Cerith Wyn Evans
Museo Rufino Tamayo
10 February - 6 May, 2018
Review by Elliott Burns
Typically, the complex architectural setting of Museo Tamayo’s main galleries can pique exhibitions: a mix of material surfaces, balconies, tiered steps, windows, ramps, light sources from aside and above, and a grand atrium. Fortunately, in the case of Cerith Wyn Evans’ solo exhibition at the museum, this serves to accentuate the already beautiful works. Opening out from the atrium balcony, a structure of neon text hangs diagonally across the void. ‘E=C=L=I=P=S=E’ (2015) describes the path of a solar eclipse from the northern coast of Spain to Algiers, across the Iberian Peninsula, and ending in southernmost Somalia. The language used to describe this journey is an apt introduction to Wyn Evans’ practice, heavily poetic, yet complemented with an exactness, a precise scientific record accompanied with UT time stamps.
From here the exhibition builds into a more conventionally shaped exhibition within a white cube, featuring three neon works and an audio spotlight in the furthest corner. Wyn Evans has become celebrated for fashioning neon works that express an elegant transformation of the drawn line into three dimensions with light. ‘Neon Forms (after Noh II)’ and ‘(after Noh III)’ (2015) make use of codified gestures, that of the 14th century Japanese tradition of Noh theatre, fluidity and mathematics which interlock and are joined together by the electrical cables that tie one neon bulb to another. By contrast, ‘The Illuminating Gas… (after Oculist Witnesses)’ (2015) builds upon a mysterious figure contained within Duchamp’s The Bride Striped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (1915-23), taking what was wedged between panels of glass and expanding it into a formidable physical presence.
Whilst observing the neon works, ‘T=R=A=N=S=F=E=R=E=N=C=E (Frequency shifting paradigms in streaming audio)’ (2012) can be heard faintly and even then, only when it’s at an intimate proximity, can its relay of radio telescope information be picked up.
Down the ramp and into the final gallery, the exhibition introduces other visual languages utilized in Wyn Evans’ oeuvre. ‘Still life (in course of arrangement…) II’ (2015) places two palm trees on infinitesimally slowly rotating turntables; lit by a pair of stage-set spotlights they create a miniature shadow theatre, exemplifying his Asiatic influence. Composition for 19 flutes (2015), a circular fan-like arrangement of glass tubes with an apparatus designed to breathe through them emits a mellifluous sound which, at first, is difficult to pinpoint.
Unfortunately, ‘S=H=A=D=E (Evacuate)’ (2017), 22 pages of Stéphane Mallarmé‘s 1987 poem Un Coup de Dés Jamais N’Abolira Le Hasard, with the words redacted by scalpel, is overpowered by the presence of the other pieces and its contribution is somewhat diminished.
Finally, two pairs of Murano chandeliers, ‘Sutra’ and ‘Mantra’ (both 2017), illuminate automatically in response to a piano composition composed by Wyn Evans, which is audible throughout the gallery. Gaudy and ornate, Sutra is a replica of a chandelier owned by Iranian royalty, bad design made good through a change of material and the delicate animation of dance.
The achievement of Wyn Evan’s show at Tamayo is to take an architectural space; equal parts gallery and auditorium, and to bring these identities together. On one side is the visual allure of the neon, a medium which seems to endlessly delight, on the other, is the music of nature and humanity; a concert exists between them. There is a sense of returning to an era when a division between the arts and the sciences had not yet been established, when one could consider both simultaneously, allowing the two schools of thought to serve one another.