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Tara Donovan Hayward

“When Forms Come Alive” at Hayward Gallery in London

This anticipated London exhibition at the Hayward gallery celebrates the sensorial possibilities of engaging with sculpture in-person, curated by Ralph Rugoff. On view are engulfing works from 21 artists, including DRIFT, Eva Fàbregas, Michel Blazy, Marguerite Humeau, Tara Donovan, Teresa Solar Abboud, and more.

Breathing, undulating, and oozing sculptures, invite the audience to feel, touch, and experience art in its most dynamic state at the “When Forms Come Alive” exhibition at Hayward Gallery. This show, one of the most anticipated in London, offers an exhilarating journey through over six decades of contemporary sculpture. Artists draw inspiration from the organic world, human movement, and the ever-changing flux of life itself. From the graceful gestures of a dancer to the relentless surge of waves, from the molten flow of metal to the intricate patterns of a spider’s web, these artworks conjure fluid realms of experience to be explored. In an age dominated by virtual interactions, this group exhibition celebrates the tactile, the physical, and the sensorial, reminding us of the joy of movement, the poetry of gravity, and the delight of sensation.

A Celebration of Sculpture at Hayward Gallery

Within the gallery’s varied spaces, the unconventional works of each artist find an ideal setting, affording visitors the freedom to choose their own path instead of being confined to a prescribed route. Due to the substantial scale of certain pieces, the risk of encroachment on another work was skillfully averted in Ralph Rugoff’s curation, supported by assistant curator Katie Guggenheim and curatorial assistant Anusha Mistry.

The exhibition presents the work of 21 international artists, including Ruth Asawa, Nairy Baghramian, Phyllida Barlow, Lynda Benglis, Michel Blazy, Paloma Bosquê, Olaf Brzeski, Choi Jeong Hwa, Tara Donovan, DRIFT, Eva Fàbregas, Holly Hendry, EJ Hill, Marguerite Humeau, Jean-Luc Moulène, Senga Nengudi, Ernesto Neto, Martin Puryear, Matthew Ronay, Teresa Solar Abboud, and Franz West. This article delves into the analysis of selected works that encapsulate the thematic essence of “When Forms Come Alive.”

DRIFT’s “Shylight” Shines

DRIFT Hayward

“Shylight” by DRIFT, Hayward Gallery (February 7—May 6, 2024), © DRIFT.

As visitors immerse themselves in the exhibition, they are greeted by the wondrous creation Shylight, an installation by the acclaimed artists Ralph Nauta and Lonneke Gordijn of DRIFT. This remarkable piece is described by DRIFT not as a mere sculpture, but rather as a living performance ensnared in form. As the audience steps into the installation space, they are drawn to a mesmerizing dance unfolding before their very eyes. Shylight fluidly ascending and descending lights, akin to the graceful unfurling of blossoms, are meticulously choreographed to echo the subtle rhythms of nature, ever attuned to shifts in light and atmosphere. DRIFT aims to draw attention to the intricate harmonies interwoven within our everyday world and beyond, serving as a testament to nature and the cosmos. Inspired by phenomena as varied as the flight of birds, the delicate dispersal of dandelion seeds, and the grandeur of cloud formations, DRIFT seeks to illuminate the poetry of existence. Through the fusion of artistry and cutting-edge technology, DRIFT harnesses the frequencies of nature to create experiential art. Shylight stands as a beacon, casting light upon the nexus of human creativity and scientific innovation.

The Subtle Movements of Michel Blazy’s “Bouquet Final”

Michel Blazy Hayward

“Bouquet Final” by Michel Blazy, Hayward Gallery (February 7—May 6, 2024), © Whitewall.

In proximity to Shylight, the installation Bouquet Final by Michel Blazy presents a wall of foam in a state of illusionary stillness. In fact, Bouquet Final undergoes constant growth, mutation, and eventual disintegration, almost imperceptibly. Blazy cautions that these ultra-slow movements require time to be noticed: “Initially, the viewer is confronted with what appears to be a static work, but with attentiveness, it gradually reveals its subtle movements.” Michel Blazy views his artworks as experiments, considering his ephemeral sculptures to be living entities. Intrigued by “the wild aspect of thing”, he embarked on experiments with foam, aiming to restore “its freedom”. Blazy elaborates that “soft materials interest me because they are in movement; their form depends on themselves, and my degree of control is limited.”

As the viewer traverses the gallery, they encounter Tara Donovan‘s monumental sculpture, Untitled (Mylar), which echoes the intricate growth patterns observed in biological or molecular structures. Despite being composed of everyday manufactured materials, commonly encountered in consumers’ daily lives, Donovan’s inspiration draws deeply from nature’s forms and processes. Untitled (Mylar) stands as a quintessential manifestation of her artistic vision, painstakingly crafted from thousands of flat, reflective discs of mylar, a metallic polyester film. Through a meticulous process involving folding, hot-gluing, and clustering, these discs undergo a metamorphosis into spheres of various sizes, evoking a mesmerizing interplay of light and shadow. Indeed, light assumes a pivotal role in Donovan’s creations, perceived as an additional material that evokes kaleidoscopic perceptual shifts in reflectivity as viewers explore her installations.

Teresa Solar Abboud Merges Organic and Industrial

Teresa Solar Abboud Hayward

“Tunnel Boring Machines” by Teresa Solar Abboud, Hayward Gallery (February 7—May 6, 2024), © Whitewall.

Exploring the convergence of organic and industrial realms, Tunnel Boring Machines by Teresa Solar Abboud embodies a captivating fusion of industrial precision and organic essence, blurring distinctions between machine and organism. Emerging from their clay bases, these enigmatic forms feature sleek, vibrant limbs reminiscent of propellers or fins, evoking a sense of dynamic motion frozen in time. Contrasting with the polished, artificial hues of the limbs, the roughly textured clay joints anchor the sculptures with an earthy solidity, hinting at the primal substance of mud and the hidden depths of the underground. These creatures, with their suggestive propellers and sturdy joints, seem poised between worlds as if they’ve emerged from geological strata or evolved from ancient fossils. Yet, beneath their surface allure lies a mechanic dynamism, echoing the relentless drive of extraction and industry. Solar’s sculptures serve as active agents in a dialogue between nature and culture, embodying a profound tension between organic origins and industrial progress. In their complex form and symbolic resonance, they invite viewers to ponder the interconnectedness of human intervention and the natural world.

Marguerite Humeau Explore Fungi and Fermentation

Marguerite Humeau Hayward

“The Holder of Wasp Venom” by Marguerite Humeau, Hayward Gallery (February 7—May 6, 2024), © Whitewall.

Among other sculptures that particularly stood out were works by Marguerite Humeau and Eva Fàbregas. Entitled “meys,” the series by Humeau explores the symbiotic relationship between fungi, fermentation processes, and our survival amidst a rapidly changing planet. Inspired by the intricate ecosystems observed during a trip to the Australian Outback, artist Humeau draws parallels between the collective intelligence of mound-building termites and human communities. Through sculptures like The Guardian of Ancient Yeast and The Holder of Wasp Venom, she encapsulates the organic essence of these ecosystems, utilizing natural materials like beeswax, ancient yeast, and walnut. Handblown glass, echoing fungal structures, adds a touch of inorganic brilliance to these pieces. In “The Brewer”, a smaller yet potent vessel, Humeau blends raw honey, brewer’s yeast, and termite mushroom culture, symbolizing a communal elixir fostering collectiveness amidst change.

Eva Fàbregas Immerses Viewers in the Corporeal

Eva Fàbregas Hayward

“Pumping” by Eva Fàbregas, Hayward Gallery (February 7—May 6, 2024), © Whitewall.

As for Eva Fàbregas’s installation Pumping, it reimagines everyday objects like inflatable balls into oversized organs, challenging traditional ontological hierarchies and inviting viewers into somatic encounters with their own bodies. The three 30-meter-long sculptures resemble giant worms or knotted innards, initially uncanny but rendered familiar through texture and vibrant colors. The corporeal essence of Pumping extends beyond appearances; integrated subwoofers emit low frequencies, animating the sculpture to breathe and vibrate, reminiscent of early electric breast pumps. Fàbregas drew inspiration from the visceral experience of sound in a South London club, highlighting the symbiotic relationship between the artwork and the viewer’s bodily sensations, accentuated by changing colored spotlights in the gallery space.

Through tactile surfaces and dynamic compositions, the sculptures at the “When Forms Come Alive” exhibition transcend mere representation, inviting viewers to engage in a visceral dialogue with their corporeal essence. As the show unfolds, it becomes evident that the fluidity of forms not only challenges societal norms but also reflects the inherent dynamism of human experience. “When Forms Come Alive” serves as a poignant reminder of the perpetual flux inherent in both art and life.

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THE WINTER EXPERIENCE ISSUE
2023

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READ THIS NEXT

At D.D.D.D., artist’s Kate Liebman solo show of now work, “Hopscotch,” is on view now through February 19.
Susan Chen's first solo show at Rachel Uffner is on view now through April 20 in New York, including works in clay and ne paintings.

SUBSCRIBE TO NEWSLETTER

Go inside the worlds
of Art, Fashion, Design,
and Lifestyle.