It’s easy to imagine that when Simon Starling looks at an object, he doesn’t simply see what’s before him, but rather the many human interactions it took to get there. An apple isn’t just a piece of fruit, it is the sum of the land where it was grown, the chemicals used to grow it, the workers who picked and sorted it, the company that shipped it, and all of the social, economic, and political conditions that shaped its production.
“Metamorphology” at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, which runs through early November, examines Starling’s continued explorations of the ontology and epistemology of objects and the intrigue that hides behind the seemingly innocuous; his recycling of materials and narratives; and his mining of the history of Modernism. The exhibition is the Turner Prize-winner’s first major American solo survey, and it includes some of his most important work, like Autoxylopyrocycloboros, in which a reclaimed boat was brought to the surface of a loch and steadily picked apart until it sunk again; the “Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima)” series exploring the work of sculptor Henry Moore and Japanese culture; and Bird in Space, his answer to Constantin Brancusi’s iconic sculpture of the same name. For Starling’s version, the Copenhagen-based British artist shipped a two-ton slab of steel from Brancusi’s native Romania to the U.S. as an echo of the journey Brancusi’s sculpture made to a 1926 New York City exhibition, when it was taxed by U.S. custom agents who refused to see it as art.
Alongside the MCA exhibition, The Arts Club of Chicago will host “Pictures for an Exhibition,” a show of newly commissioned work by Starling that delves once more into Brancusi’s work. Beginning with a series of photographs of the 1927 Marcel Duchamp-organized exhibition “Sculpture and Drawings by Constantin Brancusi” at the Arts Club, Starling tracked down each of the 18 sculptures in the images through nearly 100 years of history, encountering the major events and undercurrents of the 20th century throughout each object’s provenance. By placing his work in the same venue as the original exhibition, Starling continues his exploration of the “half-remembered images” that haunt physical spaces. “A space is never fresh, it’s never completely a blank canvas,” he has said of the motivation behind such site-specific works.
Later this month, works from the “Pictures for an Exhibition” series will be exhibited by New York Gallery Casey Kaplan at Art Basel—alongside work by Diego Perrone, Jeff Burton, Liam Gillick and others—a very fitting destination for an artist who has so thoroughly examined the history of art exhibitions.
See Starling’s works at Casey Kaplan, Art Basel 2014, Galleries, Booth N 10, June 19 – 22, 2014.
“Simon Starling: Metamorphology” is on view at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, June 7–Nov. 2nd, 2014.
“Simon Starling: Pictures for an Exhibition” is on view at The Arts Club of Chicago, June 6–Sept. 26th, 2014.