Emerging onto the London art scene in the early 1960s, King remains to this day a pioneering figure in the field of sculpture. His carefully composed abstractions bear an affinity to painting, both through the visual interplay of vibrant hues and a resolute frontality. King creates forms with the aim that his sculptures be perceived in their totality from any single vantage point. The array of materials he employs, such as concrete, steel, fiberglass, polyurethane foam, and wood, each prescribe their own means of construction, presenting King with various challenges surrounding movement, strength, and stability. In this regard, the artist moves beyond purely optical concerns and into the tactile. His interests in architecture inform his approach to scale and spatial relationships where he explores volumes both within and between surfaces.
At the heart of the current exhibition are two large-scale sculptures comprised of geometric planes that intersect each other at tilted angles: Swirl, 2018, and Blue Glow, 2016. Color plays an integral role in delineating surfaces—at times foregrounding flatness through their uniformity, at other times revealing depth and shadows along modulated edges. Circular cutouts offer illusions of lightness that are counterbalanced by solid elements. When viewed in context, such surface openings furthermore draw the sculpture’s background into the work as the artist activates the surrounding architecture via painted walls.
While King’s sizable works are usually presented outdoors and in large public spaces, his smaller maquettes supply a more intimate viewing experience. At pedestal height the maquettes remind the audience of their object-like status. Their enlarged counterparts, whether displayed on walls or directly on the floor, begin to eschew categorizations of sculpture in a formal sense, pushing the medium’s boundaries in different directions.
Born in 1934 in Tunisia, Phillip King CBE PPRA studied at St. Martin’s School of Art in London from 1957 to 58 under the direction of Anthony Caro. He worked as an assistant to Henry Moore, and then went on to teach at the Royal College of Art and the Royal Academy Schools. He was president of the Royal Academy of Arts between 1999 and 2004. His work is included in the permanent collections of major international museums, such as Tate, London; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam; and National Museum of Art, Osaka.