Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Making & Unmaking, Camden Arts Centre, London (19 June-18 September 2016)

 Making & Unmaking (installation view)

I am a huge fan of textile art, from Ghada Amer’s sexually explicit needlework canvases, Louise Bourgeois’s fabric works and soft sculptures, through to Sarah Lucas’s Bunny and Nuds series.  On reading that Camden Art Centre’s summer exhibition “Making & Unmaking” was to feature a collection of work including painting, tapestries, traditional fabrics and ceramics and with Dorothea Tanning, Wangechi Muti and Sheila Hicks among the sixty artists featured, this was an exhibition which I was determined not to miss.
 Saint Louis (2015), Luis Monteiro

Taking up all three galleries as well as pieces in the central space and garden, “Making & Unmaking” was huge.  From West African textiles, Bauhaus jewellery to contemporary portraiture and sculpture and addressing themes that included portraiture, gender, sexuality, overall the exhibition explored the rituals of making that underpin an artist’s work, rather than being about textile art as a genre.  Curator and fashion designer, Duro Olowu brought his skills from both disciplines and brings together seemingly disparate artists into his eclectic vignettes, with sophisticated aplomb.  This interlacing of ideas, eras and influences (and materials) created a visually rich and stimulating mix.
Personal favourites included Étreinte (1969) by Dorothea Tanning (no surprise there) and Yinka Shonibare’s Butterfly Kid (Boy) II (2015).  I also really enjoyed Luis Monteiro Saint Louis (2015) video.

Top: Étreinte (1969), Dorothea Tanning    Bottom:  Butterfly Kid (Boy) II (2015), Yinka Shonibare 

However, as I walked through the galleries I started to wonder if there was too much on display and perhaps, just perhaps, the multitude of materials and textures was a little suffocating.  I found the decision to keep information on each wall of artists/works to one grouping at the end of each, rather than providing a sheet you could walk around with, very frustrating.  I think having to constantly return to one source of information while viewing definitely contributed to the premature arrival of gallery fatigue (along with the intense heat in the galleries themselves), which I haven’t felt for a long time at an exhibition.
Despite this, I would still recommend this exhibition.  Oluwo’s vision and passion have brought together rarely seen work in an ambitious format with surprising juxtapositions, which (labelling and temperature issues aside), Camden Art Centre excels at giving a platform to.

Making & Unmaking (installation view)

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