Between the idea and the reality..Falls the Shadow
di Jenni Lomax
It seems to me that as time goes by and a greater number of memories need to be stored, the more conflated and compacted everything becomes. Chronology is abandoned as the process of recollection and retrieval becomes both more partial and more personal. There is, for example, no linearity or particular order to the many artworks my mind has recorded during visits to 15 or more Venice biennales, but while I would need to do some research to pinpoint a date, I can usually recall with clarity the physical location of the work and the feelings it evoked. For me, buildings and architecture are important vehicles for carrying memories of exhibitions. Within the spaces that I know most intimately, like the Whitechapel Gallery and Camden Arts Centre, I can project onto any section of wall or floor a mental slide show of every work that I have hung or seen there.
“For me, buildings and architecture are important vehicles for carrying memories of exhibitions.”
We have recently invited the artist Simon Starling to select a group show for Camden Arts Centre. His idea for the project is to work with the past programme and history of our building (designed as a public library by Starling’s maternal great uncle Arnold S Tayler in 1897), to pull traces of the past towards ideas for the future. His rummaging through our archives has strained my memory, certainly with artists and exhibitions that took place long before my time here. One question he had about the Argentine artist Leopoldo Maler brought to the front of my mind a series of influential exhibitions I had seen at the Hayward Gallery in the ‘80s. Simon asked me if I knew Maler and was he still alive. I knew nothing of his show at Camden in the early ‘70s but, I told him, ‘his work was in the wonderful Falls the Shadow exhibition at the Hayward’. When I looked at my catalogue for this show there was no evidence of the dramatic, kinetic work I vividly ‘remembered’ seeing in the upper gallery of the Hayward.
I had in fact seen the work in Pier+Ocean: Construction in the Art of the Seventies, which was shown in 1980, six years before Falls the Shadow. What I do remember about both these shows (and the later Gravity & Grace) was how each individual work was allowed to be itself, while occupying its place in a way that seemed intrinsic to the gallery space and the curatorial thread. Pier+Ocean was selected by the artist Norman Dilworth and the curator Gerhard von Graevenitz and Falls the Shadow by Jon Thompson and Barry Barker (Jon Thompson also curated Gravity and Grace: The Changing Condition of Sculpture 1965-1975 in 1993). Piet Mondrian’s painting Pier+Ocean (1915) lent its title and formed the core of an exhibition which pulled aspects of contemporary British and American art towards Northern Europe, making connections that were both revealing and liberating. It was the first time that I felt, culturally, part of Europe.
“Thinking about these two exhibitions now, I realise that my stored memory of them still influences my aesthetic judgments and preferences.”
Barry Flanagan (I think) was the only artist to be in both shows. Other artists whose work I can place in Pier+Ocean were Richard Tuttle, Mary Martin, Wolfgang Laib, Robert Smithson, Richard Long and, of course, Leopoldo Maler. Falls the Shadow was entirely European, although Britain was separated in the sub-title, ‘Recent British and European Art’. The artists whose work I remember (or maybe not?) from this show were Rebecca Horn, Avis Newman, Lothar Baumgarten, Lili Dujourie, Tony Carter, Hanne Darboven, Richard Deacon and Mario Merz.
Thinking about these two exhibitions now, I realise that my stored memory of them still influences my aesthetic judgments and preferences. It is also interesting how Simon Starling’s collection of Camden Arts Centre’s memories appear to chime with the spirit of Pier+Ocean and Falls the Shadow; his current list of artists, along with Leopoldo Mahler, includes Lothar Baumgarten, Tony Carter, Wolfgang Laib and Richard Tuttle.