Review – East Wing X – Courtauld Institute – April 2012

Here’s a short piece I wrote on the current East Wing show for Courtauld Reviews, a student-led periodical of contemporary exhibition reviews published at the Institute each term:

EWX is slick, coherent, and well managed, with a roster of exciting artists – many of them newly established – and a particularly strong visual identity (perhaps the best yet?). The emphasis on serial and large-scale works has served to tie many of the Courtauld’s spaces to a single, consummate theme. Gabriel Dawe’s stunning thread piece – an apt placement of colour theory and materiality within the heart of the institute – is particularly successful. As a result however, less well considered parts of the Institute become pronounced; Rachel Whiteread’s beautifully understated assortment of cast boxes seems overpowered by a hotch-potch arrangement of less engaging works vying for attention within too small a space  Perhaps one of the seminar rooms would have suited this collection of pseudo-sculptures better? Similarly, SR2 seems to have been used to hang works that couldn’t or wouldn’t go anywhere else. On the whole though, the pieces all sit well together, united by a strong theme. The committee has struck a keen balance between filling the space and allowing enough pauses in the show’s narrative for us to consider the many spatial and material relationships it proffers. I would particularly recommend SR1, where an eclectic mix of media and ideas resonate across every wall.

The curators’ engagement with the history of the East Wing series is, as yet, a little underdeveloped. Their ‘official’ book, which celebrates the show’s first twenty years, doesn’t really present sufficient information on any of the previous exhibitions. Regardless of this, the inevitable test for EWX will be whether it continues to grapple with issues of materiality – a subject so ingrained in the present, ever-temporary ‘now’ – over the remaining fifteen months. If talks by Tom Hunter and Rebecca Stevenson have been anything to go by, it has been a promising start to a dialogue that will need continuous reassertion.

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