated a yearning for the pictorial. In spite of—or perhaps precisely because of–this being a quality so fundamentally alien to sculpture. It is a yearning that finds expression in Deacon’s choice of materials not conventionally incorporated into the traditional canon of sculptural vocabulary and which therefore introduced perceptibly innovative qualities. Deacon takes the treatment and finish of a surface just as seriously as the construction of the object itself. The pictorial aspect is also reflected in Deacon’s gradual and intermittent return to the principle of relief, which creates a space for the projection of three-dimensional objects. Deacon’s vision thus found its place in ceramics–a technique calling for a colored glaze that creates a protective finish for the form itself. Because Deacon is not a painter, the actual painting of the Flat does not follow conventional rules of composition. Instead, his fascination is focused on the material and, in this instance, on the way the colors change when fired, and the interaction of chosen colors that change unpredictably in a balancing act of control and chance.”
Just as his ceramic works provide a basis for experimentation within the realm of the sculptural, the photograph has also served a role in Deacon’s practice since the beginning. “What interested me when I was young was a way of recording what I could see”, says the artist, and indeed since the early seventies, “the relationship between photography and sculpture was continually under discussion”. In his early years as a student at St Martin’s, Deacon first used photography to document performances (I Don’t Want, 1969) then to support propositions about space and time, as well as documenting actions, performances, objects, or the interior of a space. Later, his photographic practice became tied to the exterior and the experience of landscape, either on extensive walks in the countryside, or as in this exhibition, looking out from the interior of a space. Whereas early groups of pictures, such as Atlas (1986-1990) paired images and drawings, with the photo as a site for an embedded drawing, later, as in This is Not A Story (1992) collections of pictures become a parallel activity to sculpture, allowing construction of sequences of meaning by association, leading to complex and allusive interconnecting patterns as signifiers. The photographs in House & Garden open up these possibilities and ways of thinking again, revealing things observed and experienced that inform Deacon’s perception, giving us insight into his sculptural process.
“Apart from a few prints, “Home & Away” is the first sustained group of digitally produced photographs that I have incorporated into my work. Analogue photography has a very strong connection to time and space – the negative and the printed photograph are objects into which time and space are embedded. Digital imagery is more slippery and the image lies on the surface. I loved taking photographs, particularly looking through the camera. By contrast, you look at digital cameras. It’s a different relationship. It’s taken me a while to understand that.”
Richard Deacon studied at the Somerset College of Art, Taunton, England; St. Martin’s College of Art, London; Royal College of Art, London; and the Chelsea School of Art, London. He was the recipient of the Turner Prize (1987) and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et Lettres (1996). Recent exhibitions include Richard Deacon: Foundation Studies at the Cabinet des dessins Jean Bonna, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris (up through March 2018); Richard Deacon: Weather at the Museum of Modern Art Machynlleth, Wales, United Kingdom; Richard Deacon: About Time at the Kunsthalle Vogelmann, Heilbronn, Germany (in association with the Ernst Franz Vogelmann Prize); Richard Deacon: Some Time at the Middelheim Museum, Antwerp, Belgium; Richard Deacon: Free Assembly at the City Gallery Prague, Czech Republic; and Richard Deacon: What you See is What you Get at The San Diego Museum of Art, California (all 2017). From 2015-2016 a major solo exhibition, Richard Deacon: On the Other Side, traveled from the Kunstmuseum Winterthur, Switzerland to the Heydar Aliyev Cultural Center, Baku, Azerbaijan, and to the Langen Foundation, Neuss, Germany, where he also had a one-man show at Skultpurenhalle, Neuss. The first comprehensive exhibition of Deacon’s drawings, Richard Deacon: Drawings 1968-2016, was shown at the Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany in 2016. In 2014 a major retrospective of the artist’s work was held at the Tate Britain in London, United Kingdom. Deacon participated in Documenta IX (1992), the Glasgow International (2006), the Venice Biennale (2007), and the Venice Architecture Biennial (2012).
A major project of Deacon’s will be the opening, in mid-May in Belgrade, of “From There To Here” a 200 m long pedestrian bridge linking the waterfront of the Sava River to the citadel of Kalemegdan fortress and incorporating a 19m high lift tower itself supporting a monumental sculpture. All the elements of this €2.7m project have been designed by the two artists, Richard Deacon and Mrdjan Bajic, who initiated the project in response to a suggestion to make a sculpture for the park in Kalemegdan. They have been working together on it since July 2006.all images © the gallery and the artist(s)