Contemporary Highlights from the Hayward Gallery

Hayward Gallery

The Hayward Gallery
The Hayward Gallery opened in 1968 with a major Henri Matisse exhibition. It has since presented the work of many of the world’s most influential and inventive artists. Including both in-depth surveys of individual artists and ambitious group shows, its exhibitions have helped to shape and define contemporary art in the UK and beyond for the past five decades. Architect Rem Koolhaas once noted that the Hayward Gallery has never conformed to anyone’s expectation or model of what an exhibition space should be. From its striking Brutalist facade to its uniquely volumetric interior spaces, the Gallery was designed as a democratic experiment in risk-taking and aesthetic adventure. Following in the spirit of its architecture, the Hayward’s exhibition programme has always supported the work of pioneers and innovators. Here you will find highlights drawn from a variety of exhibitions that the Hayward has presented in this century. Together, they provide a glimpse into the diverse range of artworks that have enlivened different Hayward exhibitions over the past 15 years.
Monographic Exhibitions
Over the past 50 years, the Hayward Gallery has staged monographic exhibitions by some of the world’s most innovative artists. In the 1960s and 1970s Anthony Caro, Agnes Martin and Bridget Riley all had their first UK solo exhibitions at the gallery. More recently, the Hayward Gallery has staged solo exhibitions by artists including Antony Gormley, Tracey Emin, Ana Mendieta, Martin Creed and Ed Ruscha. With each exhibition, the gallery’s flexible spaces are used in new and adventurous ways. 

Bridget Riley credits this work from 1961, Movement in Squares, as the beginning of her exploration of geometric form and spatial dynamics. Its rhythm subtly evokes a meeting of two forms, a kiss or a folding of two flat planes into a vanishing line of contact. The repeated squares, gradually compressed from left and right, give a restless impression of movement, and refuse to let the eye settle. Riley’s painting featured in the Hayward Gallery’s 2006 exhibition How to Improve the World: 60 Years of British Art, Arts Council Collection as well as her solo exhibition at the gallery in 1971.

Annette Messager uses unorthodox materials to form evocative artworks that often challenge societal roles assigned to women and the nature of identity. Commenting on her choice of materials – which have included stuffed animals, plastic bags and human hair – she explains that ‘I like things made with scraps, fragments, things set aside: leftovers, remnants’. Casino (2004) is a vast three-part installation that the artist created for the Venice Biennale in 2005. It draws on the story of Pinnocchio, who during one of his many adventures is swallowed by a whale-shark. This episode, which formed the second section of the original installation, was recreated in Messager’s solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, in 2009.

Dayanita Singh believes that photography is not about what one sees but how one sees. Describing herself as an artist and bookmaker who works with photography, she conceives and displays her photographs in sequences. Rarely shown in isolation, these photographs are bound in books or contained within bespoke wooden structures that she designs herself. This image is from Singh’s 2007 series Go Away Closer. For Singh, the paradoxical title expresses the condition of photography: in trying to capture and hold onto something – a moment, an event – we only succeed in pushing it further away. An exhibition of Singh’s work was held at the Hayward Gallery in 2013.

Work No. 1092 MOTHERS (2011), Martin Creed’s monument to motherhood, is a huge neon sign that spins around at variable speeds so that it seems dangerously out of control. The beam holding the neon lights is twelve and a half metres long, and the letters are two and a half metres high. The work is so large that when it was exhibited at the Hayward Gallery for Creed’s 2014 retrospective What’s the point of it?, it barely fitted into the gallery. As Creed explains, ‘when you’re small, your mother is always really big. So it seemed like a good reason for this to be big and ... scary.’

Ed Ruscha is one of the most inventive American artists of the past 50 years. Based in Los Angeles, Ruscha gained international attention in the 1960s for his paintings of words. Several of the artist’s paintings from this period present images of distorted or damaged words. Hurting the Word Radio #2 (1964) consists of a pale blue ground over which the word ‘radio’ is spelled out in decal-like letters, the first and last of which appear as rubbery forms squeezed out of shape by metallic C-clamps. While the title initially seems deliciously absurd – how can a word be hurt? – the image of pinched, fleshy letters is almost painful to look at, and effectively alters as well as interferes with our reading of the word itself. In adding visual static to the ‘radio’ signal, this work suggests more than a damaged communication, however; it also conjures the artist’s task of breaking down standardised forms in order to generate potential new meanings.

Tracey Emin’s Psyco Slut (1999) is a blanket overflowing with appliquéd words, phrases and patches of handwritten texts that draw on the most intimate details of the artist’s personal history, not least her abortion, and early adolescent and childhood abuse. Psyco Slut was made in 1999; Emin’s first blanket dates from 1993. Each one is collaged from what the artist describes as ‘sacred fabrics', including her own and her parents’ clothes and scraps of household furnishings. Psyco Slut featured in Emin’s 2011 retrospective at the Hayward Gallery.

David Shrigley’s work is animated by dark, anarchic humour and a sideways take on life and death. In his own words, his varied work exists ‘somewhere between comic book art and conceptual art.’ I’m Dead was part of the artist’s solo exhibition Brain Activity, held at the Hayward Gallery in 2012. A Jack Russell Terrier, rendered uncannily life-like through taxidermy, holds up a sign announcing that it is dead.

Ana Mendieta used her own body, together with elemental materials such as blood, fire, earth and water, to create visceral performances and ephemeral ‘earth-body’ sculptures that combine ritual with metaphors of life, death, rebirth and spiritual transformation. In the mid-to late 1970s Mendieta made a series of works called Arbol de la Vida, or Tree of Life. For this particular work Mendieta plastered herself in mud before standing, with raised arms, at the base of a living tree. Tree of Life featured in a retrospective of the artist’s work at the Hayward Gallery in 2014.

In the mid-1960s, Malcolm Morley began making large-scale paintings satirising the aspirations of consumer society. Many of these paintings – which included brightly coloured images of ocean liners, and scenes taking place on cruise ships – were based on postcards and photographs, rather than painted from life. This 1968 painting combines two images that Morley found in the same Dutch travel brochure. Coronation and Beach Scene featured in Morley’s 2001 solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, Malcolm Morley: In Full Colour.

Thematic Exhibitions
As well as presenting in-depth monographic exhibitions, the Hayward Gallery has a long history of thematic group shows. Recent group exhibitions have gathered artists from around the world to explore wide-ranging themes including light (Light Show, 2013), outsider art (Alternative Guide to the Universe, 2013) and the challenges of living in a digital age (Mirrorcity: London Artists on Fiction and Reality, 2014). 

Visionary artist and polymath Paul Laffoley envisaged his 1989 painting Thanaton III as a psychotronic device. Those who encountered the work correctly – by ‘stretching out [their] arms, touching the upright hands, and staring into the eye’ – would be able to communicate with extraterrestrial beings. Thanaton III was one of a number Laffoley’s paintings to be featured in the Hayward Gallery’s 2013 exhibition The Alternative Guide to the Universe, which explored the work of self-taught artists and architects, fringe physicists and visionary inventors.

Ann Veronica Janssens uses devices such as light, artificial fog, colour projections, mirrors, reflective materials and sound in order to push human perception to its limits. She made her first indoor haze installations in the late 1990s, constructing enclosed spaces filled with vapour coloured by light. Her wall-mounted work Rose, made in 2007, combines artificial fog with beams of light. The haze makes the intersecting beams visible, revealing a luminous star in which light appears to solidify. Rose appeared in the Hayward Gallery’s 2013 exhibition Light Show.

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings resemble portraiture, but the figures she depicts are not real people. Instead, they are composites drawn from the artist’s memory and imagination. As she explains, they spring from ‘the fantasies, nonsenses and random associations in my head which meld with the life I live and the things that happen around me’. Often, her paintings are conceived as part of a group, and she comments that ‘looking, seeing and reading across them’ is something that she likes to encourage. Her triptych Uncle of the Garden was featured in the group exhibition Mirrorcity at the Hayward Gallery, in 2014.

In 1970, artist Franz Gertsch met the 19-year-old Luciano Castelli and his circle of friends in Lucerne, and went on to chronicle their bohemian lifestyle. A charismatic performance artist and sculptor, Luciano is the central figure in this painting, wearing snakeskin boots. Details such as the butterfly and the single lighted candle in the candelabra – ingredients of traditional Vanitas paintings, and emblems of the brevity of life – add gravity and weight to this extraordinary enlargement of a moment from everyday life. At Luciano’s House featured in the 2007 Hayward Gallery exhibition The Painting of Modern Life.

Cameroonian photographer Samuel Fosso set up his own studio at the age of 13 in 1975. Soon after, he began experimenting with self-portraiture, assuming different characters and identities through costume and performance. In 1997, the Paris department store Magasins Tati commissioned a series of photographs in which Fosso impersonated a chef, a pirate, a marine and, in the case of this image, a ‘bourgeois’ woman in evening dress. La Bourgeoise featured in the Hayward Gallery’s 2005 group exhibition Africa Remix.

Installations
Many of the artists who have exhibited at the Hayward Gallery have created immersive installations that respond to or take advantage of the gallery’s unusual architecture. In 2008, the Austrian art collective Gelitin transformed one of the gallery’s three sculpture terraces into a boating lake, while artists including Ernesto Neto and Pipilotti Rist – in 2010 and 2011 respectively – have created anarchic environments within the gallery that challenge and disrupt the way we experience sculpture and moving image. 

For the Hayward Gallery’s 2009 exhibition Psycho Buildings: Artists Take On Architecture, Austrian artists’ collective Gelitin filled one of the outdoor sculpture terraces with water, transforming a 120cm-deep concrete tray into a boating lake and creating an incongruous pastoral idyll high above the ground. The title of the work, normally, proceeding and unrestricted with without title, refers to the definition of cruising, as used in recording boating accidents: ‘Proceeding normally, unrestricted; an absence of drastic rudder or engine changes’.

In 2009 Jeremy Deller created a procession for Manchester’s International Festival, working closely with local community groups and societies. On one of the floats he presented a life-size reconstruction of Valerie’s Snack Bar from Bury Market, which he characterised as being like ‘an OAP youth club’. During Joy in People, Deller’s 2012 solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, visitors were invited to enjoy a cup of tea in the snack bar while watching a video of the original procession.

Antony Gormley’s sculpture Blind Light (2007), which formed part of the artist’s solo exhibition of the same name at the Hayward Gallery in 2007, offered visitors two very different experiences. From the outside, you could observe people vanishing as they entered the brightly-lit, cloud-filled glass box, while inside you lost yourself in light and vapour. As Gormley comments: ‘here, light itself is the opposite of illuminating. The blinding light is part of an experience of disorientation.’

Pipilotti Rist uses moving image to ‘discover new ways of configuring the world, both the world outside and the world within.’ Since the start of her career in the 1980s, she has radically changed the way we look at and experience moving images, creating works that deliberately disrupt viewing conventions. Her 1999 work I Couldn’t Agree With You More consists of two overlapping projections – one large and one very small. In the former, a woman films herself walking around a supermarket and an apartment, while the second projection – of naked figures in green and hazy woodland – flits across her face like a vision or a dream. I Couldn’t Agree With You More featured in Eyeball Massage, Rist’s 2012 solo exhibition at the Hayward Gallery.

In 2010 Brazilian artist Ernesto Neto transformed the Hayward Gallery’s upper galleries and sculpture terraces with a series of site-specific, biomorphic installations for his solo exhibition The Edges of the World. heartcircleprototemple…bum! (2010) is an intimate dome into which visitors were invited to climb. Pointing out that his work ‘speaks of the finite and the infinite, of the macroscopic and the microscopic, the internal and external,’ Neto comments, ‘sometimes I think that infinity is “now”; small spaces of emotional time – that life, just like neutrinos, passes through us like an infinite whole.’

Credits: Story

Selected by Ralph Rugoff, Director, Hayward Gallery

All images copyright of the artists.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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