The multifarious activities of Martin Creed the Turner Prize winning visual artist, composer, musician, performer, and choreographer—are contextualized as artworks, yet he resists that definition; rather, he catalogues his output by a simple taxonomy: a number followed by a descriptive title. Since the initial Work No. 3, Yellow painting (1996), the intervening seventeen years have seen the accumulation of nearly two thousand works, including Work No. 1652 (2013), a Victorian-era upright piano whose lid mechanically opens and then drops closed. The abrupt, loud slam causes the simultaneous resonance of every key, an atonal drone that slowly fades until the movement repeats. What might be considered music in this work is as much tied to the object’s inherent qualities as to an incremental, relative, and nimble exercise in classification.
Michelangelo, master of the High Renaissance and progenitor of the multi-hyphenate, is supposed to have said that the sculpture was inside the marble and it was just a matter of finding it. Creed often refers to this anecdote as “a nice way to think about working—finding it, not making it.” Scales assumes this exploratory methodology, finding music both sonorously and conceptually in the most obvious and least likely of things and ways, in works in paint, ink, sculpture, and video.
This exhibition is bound together by the artist’s consistently applied methodology; a penchant for deconstruction and automation which yields work as much about music as all forms of creative expression. A scientifically rigorous approach characterizes Creed’s process, wherein parameters are gathered, data is compartmentalized, and the object of his inquiry is subjected to a simple variable, to observe how something seemingly so minor might generate such major effects. Unexpectedly complex expressions are drawn from breaking things down by units and measures, allowing new subtexts about happiness, love, relationships, anxiety, fear, failure, relief, and death to emerge. Consider these works amongst Creed’s on-going experiments, which might illuminate some things we don’t know while helping us to enjoy the process of finding out. Martin Creed lives and works in London, England and Alcudi, Italy.
Martin Creed Scales September 22, 2013, to March 9, 2014 Top of page: Martin Creed, Work No. 1190, Half the air in a given space (installation view, Hyde Park Art Center, 2012), 2011 Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago