REVIEW: Richard Deacon_Tate Britain
Review: Richard Deacon_Tate Britain
A retrospective exhibition of the work of Richard Deacon over the past 4 decades.
The exhibition of around 40 pieces includes sculptures of different sizes, with varying materiality as well as a number of sketched studies. It follows on from the exhibition of fellow experimental British sculptor Alison Wilding, who also focuses on materials and manipulating them in a different way.
Since winning the Turner prize in 1987, Richard Deacon has produced some of his strongest work, combining techniques and materials from his past. This is highlighted as is his evolution of form and expression from the 70’s until the present day.
It starts with a series of numbered sketches under the heading It’s Orpheus When There’s Singing (1978-9), accompanied by Untitled (1976-80) sculptures in wood, galvanised steel and concrete. The progression from sketch to sculpture is clear, expressing smooth curves with the connections of elements when visualising in 3D. As the exhibition unfolds the pieces are executed with further materials such as textiles, marble and ceramic. Forms become more complex and there is an increased refinement to the connections and finishes applied.
Finally, rooms 5 and 6 see Deacon’s ideas throughout the exhibition coalesce, finding success in working with curves in wood and sharp geometry in steel. The exhibition’s largest installation, After (1998), is an elaborate construction in wood resembling the writhing skeletal form of a snake and Two By Two (2010), a bold, angular framework which juxtaposes yet subtly combines sections of galvanised and stainless steal. In this and the final piece, Fold (2012), the significance of Donald Judd, Deacon’s biggest influence, can be clearly seen.
A well curated retrospective, with a few carefully selected important works; the viewer is able to significantly explore each piece and not become overwhelmed with information. The gradual progression of Deacon’s sculptural exploration leads the viewer to excitedly anticipate what’s around every corner. Each time a new and refreshing surprise awaits.
Text: Alex Wateridge. Photography: Tate Britain