Materials & Objects in the Tate Modern Boiler House

The Materials and Objects exhibition at the Tate Modern covers such a vast range of ideas, media and artists that it takes a while to really take it in. Below I have selected some of the pieces that really caught my attention. They’re by no means an exhaustive look and it is really worth taking an afternoon to go and look.

‘Work No. 232: the whole world + the work = the whole world’ (2000) Martin Creed

This is cheating slightly as it is on the wall before you go into the Boiler House. There are few things more visually appealing to me than a clean, rounded font lit in white, so it’s not surprising that I picked this, but I also like the fact it is tautological – an equation that can never be solved, and also that you can’t say for sure whether it is a positive or negative statement! It was commissioned for the Tate in 2000 to mark the change from The Tate Gallery of British Art to Tate Britain. You can read more about it on the Tate Modern website.

‘An American Tribute to the British People’ (1960-4) Louise Nevelson

This is one of two Nevelson pieces in this exhibition. The other one (Black Wall) is taller than it is wide and painted completely black, which obscures the contents. The use of gold paint in the piece above highlights every surface making it an object that you can look at endlessly and see new and different features to it. Nevelson collected the boxes and items for her work from the streets around her home where such things were frequently discarded. To read more about her work in this exhibition go here

A detail from ‘Ink Splash II’ (2012) El Anatsui

I think its apparant that I’m a bit of a magpie. In the case of Ink Spalsh II by El Anatsui, however, it was the vivid blue that attracted me rather than the gold. I especially like how dark it looks in the folds of the piece, which was made by weaving strips of aluminium bottle tops. These were then attached to each other using copper wire to create a metallic tapestry. As you can see from the photo on the Tate’s Website, the colour escapes the established boundaries of the piece by spilling over from the wall onto the floor.

‘Behold’ (2009) Sheela Gowda

Behold by Sheela Gowda is a striking piece to look at, and that is before you realise it is constructed using human hair. The hair has been knotted and forms 4 kilometres of rope, which is then wrapped round and hung from twenty car bumpers, knotted further into netting, hung from the ceiling and pooled in coils on the floor. The work reflects superstition in the place Gowda lives; it is common for people to knot their hair around car bumpers to ensure safety from bad luck and accidents. Tate Modern page on Behold.

‘Embryology’ (1978-80) Magdalena Abakanowicz

The final artwork I have picked out from my trip is Embryology by Magdalena Abakanowicz. It takes up a large room by itself; being arranged in two different mounds – one long and the focal point of the room, and another piled up in the corner. To me, the stuffed burlap sacks are reminiscent of the rocks and stones on a beach, but on closer inspection the texture of the hessian suggests something softer and more obliging.


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