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reviews richard hughes
richard hughes
anton Kern gallery, new yorK
28 novem ber – 12 January
I was midway through writing a preview of Modern Painters, Tate Britain’s wooden edges of the pots smashed up and almost indistinguishable from
current survey of the Camden Town Group, when I went to see the first their craterous soil. The Big Sleep (2007) is created from a sagging mattress
US solo outing by that very British sculptor, Richard Hughes; Walter that has started to sprout a delicate covering of grass and mushrooms. And
Sickert was particularly on my mind, as he cast a long shadow over British Broken Circle (2006) brings together three slimy stones – two of them tall
painting. I’d supposed, though, that the sombre eminence had given his and chillingly anthropomorphic in dimension, one small and hollowed out,
last in influencing the likes of Auerbach and Kossoff, and yet here, at Anton supplying room for a puddle.
Kern, is that familiar anecdotal tone, the grudging love of everyday life, the All this is very evocative, but then Hughes is, essentially, a sculptor of
‘kitchen sink’ palette. Indeed, I could almost convince myself that it was evocation: while there are objects in the show which might have Duchampian
Sickert’s ‘music hall’ paintings that had prompted Hughes to create his ancestry – like Far In (2007), a ship-in-a-bottle routine executed with a
centrepiece, the vile and brilliant panorama Slouching Back (2004). Using pair of Converse boots – Hughes isn’t so interested in formal, sculptural
as his foundation a billboard layered with posters for West End musicals, problems. That’s most clear in Crash My Party You Bastards (2004), a small,
Hughes has torn it back to create a huge, glowing sunset accented with trashed room holding a collection of objects which combine, through
purple and pink and interspersed with shrill advertising copy. And in front a pictorial, anamorphic device, to create a human face. But in searching
he has erected a mound of soiled, coverless duvets stitched with the motto for his images, Hughes, like any romantic – no matter how manqué – is
‘Just let your self go’: popular theatre has declined into feel-good wallpaper, inclined to reach back in time. He means to update, and in parts he is very
while right outside the stage door is the real pressing subject of transience successful, but at times his London seems fuzzily reminiscent of the 1980s.
and poverty it chooses to ignore. It’s a city of crisis and crumbling infrastructure, of homelessness and labour
If Slouching Back is a landscape constructed from the materials disputes, of dropout travellers and litter. Intentionally or not, it feels like
of discarded culture, there are many other objects in the show which Hughes has drunk from the well of traditional artists’ impressions of the
suggest an ugly interpenetration of nature and culture. Dead Headz (2007) capital, and the result is something that, at least in parts, Walter Sickert
comprises two planters bearing dried-up and foul-smelling hydrangeas, the would have recognised. Morgan Falconer
Tomorrow Came, 2007,
fibreglass, epoxy resin,
acrylic paint, enamel,
pigment, stuffed pigeon,
110 x 41 x 112 cm.
courtesy anton Kern
gallery, new york
artreview 162
march_REVIEWS.indd 162 5/2/08 13:57:50
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