It’s the sort of area where streetart or graffiti might be expected, but this is not Brick Lane and, while the area is a little run down, there is little streetart apart from underneath the flyover leading to the M40. But wait, on a white-painted wall, the bold letters “Build Up On”, have been perfectly painted in signwriting.
What does it mean?
The lettering is by the American artist Lawrence Weiner who in 1968 wrote a declaration of intent that turned traditional art on its head: – “the artist may construct the piece”; “the piece may be fabricated”, and, “the piece need not be built”. Weiner shifted responsibility for artistic interpretation away from the artist to the viewer, with the focus being the idea rather than the art itself. Weiner’s artwork dates to 1988, though it has only been on the wall here for a short time. The idea is not constrained by time or place; it goes on, disappearing and reappearing.
Behind the white-painted wall is the garden of 27 Bell Street in London where fifty years ago, Nicholas Logsdail had the vision to convert part of the old residential building into the Lisson Gallery. A second gallery followed along the street, in a new contemporary building designed by Tony Fretton Architects connecting into an older one in Lisson Street around the corner, providing the Gallery with a series of different spaces between the two buildings, along with the sculpture gardens, in which to hold exhibitions in different ways, whether several at one time or, occasionally as with Ai Weiwei in 2016, one artist across both of them. Further expansion has since taken place in Milan and under the High Line in New York.
The galleries have the aesthetic of white walls and polished concrete floors, simple geometric staircases and lighting, complimented with natural light through windows and rooflights, giving views to the world outside and also tantalising views in from passers-by, thus connecting art and the street together.
The Lisson Gallery has encouraged the early careers of now-established artists such as Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Anish Kapoor and Tony Cragg and today still supports the younger generation of artists such as Cory Arcangel and Ryan Gander.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary, the original building is closed for refurbishment while the Gallery is running its new programme of “Lisson Presents….” in 67 Lisson Street and elsewhere.
Nothing is quite what it seems. On the first floor of 67 Lisson Street, furniture has been collected together and covered with a dust sheet. Whose furniture is this? Where have the people gone? When will they return? The dust sheet, however, is very solid, carved from marble by Ryan Gander, who also designed the pure white tracksuit which the gallery assistant wears, merging into the gallery walls. In the space outside, there is the opposite – Ceal Floyer’s controversial black plastic garbage bag sits there with nothing but air inside it.
Crossing time and space, Jonathan Monk’s green garden hose is hung up on a white wall at one moment and then totally lost in a sea of green at another and Christian Jankowski shows an event in the Kunstverein, Hamburg, where the magician, Christian Knudsen, transformed the Museum Director Stephan Schmidt-Wulffen into a poodle who played in the gallery before being transformed back again as if nothing had happened.
Richard Wentworth identifies places not by their large monumental structures but by small everyday incidents, so memories of King’s Cross are not the railway station, but a plastic cup impaled on railings and an old tyre holding up a timber-boarded window, while John Latham shows an evolutionary world of human knowledge developing from a blank white canvas to a dark and complex book relief, and Wael Shawky’s film focusses on different boundaries – those linked to migration.
Boundaries are blurred; What the viewer sees is not reality; The viewer has the responsibility to interpret the ideas. The artist is the instigator and the catalyst.