Using Construction Materials, Sculptor Richard Galpin Explores Urban Development

  • Installation view “Slow Boom,” at Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. © John Muggenborg / www.johnmuggenborg.com.

At first glance, Richard Galpin’s sculptures look cheerful and vaguely familiar, bringing to mind a box of Pick-Up Sticks emptied across the floor, or the long tradition of formalist geometric abstraction. These candy-colored constellations of metal rods have real-world references, though, and they aren’t particularly lighthearted. In “Slow Boom,” Galpin’s first exhibition at Cristin Tierney Gallery in New York, the artist tackles the daunting subject of urban growth and development through several large-scale, wall-mounted sculptures—some that span an entire side of the room—and a selection of works on paper.

Galpin creates his sculptures from “crawlers,” as he calls them, or salvaged steel rods that he hand paints and welds together in varying configurations. The arrangements of crisscrossed bars—some more architectural, others that look as if they’re tumbling to the ground—bring to mind a city under construction. Resembling an urban balancing act of scaffolding and cranes, works like Jib Up (2015) have a vertical, upward-moving feel, while others, like Up Easy (2015), seem to spread laterally. Travel Both Tracks (2015), meanwhile, has a teetering, top-heavy look that evokes the nerve-wracking feeling of walking past a towering construction site, with I-beams suspended high overhead. 

  • Installation view “Slow Boom,” at Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York. © John Muggenborg / www.johnmuggenborg.com.

The viewer gets the sense that Galpin’s configurations are in flux—expanding and contracting with life around them. As the exhibition’s title declares, this work is about the the cycle of urban development and construction—the “slow boom,” so to speak, of a building going up and, likewise, being demolished. It’s a timely theme in London, where the artist lives and works, and in New York, a city in the throes of constant transformation. But these works are, in the end, entirely abstract, and Galpin’s compositions and colors are what seduce the eye.


Bridget Gleeson


Slow Boom” is on view at Cristin Tierney Gallery, New York, Oct. 29th–Dec. 12th, 2015.

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