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
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.
Starling’s works at Casey Kaplan, Art Basel 2014, Galleries, Booth N 10, June 19
– 22, 2014.
Metamorphology” is on view at Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, June 7–Nov.
“Simon Starling: Pictures
for an Exhibition” is on view at The Arts Club of Chicago, June 6–Sept. 26th,