Spencer Finch is no stranger to the Kent coastal landscape. In 2011 the American artist hoisted 100 flags, all dyed with variants of sea colour, in Folkestone and installed a colour wheel on the seafront as part of Folkestone Triennial. 2014 sees a return of the artist, this time to Turner Contemporary in Margate, for a medium-sized solo exhibition, The Skies Can’t Keep Their Secret, and his first in the UK in the last five years.

Turner Contemporary is currently celebrating a ‘Summer of Colour’ and the majority of the exhibition spaces are taken up with a look at the work of Piet Mondrian and his transition from landscape and figuration into abstraction. The gallery walls are painted grey and the spaces feel dark, rather serious. It’s clear that you’re there to look, to think about the looking. Heads down, exam begins. A relief then, to emerge from the warrens into the sea facing galleries and Spencer Finch, flooded with light.

Natural light with its shifts and changes is the main focus for Finch’s exhibition. The centre of the gallery is taken up by a large suspended ‘cloud’, Passing Cloud (After Constable) 2014. Made from ‘translucent filters’ but looking rather like the plastic sheeting you wrap paintings up in, the material is pinned together with wooden clothes pegs in an abstract cloudy bunch. The filters transparency alters with the changing light of the day apparently but unfortunately I did not witness anything during my brief visit. The same is true of another work Back to Kansas (2013) consisting of a grid of painted squares on the gallery walls. The size of the squares is scaled proportionally to the aspect ratio that the film, The Wizard of Oz, would have been projected and the colours replicate those from the technicolor scenes. As the light in the gallery fades as do the colours, turning the colour saturated squares to black and white. Again I did not stay long enough to witness this and I imagine the stewards in the gallery are the only ones really witnessing the works true effects. Lucky them. No wonder they kept asking visitors ‘Are you enjoying the art?’ for they, perhaps not the visitor, were getting the true durational effect.

Two series of paper works are hung on the smaller opposite and adjacent walls, Wave Studies (2014) which has white tape on white paper producing an almost invisible pattern and Sunlight on an Empty Room (2014) which barely perceptible watercolour marks are made on white paper. These along with Atlantic Ocean (Coney Island), 2014, an LED light-box with a Fuji transfer of colourful wavy shapes, are largely forgettable. The work that lines the large back wall of the gallery, however, is not. Thank You Fog (2009) consists of 60 archival inkjet photographs roughly 11” x 11” arranged in a one line series at head height. If you begin at the beginning, the photographs appear just black squares. As you progress and peer into them, something, somewhere, starts to emerge. A verdant forest seen from its canopy or perhaps just within its boundaries. The effect, as you move along has some magic to it, a little like a view-master souvenir clicking through its slides to reveal, at the end, the forest landscape previously obscured by fog in Sonoma County. This work is the delight of the exhibition and, playing at rich art dealer, actually inspired me to request the pricing details from his Chicago Gallery. A very nice email informed me, several days later, that it would cost $65,000 but I had to politely decline. I just don't think it would fit in with the decor of our Margate flat. That is the only reason of course.

AuthorSacha Waldron

Whenever I am in Glasgow I always manage to miss the exhibitions at Mary Mary so was happy, last week, to finally catch Alan Reid's An Absent Monument and what a show to start with! A 20-metre screen-printed mural entitled La Notte (1961) covers three walls of the gallery with a delicious chocolate brown Giraffe-spot pattern overlaid with various suggestive objects - upside and upside-down croissants, vases, wooden moustaches, tea sets, shells and telephones. The Giraffe print is part wallpaper, part surface or stage-set for the objects but also a character in its own right - the endless neck of an animal described rather nicely in the gallery text as an 'unfortunate candidate for camouflage'. I expect of one of the columns to suddenly materialise from its hiding place with an enormous blinking googly eye sticker and a purpely-pink tongue to slurp up the baked-goods from the wall. Délicieux!

The exhibition is a break away from Reid's usual work which have in the past always centred on a female protagonist. Here we see perhaps her vacated domestic environment, her studio or a set in which she had been performing. Clothing, commissioned especially for this exhibition from fashion designer Moire Conroy, is hung and strung about. An embroidered black bra hangs from a lampshade type object which in turn is supported by a zebra-Tudor-pop painted plank of wood à la Richard Wood's and his kitchified architectures. Other items have a less boudoirian feel - the white kimono is almost ceremonial, not quite religious but spiritual. They transform the room into something like a Japanese Chashitsu - a cut canvas kettle floats along the wall with the musical f symbol for Forte, LOUDER, except here two of the symbols face each other to cancel the other out.

Alongside La Notte (1961), several of Reid's paintings appear, taking the theme of the 'absent subject' as a conceptual starting point. All use silhouettes of Henry Moore sculptures and act as non-functioning clocks. They have a loose drawn quality to them and the colours are a pleasing mixture of subdued blues and greens paired with bold and bodily reds, purples and oranges. Parthenon (2014) in acrylic has the numbers on the absent clock-face replaced with classic film-makers - Hitchcock, Goddard, Kurosawa. The dials point to show the time is forever, in this exhibition at least, about four minutes to Rohmer, or perhaps Truffaut past Goddard. Elsewhere it shows green maple leaf past maple (Perfume Lingers, 2014). Wooden veneer hands point to ripped sugar paper-like painted shapes (Park Bench Newspaper, 2014) . Opposite a stained poplar telephone has the ends of its earpiece replaced by Murex and Nutmeg shells - a stumpy surrealist Majorette baton, it waits for someone to ring as the clocks tick silently.

There is a persistent muteness of colour and atmosphere that pervades An Absent Monument which in turn effects the viewer with an abstracted absorption. There is a sense of frustrated anticipation - like marking off the minutes on a Thursday afternoon in the office. Reid uses his colours cleverly to play with our emotions - the watercoloury pencil shades, the bold whack of printed chocolate. I felt calm and satisfied when I left the gallery but also relieved as if i had escaped something -  happy enough to be out in the air, into the fun fair, past Nando's and into the noise of the streets.

Originally from Texas, Reid now lives and works in New York City. Reid will show a selection of works with Mary Mary alongside gerda Scheeps at Miart, Milan in March 2014.

An Absent Monument runs until 15 March 2014.


AuthorSacha Waldron

An exhibition in Milan, of Los Angeles-based artists - Set Pieces invites four artists; Sarah Cain, Liz Glynn, Samara Golden and Mateo Tannatt to build sets for their work and the work of other artists. The sets will all be staged as ‘islands of light’ within an otherwise darkened gallery space enhancing the cinematic and theatrical artifice and playing with the mythology of Los Angeles - a place in which imagination and staged reality seep into society in a particular way. The hosted also becomes the host – the artists are free to choose how they create their ‘set’ and invite other artists work to be hosted within that space. Here, there is no special autonomy for individual artworks, just autonomous zones created by the four artists.

The curators, Andrew Berardini and Lauren Mackler, say they were influenced by the work of William Leavitt who recently mounted his first solo exhibition, Theatre Objects, at MOCA in Los Angeles in which he used ‘plays and their stages to beautifully reveal the mundane theatricality of the city’. The exhibition, which brought together over 90 paintings, works on paper, photographs and performance documentation from the last 40 years, was also accompanied by a programme of Leavitt’s stage performances, for example Spectral Analysis (1977), which was performed within the exhibition space – using other installed works as their set and stage.

If you happen to be in Milan in the coming weeks I recommend you visit what promises to be an interesting show in terms of conception, design and execution. Images to follow.

Exhibiting artists include: Scoli Acosta, Kathryn Andrews, Matthew Brannon, Mary Corse, Zoe Crosher, Aaron Curry, Erik Frydenborg, Friedrich Kunath, Eli Langer, William Leavitt, Anthony Lepore, Carter Mull, Claire Nereim, Raymond Pettibon, and Amanda Ross-Ho.

Set Pieces opens on Thursday 7th February and runs until April 2013.

Cardi Black Box. Corso di Porta Nuova. 38 - 20121 Milano. Italy.

AuthorSacha Waldron