It is billed as London’s biggest sculpture show and ‘a museum without walls’. True, there are no walls, except hedges, bushes, shrubs and trees, but there are reasonably discreet barriers around some of the works, but then these are re-emphasised by red plastic cordons, as though guarding a hole in the road, which are most distracting and do nothing to help the piece of sculpture they are trying to ‘protect’. It must be most frustrating to design, plan and execute a piece of art, specifically to sit in an area of parkland, only to have it disfigured by badly-erected plastic fencing by some mindless parkie with his health and safety hat on. The twenty or so artists were selected and curated by Clare Lilley, Director of Programme at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, as she has done for the past two years, and there are some familiar names in the Park, like Bill Woodrow, Barry Flanagan, the ubiquitous Tracey Emin and Tracey Young, described by the Financial Times as ‘Britain’s greatest living stone sculptor’. Certainly, her Solar Disc III invites interpretation of earth, moon and a mother’s breast in a geological and geographical context using the natural textural qualities of the stone. Barry Flanagan RA became obsessed with hares; leaping hares, hares on crescent moons, hares on bells, hares on crescent moons on bells, hares on pyramids, and in the park he has a dancing hare atop a large disc atop three elephants, themselves balanced on conical stands and all mounted on another circular disc, all in bronze and done the year before he died in 2009 in Ibiza.
Another RA, Bill Woodrow, became not quite so obsessed with bees after going on a bee-keeping course, and, from 1996 has produced a number of works from his Beekeeper series, including Fingerswarm, and now, in the Park, Celloswarm, both in bronze and gold leaf, which does exactly as it says on the caption. Tracey Emin’s lumpish bronze When I Sleep, is an ugly piece of work, some 4m. long of ill-considered amorphous deformity. In contrast, Jodie Carey has a delicate, brittle, filigree work cast in bronze, from a cord buried in the earth, a variation of which was displayed at the Foundling Museum last year, referencing the fragility of life. The Hatchling by Joanna Rajkowska is a giant, blue-mottled blackbird’s egg, that was meant to emit tweeting, but was obviously sleeping when I put my ear to the shell. There are a couple of ‘fun’ exhibits, namely Tudor Ball by Lars Fisk, a hysterical half-timbered thatched cottage, including red geraniums in window boxes, but all in the shape of a sphere. A full-scale replica of an E-Type Jaguar from a Matchbox model entitled Mnemonic Vehicle No.2 by Brazilian artist Vik Muniz is a puzzler, as to why? One could ask the same question of the late American Pop Artist Robert Indiana, whose ONE Through ZERO comprises giant metal numbers mounted on shallow plinths and arranged in a circle, like a wagon train. A 3-metre-high bronze called Receiver by Pakistani-American artist Huma Bhabha references ancient sculpture and sci-fi., but is really just a mess of mixed metaphors. More satisfying is Leiko Ikemura’s Usagi Kannon II, a sort of rabbit-woman with a bent ear, a sad face and wearing a perforated bronze tent-like dress, under which one can go. Another car-based sculpture is Autonomous Morris by Zak Ové, is a sculptural montage of automotive body-parts, including classic VW Beetle and Morris Minor bonnets, and, when seen from the front, ressembles a totemic mask.
As with any mixed show, there are bound to be works that please, challenge, bore, amuse, frustrate or anger, and this, the third Frieze Sculpture show, provides all of the above, from a frivolous 3-metre-high white-painted bronze rendition of a children’s storybook character My Melody, Hello Kitty’s best friend, by New York-based sculptor Tom Sachs, to three cut and polished limestone boulders from Lithograph City, Iowa, mined by the Scottish artist, Lucy Skaer, which is at the mundane end of the scale, so there is something for everything.