White Cube presents a major solo exhibition by Christian Marclay, a large new oeuvre of work encompassing the grand halls of White Cube Bermondsey. The artist continues his exploration in the relationship between image and sound, the exhibition is comprised of a series of works on canvas and paper that feature onomatopoeia taken from comic books. Music has always been a long term preoccupation for Marclay – the artist began in the early Eighties creating performance works and art using turntables and breaking up and reassembling vinyl records. Now the vast factory-esque spaces of White Cube Bermondsey are echoing with Marclay’s multifarious riffs on the relationship between sound and vision, and how art can transform the meeting of the two.
Upon entering the white cube space the viewer is met with Marclay’s central piece the runs the length of the gallery like a street connecting you to various other works, of which there are many. This is an enormous show, that in fact Luc Tuyman’s recently described to Artlyst as ‘insane, like a museum space’. In the new video work entitled ‘Pub Crawl’ (2014), the artist kicks various cans and bottles down the street as he records his actions and the sounds he creates in doing so – this runs the length of the gallery – adding to the nature of a thoroughfare, these discarded vessels are hit, rolled and crushed, forming the sound track that echoes throughout the space.
The video work literally leads to all the other works: an arthouse cinema, a gallery full of the artist’s paintings, and a concert hall where musicians led by London Sinfonietta, gather every weekend to create experimental sounds out of a thousand glasses shelved around the space, each improvisation is recorded and pressed in a portable vinyl factory for viewers and listeners to take home. Audiences are in fact able to witness the unique process of producing these vinyl records, from the initial recording of the concerts, to cutting and pressing the records and even printing the sleeves – all on site – the latter being another connection between sound and image, with the concert and the process itself juxtaposing performance, again with sound and image. Marclay’s works form a neat equation.
The exhibition is multidisciplinary, and multifaceted, operating on various levels, through various mediums, all of which play with the nature of subjectively perceived sounds, and how they may relate to the viewer and to the art; Marclays paintings are also screen prints: the artist has appropriated cartoon-strip imagery and the dripping, pouring and splashing noises associated with gestural abstraction, the method of creation suggests an interplay between the art movements of Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art. All with a playful irreverence. Marclay creates references to auditory experiences that may have been found if you had hidden out in Pollock’s studio in the Late 40’s – but turns his ‘Absract Expressionism’ into comic book onomatopoeia – which in itself then references Pop Art. Certainly not too clever for its own good: as the resulting works have the lightness of Pop Art, only becoming more complex if the viewer decides to peal away the layers.
The highlight of the show, however, is the animation gallery in which onomatopoeia from cartoons are collaged into one enormous cascade, with sound building to a rumble. The work is an immersive video installation, which presents an all-encompassing assault on the senses. The words were scanned from the pages of comic books, then animated and choreographed in the artist’s computer, the words are made to act in the way they describe, and the result is literally ‘comic’, disorientating, and even disturbing. The ‘POPs’ pop like expanding cartoon bubbles, THUDs’ come crashing down, with ‘SWOOSH’s’ travel in wave-like undulations. All with the appropriate cartoon sound. Simultaneously. This is the strongest work on show.
This is probably the biggest show in town, and could be perceived as a game changer, causing multiple cold sweats in the many studios in and around London, and probably further afield. Marclay’s oeuvre has a thoroughly integrated concept, running through all the works in this show no matter what their medium, becoming a thoroughly expansive exhibition, filling the great halls of White Cube Bermbondsey, with *CLINKS* and *RATTLES* not to mention *PLOPS* and *SPLSH’s* – all of which add up to a truly immersive experience for the viewer.
Christian Marclay: White Cube, Bermondsey – until 12 April 2015
Words: Paul Black photo and Vine video : P A Black © 2015 all rights reserved