Disobedient Bodies: Jonathan Anderson Curates the Hepworth Gallery, Wakefield
Review by Michael Peter Johnson
Photo courtesy of The Hepworth Gallery
In a small town, nestled in the heartland of Yorkshire, disused pubs and old relics surround you, industrial markings of time gone by. After a short walk over the gushing, fast-flowing waterway, one of the most exciting designers of today has pulled together a monumental feat of curation.
Disobedient Bodies at the Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, is an exhibition that places you - the visiting, travelling figure - inside several inviting rooms, surrounded by a rhapsody of contemporary design. The show is epic in terms of scale with over 100 works on display, yet it is the invitation to listen to new conversations between pieces focused centrally on the body that provokes.
Conversational figures are juxtaposed to be in constant discourse. Established works from artists such as, Louise Bourgeois, Christian Dior, William Turnbull and Isamu Noguchi openly exposed; lean, sit, lay or hang out in relative harmony. Glance through the glossy chambers and you may feel the works are seeking conflict resolution, some questioning the ethics of politics or some just simply smiling at the other.
This is an exhibition that shows Anderson's refined, honed & honest tastes; a vital and exhilarating study of the human form, and the artistic response to the body in space. The moving body is also referenced in three videos of works by Martha Graham, Merce Cunningham and Samuel Beckett.
Photos courtesy of The Hepworth Gallery
Between the draping sheets of unused fabrics from JW Anderson workshop there are some obvious conversational starters. Situating a film of Scenario by Merce Cunningham with pieces from Rei Kawakubo's Comme des Garçons collection S/S1997 (also the costumes for the dance piece) is an unforgettable image. The gingham patterned pieces, lay serenely under a vitrine where Brancusi's cement work, Prometheus 1912 commandeers a weight & strength to the springy leaps and steps of the dancers. Playful twists and more challenging situations are abundant too, where Sarah Lucas work Ndudua, 2013 provokes a chat with polo neck pieces from Anderson's own S/S17 menswear collection.
At the centre of the exhibition, beyond Henry Moore’s 1936 Reclining Figure is a space full of 28 oversized jumpers hanging and rotating. It is in this forest of fibres, that you are allowed to touch and interact with the stitches, knits and tangible fabrics - Anderson perhaps encouraging you to also become a disobedient body. Choreographed postures and proportions are arranged to offer new propositions to the viewer. Throughout Anderson invites you to listen intently to these precious, sensual and morphing works in conversation and to observe their interactions. This prolific exhibit speaks about the violations in forms artists of all disciplines have exploited over the last century, in a figure we all know can misbehave, the human body itself.
DISOBEDIENT BODIES: JW ANDERSON CURATES THE HEPWORTH WAKEFIELD, 18 MARCH - 18 JUNE 2017