Antony Gormley at The Garage
Text Ross Hunter
The renowned sculptor Antony Gormley has two major exhibitions in Moscow this summer. His ‘Domain Field’ is open at The Garage Centre (near Mendeleyevskaya metro) until 2 September. This is an unmissable combination: an inspiring collection in its perfect setting.
Mr Gormley is famous for his explorations of space and its interaction with humanity. The Angel of the North is already the iconic image of North East England; and his ‘Another Place’ has transformed Crosby Beach.
‘Domain Field’ is a set of maquettes of 287 real people, aged 2 to 82, welded in short steel sticks within exact body shapes, after each volunteer had been in cased in plaster. The effect is astounding, being in turns lifelike, robotic, solid, ethereal, comic and sad.
Gormley insists that every guest is invited to bring as much to the showing as it is offering. There is accordingly something for everyone: there is no single message, but there is the space for everyone to see and feel and create their own interpretation. The figures fill a flat field, facing different ways, in loose groups or alone. They eye wanders through and around them, with living guests dotted around for contrast. The whole effect is slightly ghostly and questioning, cold steel feeling curiously impermanent.
I had the honour of exploring the exhibition with three school students, hard to please teenagers with critical eyes. Their reaction was telling, exploring every figure, checking names against the serial numbers, matching statures and poses. Best of all, they kept seeing links back to school art and maths ideas. “An amazing and inspiring experience .... witnessing how shapes and maths have importance and usefulness ... thinking about the process of making the sculptures was mind blowing”, said Khawla Al-Derbasti, one of the students.
The setting is as impressive as the sculptures. Melnikov’s bus garage was typically revolutionary, though the exhibition space blanks this out. But the set of statues stands under Shukov’s roof, and each complement the other perfectly. Both are slender, light and airy. The differences is that Shukov’s geodesic triangles are improbably rigid; Gormley’s non-triangular welds are delicate and flexible. The same material, the same spaciousness, and opposite effects on structure. Although not allowed, an accidental touch reveals the resonance of the flexing figures, which writhe and shimmer for an age when disturbed. Different dummies have different densities: some are imposingly firm and dense; others improbably upright despite incredibly little ossature holding transient space.
All together, the family of figures make a mystical flock. All they need is a wisp of fog to meld the ethereal experience. Not to be missed.
Garage Contemporary Culture Center
July 17 – September 2
Monday – Thursday 11:00-21:00;
Friday – Sunday 11:00-22:00
Antony Gormley’s second oeuvre in Moscow opens in September. Unconstrained by built frames, ‘Event Horizon’ will cause surprises all over central Moscow’s skyline. See Passport’s September edition for details.
For more on Shukov, see Passport, September 2008, or look at the roofs of GUM and the Metropol dining room, and best of all, the Shabalovskaya radio tower.