David Korty: Have / Had
Sadie Coles HQ, South Audley Street, London
7 November 2013 - 16 January 2014
Review by Laura Davidson
One floor of Sadie Coles HQ in Mayfair is encased by elegant wall mounted bookcases on canvas, filled with scholarly objects. The muted hellenic palette in which these objects are rendered perhaps signals a departure for Korty, a painter more associated with textured colour than with the classical pairing of blue and an almost sepia-toned white. The sepia adds the texture and quality of an ageing paperback to the drawn objects on canvas and thus flattens down their form to something narrational. The canvases, all titled with the prefix ‘Blue Shelf’, contain a collage of compressed classical busts, globes, cylinders and protractors. They all combine to suggest these bookshelves are filled with artefacts of teaching and knowledge. As a result, the spirit of the Sir John Soane Museum and the academically-minded collector passes through the space.
Amongst the recognisable scholarly objects are forms less literally articulate yet clearly readable as fragments of visual culture. Cubism appears out of the ruins, more than any other motif. Monochrome geometries are indexed amongst the rows of flattened, recognisable forms. On the back wall in particular, ‘Blue Shelf 14’ (2013) pushes towards newly-formed geometries and shape, presumably developed from the forms of the more literal relics present in the rest of the series. There is a repetition at play here that could lean towards the banal. However, the movement through form, object, space and line is more aligned with a verse or chorus in a musical score, encapsulating all the elements together to create something of intrigue and structure.
Gradient washes, dots, paint splotches and linear patterns riff across the canvases upstairs and descend into the lower floor too. Much like the dimensions of the paintings in the upper gallery, the four pieces from the ‘Paper Frames’ series hung on the downstairs wall facing the stairs, also have a neat relationship with human proportions. Mounted at head level and employing a simple monochromatic palette, they sit on the wall modestly and don’t dominate the space.
As a finale to the gestural motifs and flattened relics of objects, ‘Have / Had’ ends with a new direction for Korty. Ceramic sculptures line a shelf at waist height, with a smooth white glaze dripped over the clay. References back to mathematics occur, as with the presence of geometry in the upper gallery. Each ceramic object has a series of iterations, a count of handles or oversized finger holes that describe a more corporeal association with numeracy. Two sets of objects are shown - a set of jugs and candelabra-like structures, both small in scale, much like their domestic originals. An overall feel starts to emerge of a classical artist’s studio, with all the tools and art historical references ready to return to considering the complexities of the world through making.