I woke up yesterday morning to this article on Abstract Critical about the current Henry Moore exhibition at the Britannia Street Gagosian. A scathing and cynical review of what the writer described as an exhibition of ‘turds on a plaza.’ I decided that, despite the review, I had to go see it.
I grew up not far from Perry Green and so I am familiar with Moore’s super-natural forms rising out of green fields and grazing sheep. My curiosity for the exhibition came from a desire to see them transplanted into a white cube setting.
I have an uneasy relationship with Henry Moore and so I don’t blame John Holland for his disparaging review; there are times when I feel disgust at the largeness of Moore’s public sculptures created by a team of assistants, or I see him held up for comparison with Picasso and feel only despair. None of these things are critical or relevant in the case of Gagosian’s Large Late Forms. This is the art world’s version of a magic trick and its effect negates any intellectual reaction with an intense and surreal sensation of awe.
Moore’s sculptures (or should we call them monuments? They feel much bigger than sculptures) have a powerful relationship to negative space; their form originates in the odd, weathered holes of found flints, the loops and hoops and handles which make one piece of rock a natural sculpture while others are not.
In the fields these holes become viewfinders, shifting with the rhythms of the Hertfordshire landscape. In the matt white and shiny grey of Gagosian there is no comparable feature on the landscape, they look entirely alien, beached, stranded in the strikingly unfamiliar.
The best works here are the biggest, they only grow larger in the gallery space. They are suddenly more impressive, restless even, like giants bent under low roofs. The exhibition is exciting if only for that giddyingly odd sensation of seeing Moore’s Large Late Forms in a contemporary gallery. Our instinct is always to touch these giants, as Moore intended, but everyone is cautious here. The quiet reverence, the gallery attendants dressed like bouncers in black, all make me wonder if it is still acceptable.