Antony Gormley is one of the leading artists in the United Kingdom and his sculptures can be found in numerous places not only in his home country but all around the world. Iron cast figures based on his own body have been installed high in the Austrian Alps, São Paulo, New York, and Hong Kong to name a few. One hundred of the figures like these are permanently installed at Crosby Beach in Merseyside in England. Since 2007 these iron men are overlooking the sea from the coast.
Last year I happened to see one of these “Gormleys” on the top of the gallery roof in Oxford and like many other passerby, confused it with a real person who seemed to be thoughtfully looking at the horizon…
This autumn, in London, where Antony Gormley was born in 1950, two exhibitions opened dedicated entirely to the artist’s work.
The Royal Academy of Arts brings together the variety of his works from the span of over forty years. Twelve of the galleries and the courtyard at RAA are dedicated to the Antony Gormley’s art. Five of the installations are created specifically for the occasion of this exhibition, two galleries are filled with drawings and sketchbooks which I personally enjoyed a lot. These mostly achromatic but soulful images added a warmer touch to the tons of iron and steel – the materials that are more often related to Antony Gormley. However, I really don’t mean to say that the sculptures are cold. For me, they give an impression of firmly contained human emotions. That can be felt even before entering the main exhibition area.
In the courtyard of RAA, a small iron baby lies on the ground. It doesn’t have any signage next to it, nor any protection bars around. It is quite easy to miss it as crowds of people walk around it constantly. For a second, its small size impresses as it should be fragile and helpless but very soon his “iron strength” comes through and I realize that nothing and no one can harm this creature meditating in a child pose.
Inside, the exhibition is organized in a not chronological order starting with the latest “Slabworks” sculptures completed in 2019, walking through a gallery of his very early works together with a recently recreated “Mother’s Pride V” (original was made in 1982) where the signature figure in a child pose is “bitten out” in the wall covered with bread.
One of the site-specific installations is a 3D scribble-like sculpture made of an 8km aluminum tube. “Clearing VII” allows a viewer to enter inside of it and choose a preferred way through it.
“Lost Horizon” which is usually installed at outside spaces, had a feeling of a “Space Odyssey 2001” with the daylight squared ceiling of the RAA.
“Concrete Works” from 1990-93 were definitely my favorite. Only trying to imagine the process of making them, maintaining the human-shaped void inside that nobody will see, except the hands and feet… that made my brain busy for a while.
“Host”, another site-specific installation which according to the popular press was supposed to be a highlight of the show, did not impress me at all. I guess it is not created to be viewed by the uncontrolled masses of people flooding the Royal Academy of Arts. It consists of a mirror-like surface, achieved by filling the floor of the whole gallery space with the liquid. It could remind the still lake… but it doesn’t and it is not the artists’ fault that the visitors’ traffic amount is completely out of control.
Meanwhile, the White Cube gallery situated only five-minute walk from the RAA introduces the latest sculptures by Antony Gormley with the exhibition called “In Formation”. Newly cast iron sculptures “Stack” and “Aggregates” are accompanied by carbon and casein drawings on paper.
I was really lucky to get to see both of the exhibitions on the same visit to London. “In Formation” completed the busy exhibition at the RAA and gave a better feel of what is happening in the Antony Gormley world right now and I think it is great as always.
For more information visit : RAA and White Cube