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Analog Histories in Primary Colors

Press release


Analog Histories in Primary Colors

Sharon Lockhart, Mike Nelson, Simon Starling


The group exhibition is featuring photographs by Sharon Lockhart (b. 1964), as well as sculptural work by Mike Nelson (b. 1967) and Simon Starling (b. 1967). With portrayals of industry as points of departure, the works on view explore the shift from a manufacturing-based society to one centered around the service industry, engaging with the art historical canon, regional traditions, narrative devices and questions of identity.
Sharon Lockhart’s filmic and photographic work explores the everyday lives of her subjects and draws upon a socio-anthropological, research-based process to shape compositionally precise tableaux. Her series Lunch Break (2008), created at a shipyard in Bath, Maine, is a striking portrait of American labor. Evocative of the documentary photography of August Sander and Walker Evans, the series is a meditation on work, time, its passage and the transactional nature of leisure. The large-scale portrait Old Boiler Shop: Proud and Shaun depicts two workers on their lunch break, formally recalling the format, composition and lighting of classical painting. In the same vein, the diptych Panel Line Break Room: Roland, Phil, John and Shermie shows four people in a moment of pause that starkly contrasts the industrial sector’s efficiency-driven nature. The triptych Stephen Bade, Electrician consists of three views of a red lunch box that constitute veritable still lifes and function allegorically as a representative portrait of the worker to whom it belongs. Its patina testifies to daily use, while the stickers that it bears hint at the personality of its owner.

Mike Nelson’s work is shaped by a fascination for understanding societies based on what they leave behind and, in turn, the materiality and sociocultural implications embedded in those selected objects. His monumental sculpture The Asset Strippers (staddle stones on double scales ... metric and imperial) (2019) is part of The Asset Strippers, a body of work created for the Tate Britain Commission 2019. For this presentation, Nelson sourced machines from bankruptcy auctions and salvage yards, transforming the neoclassical Duveen Galleries of Tate Britain into a warehouse for objects from Britain’s industrial past. These relics from the era before the rise of the digital service industry were displayed to draw attention to the decline of British manufacturing and to lament the welfare state’s shifting standing. Decommissioned by becoming sculpture, The Asset Strippers (staddle stones on double scales ... metric and imperial) takes on an uncanny anthropomorphic quality and transcends its original purpose. Nelson’s construction of bright red scales placed upon blue trestle legs is exemplary of a symbiotic relationship between machine and sculpture, acting as a monument to post-war Britain and the lost vision of society once held by those who came into contact with these objects.
Simon Starling’s practice has engaged with the history of production and presentation of technical processes since the early 1990s, with a particular focus on image reproduction techniques and their role as a link between past and present. Half A4 (or King and Queen) (2018-2019) is a Heidelberger “Windmill” printing press—a machine produced in the 1960s during the heyday of German industry—split into equal halves. Its two-part composition evokes parallels with paired figures from throughout the history of sculpture. The bisected surface of the 1,300-kilogram apparatus is highlighted with yellow paint—in concert with the now clear view of the device’s inner workings, the object becomes reminiscent of displays in science museums where a viewer’s understanding of how a machine operates takes center stage. In addition to Starling’s interest in the materiality and aesthetic qualities of the machine itself, he also positions it as an indicator of societal development.

The sculptures on view portray not only their own pasts, but also those of the people who once used them on a daily basis. Complemented by Lockhart’s photographic work, these works pay tribute to a way of life gradually falling victim to structural shifts and the growth of global capitalism.

Coinciding with the exhibition at neugerriemschneider, Sharon Lockhart’s film EXIT (2008) will be screened at Kino Arsenal in Berlin on November 14 at 8 pm. In this film, Lockhart uses fixed-frame shots to document five consecutive days of workers leaving the shipyard after their shifts. The 41-minute work recalls Louis Lumière’s short film Leaving the Lumiere Factory (1895) and emphasizes the passage of time by way of a recurring everyday event.

For further press information and imagery, please contact Alexia Timmermans at neugerriemschneider: +49 30 288 77277 or alexia@neugerriemschneider.com