Peter Freeman, Inc. presents an exhibition of sculpture by Richard Wentworth, a major presence in British art for over forty years, a leading figure in the New British Sculpture movement since the late 1970s, and an influential teacher to subsequent generations including the Young British Artists.
This is Wentworth’s fourth solo exhibition with the gallery, and the first in New York to feature new sculpture since 2010.
Discussion of Wentworth’s work often hovers between questions of language and etymology and the hardware and hardwiring of the world. The artist—drawn to elisions of both language and culture—frequently speaks using the import and export of metaphors, making historical leaps and bounds. Whether talking about the history of cable or the mass-produced book or the reflective powers of glass and mirror, all materials employed here, Wentworth is always criss-crossing ways of reading and the territories in which these things might habitually occur. “A brick can be used as a unit of culture, a doorstop or a murder weapon.”
In new works, riffs on lintels, elemental to architecture, Wentworth employs “dumb materials,” he says—or the amateur armaments of “ownership,” which have strange connections beyond their modesty. Shards of glass from discarded bottles—bottles whose cultural associations themselves carried weight (St. Emilion vs. Budweiser)—have a decorative energy, not least because of their color and our ability to be fascinated by danger and spot threatening shapes.
Wentworth never uses a material without consideration of its anthropological roots—and a sense of the moments of clarity that can emerge from the overlaps among seemingly unrelated things that surround us. For instance, he draws multiple meaningful connections between Gaudi architecture—a real statement of Modernismo for the Catalans—and the folkloric energy of Simon Rodia’s Los Angeles Watts Towers. In the anonymous masonry work of both, the artist reads “attempts to assemble bits into a whole. To take bits of surface to make a bigger surface, to create continuums. Where the need to prepare ground, to give order, to make serviceable is sometimes dumbly utilitarian, sometimes decorative.”
Richard Wentworth was born in 1947 and lives and works in London. He attended the Royal College of Art in London from 1966-70, taught at Goldsmith’s College, and at the University of London from 1971-87. In 2002 he became Master of Drawing at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford University, and in 2009 was appointed Professor and Head of the Royal College of Art’s Sculpture Department. Past exhibitions include solo shows at institutions including the Hayward Gallery (2015), the Whitechapel Gallery (2010), and the Serpentine Gallery (1993), and participation in the Havana Biennial (2015), the Manchester International Fesitival (2013), The Venice Biennale, (2009, 2003) and the Istanbul biennial (1995). His work is in the permanent collections of many international museums such as Tate Modern (London), Wadsworth Athenaeum (Connecticut), Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo (Mexico), and Israel Museum (Jerusalem). In 2011, Wentworth was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE).