Rasheed Araeen ‘Before and After Minimalism, 1959 – 1974’

Rasheed Araeen’s solo exhibition ‘Before and Beyond Minimalism: Drawings, Painting, Sculpture and Concepts, 1959 – 1974’ focuses on the first 15 years of Araeen’s artistic practice. This ranges from works he made in Pakistan that drew on his training as a civil engineer such as ‘My First Sculpture’ to his encounter with the works of Anthony Caro in 1965 and the works Araeen subsequently conceived such as ‘Sculpture No.1’, ‘First Structure’ and ‘Second Structure’. The exhibition then traces Araeen’s introduction of the kinetic into minimalism, initially through works such as ‘Char Yar’ and ‘Lovers’ where the viewer could theoretically change the configuration of the serial elements that constituted each work.

After 1970 Araeen’s works such as ‘Chakras’ increasingly tended to leave the confines of the gallery space and continue his fusion of minimalism and kineticism outdoors. Writing on the occasion of Araeen’s retrospective at Birmingham’s Ikon Gallery in 1988, Patricia Bickers argued that “The formal language Araeen began to develop during the Sixties owed much to his critical awareness of Modernist discourse about abstraction, particularly the theories of Mondrian and the Constructivists. Such ideas were then still current in England…”1 Araeen himself has pinpointed the influence of Anthony Caro on his developing practice: “I have often talked about my encounter with Anthony Caro’s work after I arrived in London in 1964 and its influence of what I myself subsequently arrived at in 1965, which turned out to be a form of sculpture that later became known as Minimalism.”2 For Araeen, it was not so much the form of Caro’s sculptures that were interesting but his use of engineering material such as steel girders which, as Araeen recalls, “had the appearance of having been picked up from a discarded heap of demolished engineering works.”3 At the time Araeen was working as a civil engineering assistant in London, producing drawings of industrial structures. The two influences of Caro and his day-job came together with the drawing for ‘Sculpture No. 1’, conceived in December 1968, which detailed four steel girders placed next to each other symmetrically. The drawing for ‘Sculpture No. 2’ was conceived in the same year and again showed painted steel girders, this time arranged in four stacked layers. Whilst Araeen acknowledged the influence of Caro and visited the ‘New Generation’ show at the Whitechapel he was, as Bickers writes, “opposed, on both aesthetic and ideological grounds, to the way that [Caro’s work
was] deployed which, despite the rejection of the plinth, was still traditionally compositional and hierarchical.” Instead Araeen sought non-hierarchical relationships between the elements in his work, in Before and After Minimalism.

This quest for the non-hierarchical would lead to a shift in Araeen’s thinking. Jean Fisher has linked this shift to the emerging spirit of the late 1960s: “Araeen’s sculptural solution to this search for a different spatial model was the invention of what he simply called ‘Structures’: open cube or rectangular modules that could be replicated and combined in ways that avoided a hierarchy of form…”.4 Araeen however, has also himself pointed to his own background as feeding into the form of these ‘Structures’. As an engineer he had used lattice structures in a window design he produced in Karachi in 1961: “I guess its connection with my sculptural work must be due to its presence in the chain of events that began in the fifties when I was studying civil engineering.”5 Araeen’s works from the late 1960s such as ‘First Structure’ (1966 – 67) and ‘Second Structure’ (1966 – 67) introduced diagonals, a lattice structure and negative space. The Structures were light, strong and corresponded to engineering principles. Like Fisher, Bickers has noted that the form of the structures themselves carried positive connotations through the ever-present possibility of being reconstructed at will into stable configurations.

Before and After Minimalism is Rasheed’s journey through this idealism.

Duration 17 September 2010 - 23 October 2010
Times Tuesday - Saturday, 10am - 6pm.
Cost Free
Venue Aicon Gallery
Address 8 Heddon Street London W1B 4BU, ,
Contact / / www.aicongallery.com/

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