Galleries, by their nature, are viewing places. Roads and pavements in contrast, are transitional places. And by our nature, people develop habits. The significance of our tendency to develop habits in our thinking becomes apparent when we consider the visual vocabulary an artist uses in relation to the context in which work is exhibited. One might say this becomes especially the case with the juxtaposition of reflection and movement. As Rebecca Solnit put it (in her book ‘As Eve Said to the Serpent: On Landscape, Gender, and Art’), “place is about here and now. The road is about there and later”. This is significant because our frame of mind is different when, for example, viewing artworks, as compared with the frame of mind of going from a to b. For ‘Particle of Inch’ at the Hepworth Wakefield, Magali Reus has made a body of work which uses the contemplative space of the gallery to exhibit a visual vocabulary we would more readily associate with being in transit. With the ‘In Place Of’ series, Reus has taken forms from curbs. The skilfully made forms come from drains, man hole covers, ramps and pavement curb stones. The effect is that the familiarity of these forms and the association with being in transit become something of a ‘gestalt’ moment in the context of an art gallery. This in turn encourages engagement with the metaphoric value of the curb as that liminal threshold between pavement and road.
Additionally, Reus has made highly thoughtful connections with the context of the exhibition. Presently also being exhibited at the Hepworth Wakefield is a brilliantly curated exhibition of major works by Anthony Caro. Reus’ furthering of Caro’s removal of the plinth, is to install her entire exhibition on a plinth-like platform, and in consequence, rather than the sculptures not being on a plinth, the viewer is on the plinth with the sculptures. This has the very interesting effect of making the rest of the gallery a kind of plinth also.
‘Particle of Inch’ achieves that elegant but rare balance of being highly accessible without being literal, and another point of access to this work is the exquisite level of attention to detail which we would typically see with artist such as Ron Mueck. All of the everyday objects and bits and bobs, such as plates, kitchen spatulas, mugs, plant pots and toast, have been made for their placement in this sculptural essay on the place between places – the delineation between pedestrian and motorised. As well as being a tour de force of technical skill, this also asks the viewer to note connections with both Caro and Hepworth herself as pre-eminent sculptural makers.
In a sense, one might consider the ‘In Place Of’ works to be different to the ‘Leaves’ series - certainly there are thematic differences if one considers the figurative aspect of subject matter to be the measure of similarity and difference. But as elements of an exhibition, the ‘Leaves’ works and the ‘In Place Of’ works provide each other with a sort of symmetry. The ‘In Place Of’ pieces relate to borders, change and liminality. The ‘Leaves’ works, nine oversized padlocks which are peeled to reveal their inner complexity, relate to containment and stasis. Completing Reus’ demonstration of ‘the complete exhibition’ is that these peeled padlocks are presented at eye level on walls surrounding the plinth-like platform of the whole show. As a result, they count a solemnity as if the stations of the cross or the signs of the zodiac.