Curatorial Art Practice in London
Curated by Andrew Bick, The North Sea exhibition was held at Laurent Delaye Gallery in October 2009.
Taking its cue from the seminal Hayward Gallery exhibition of 1980, Pier + Ocean, this show revisited the work of some of the artists included in that project. It also reflected Norman Dilworth’s original collaboration with Gerhard von Graevenitz on the Hayward exhibition as a way of exploring an Anglo-Dutch sharing of sensibilities rooted in Constructivism, and as the original title hints, the world of Piet Mondrian. Pier + Ocean was a very catholic take on what constructivist tendencies might mean at the end of the 1970´s and a look forward to where such tendencies might lead.
In a post-script to Pier + Ocean published for a small exhibition in Amersfoort in 1994 Norman Dilworth writes:
“But isn’t it true that some parts of Pier + Ocean live on in a different form? For the syntax as a subject in visual art, though in an altered form, can still be found anywhere where there is a context. Aren’t strategies and diagrams still used? Aren’t abstract principles of construction emphasised again in order to discuss critically the power of myths in art?”
Fifteen years after this was written the goalposts have moved at least a few times, but the questions that Dilworth was then addressing to the emerging worlds of Richard Long, Jannis Kounellis and Mario Merz seem more apposite to the current flux in art practice. An exhibition that was perhaps unfortunate to coincide with The New Spirit in Painting, and a general backlash against all things abstract, Pier + Ocean set out to examine the subtleties and ambiguities within constructivism and late modernism/early post modernism at a point when media and the public wanted new absolutes, however superficial. With hindsight its curatorial interplays and eccentricities seem far more interesting and apposite.
The intention of this small group exhibition is to act as a re-opening, across generations and positions, of dialogues and potential dialogues which have been overlooked or ignored. In 1980 it was probably easy to see Pier + Ocean as the end of an era rather than a broadening of possibilities emerging out of Modernist Constructivism, running, as it did, counter to the emerging trends of The New Spirit in Painting. Re-exploring those arguably unfulfilled possibilities now seems a necessary response to developments in contemporary practise, as well as offering the opportunity to reconsider artists whose work has been unjustly overlooked in the UK.