With her recent show, “Flat Peach,” Claire Barclay engaged viewers in a teasing formal game before they had even entered the gallery. The Glasgow-based artist partially obscured the gallery’s floor-to-ceiling front window with a gesturally applied coat of mirroring paint, which, seen from the street, immediately reasserted the easily forgotten physicality of the glass while its reflectiveness at the same time effectively evaporated it. The paint blocked much of the interior view, so that it was only upon entry that the solid structures of Flat Peach I and Flat Peach II (all works 2010) could be clearly seen.
These objects—darkly stained wood-and-aluminium structures with additional elements of fabric, leather and sinamay (a stiff cloth often used in millinery)—are domestically scaled, their simple armatures recalling ambiguous sections of furniture. Draped with quilted, pillowlike forms or adorned with sinamay hemispheres and leather sheaths that could refer equally to interior design or highly stylized prosthetic body parts, the sculptures were accompanied by a number of framed screenprints. Their simple forms, depicted in overlapping layers of ultra-flat black, pink and punning peach ink, echo shapes found in the sculptures, and evoke, among other things, windsocks, fingers, food packaging and genitalia.
Three smaller-scale sculptures, also in stained wood and aluminium, and additionally accoutred with fabric, glass and foil elements, could be found riffing on similar concerns in the rear gallery. Soft Group, Clean Lean and No Place for Blush sat in close relation to the floor, emphasizing not only the reference to furniture but also an engagement with the work of 1960s British “New Generation” sculptors like William Tucker and David Annesley. More screenprints lined three of the four walls, again playing a back-and-forth game with the sculptures where referents mixed and blurred. (What one moment recalls a cigar suddenly looks like a rubber club or an unrolled condom.) Crucially, the overlapping layers of ink in the prints echo a process of covering that also occurs in a variety of guises throughout the sculptures. From the clothing of machined metal in snugly tailored sheaths to the staining of wood to match that found in the gallery, Barclay displays an inventive repertoire of gestures where to cover or coat is to simultaneously mimic, mirror or repeat.
Take the wooden parquet blocks found in Flat Peach I, Soft Group and No Place For Blush, which are exact copies of those in the gallery’s existing floor, and tessellated to marry perfectly with its patterns: a meta-flooring which, like the mirrored front window, both highlights and masks its original. Revelation and disguise collapse in on each other nowhere more perfectly, however, than in the small aluminum units that dot Soft Group’s wooden structure. These pieces of machined metal—which resemble chocolate owls and bunnies as much as engine parts—find themselves in various states of undress, in the process of being unwrapped/wrapped up in sheets of aluminum foil screenprinted with their own likenesses. These foil husks accompany the objects like shed skins, warped casts, crumpled silhouettes; simple items that fray into complexity under the close scrutiny into which Barclay seduces her viewers.
Photo: View of Claire Barclay’s exhibition, showing Flat Peach II (left) and Flat Peach I (right), both 2010, aluminum, stained wood and mixed mediums; at Stephen Friedman.