At Hunter College’s Times Square Gallery until November is an exhibition ‘Industrial Aesthetics – Environmental Influences on Recent Art from Scotland’, which celebrates one aspect of the Glasgow art scene around Glasgow School of Art’s MFA orbit, noting that the past twenty-five years, the city has developed into one of the world’s most influential and imaginative centres of artistic production, linking that to Glasgow’s cultural rebirth, and Scotland’s transformation into a ‘vital creative nexus’. Claiming to be the largest exhibition of contemporary art from Scotland ever seen in the United States, the narrative accompanying this sizeable display positions it as having emerged out of a ‘unique set of circumstances. The participating artists are the originators and caretakers of a dynamic and inventive art scene that echoes ideals of social organization and communal action—hallmarks of Glasgow’s political and commercial history’ – stating that these artists are caretakers of the art scene seems a slightly over-dramatic as it relates to a particular, yet important, milieu connecting back to or having much reference to the MFA course at GSA. It’s an engaging and thorough exhibition however.
Accompanied by a catalogue which features a reprint of David Harding’s influential treatise on the post-conceptual current emerging out of the Environnmental Art Department at GSA, and a discussion with Sam Ainslie, it contextualizes their various aesthetic and conceptual concerns within wider social and civic legacies of their environment, which, as I suggest, is only one dynamic of many a larger set of scenes. In bridging the current practice of artists such as Gary Rough, Sandy Smith, Ruth Barker, with the likes of Douglas Gordon and Jim Lambie, it reinforces notions of a spiritual kinship that it proposes went hand in hand with the city’s ‘cultural and fiscal renaissance’.
The show contains some notable work – Jessica Harrington’s fascinating and disturbing found ornaments; Alex Frost’s colourful sculptures and self portrait; Craig Mulholland’s beguiling ‘Peer to Peer’ (2008); Iain Hetherington’s mischievous lean towards working class style and its intelligensia; the dry yet rigorous formalism of Dan Miller, which is counterbalanced by the playful and seeming spontaneity of Sandy Smith; and the highlight of the show Gary Rough’s ‘Motorcycle Mirrors’ (2011). Needless to say, Lambie’s plastic bags are enduring, and Gordon’s ‘I Remember Nothing’ is prophetic within the context of the show as a whole.
It was a pleasant surprise to find out about the show in New York (from David Dale Gallery who some of the newer kids on the block have associations with) and something of an oversight that it hasn’t been promoted back home in Scotland as there is much to celebrate in this, if not to show the work in a civic venue, with the linked press release tweaked for more inclusive tastes.
The exhibition includes work by: Laura Aldridge / Ruth Barker / Neil Clements / Martin Creed / Rory Donaldson / Alex Frost Carla Scott Fullerton / Douglas Gordon / Jessica Harrison / Ilana Halperin / Iain Hetherington Jim Lambie / Duncan Marquiss / James McLardy / Andrew Miller / Dan Miller / Craig Mulholland Alex Pollard / Kate V. Robertson / Gary Rough / John Shankie / Sandy Smith / Ric Warren