Going Public: The Kirkland Collection

Graves Gallery
- , 2017

Tickets: Free

A private art collection comes out of hiding. Our review...

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Going Public: International Art Collectors in Sheffield is an ongoing programme of exhibitions that brings private art collections out of hiding and onto the walls of public buildings. What this means for the local culture vulture is that they can see works by world renown artists in the city's galleries. The most recent instalment of this project is Going Public: The Kirkland Collection at the Graves Gallery, so-called because the art is part of Jack Kirkland’s private collection.

Although the art in Going Public is privately owned, this exhibition actually takes a publicly owned work, Bridget Riley’s Rise, as its inspiration. Those familiar with Rise will know it is a patterned painting where coloured, horizontal lines express a sense of movement. And this piece echoes throughout the show, whether through the striking presence of Dan Flavin’s fluorescent light or Carmen Herrera’s perfectly constructed green lines.

Rise is not actually part of this exhibition (it can be found in Gallery 4 of the Graves), but another Riley painting does make an appearance. Red Overture oversees proceedings on the back wall of the second gallery, visible from the moment you step through the door. Its bold, sharp oil lines cut across the white canvas, drawing the eye. The other works seem to mimic it – Lara Favaretto’s scaffolding poles in PI lay on the floor beneath Red Overture like a reflection on a lake; Richard Tuttle’s How Red and Blue Become Yellow recreate the lines in a less symmetrical way, and Josef Alber’s Homage to a Square: Post Autumn plays with colour in painting.

In removing creations from a series or catalogue of works and placing them beside pieces by other artists, new dialogues appear. Suddenly, Abraham Cruzvillegas’s black-bottomed crates speak to the Ad Reinhardt’s Black, art made nearly 50 years before. And Lewis Baltz’s black and white photographs of silent office blocks depict square shapes that mirror Donald Judd’s steel box.

Very often patterns, form and shape speak louder than context or subject. Cruzvillegas’s Menu in Progress is made up of crates, boxes and square objects that once had a purpose. In turning them over, painting the base black and arranging them carefully on the wall, the object’s use is removed and it becomes part of a greater whole. The boxes are only painted on the base, so the original design can be spotted from the side, re-emphasising its move from functionality to artistry.

Likewise, Lewis Baltz’s New Industrial Parks finds motionless garage doors, bland machinery and constructed cladding, and turns them into repeating shapes and aesthetically pleasing patterns. Baltz’s use of black and white photography further highlights the form of the subject rather than its role, creating a sort of timeless world where no humans exist and office buildings appear constructed for admiration.

Going Public: The Kirkland Collection should certainly be celebrated for bringing outstanding work to Sheffield, but it should also be recognised for the brilliant, thought-provoking conversations that can happen when diverse artists share a space in a white-walled room.

Written by Hannah Clugston; August 21, 2017