A contemplative mood prevails at Frieze Sculpture this fall, the tenth consecutive year the outdoor exhibition in London’s Regent’s Park has been curated by Yorkshire Sculpture Park director Clare Lilley. To mark the occasion Lilley has brought together 19 artists from ten countries and sought a strong representation of women and non-binary artists in this male-dominated field of public sculpture. (The ratio is not quite half-half but close.) The artworks fall into various themes. Text works predominate, proffering a mix of the absurd and poetic. SPACE MIRRORS MIND (2022) is a quietly profound, previously unseen, work by John Giorno with the titular three words engraved into a large chunk of glacial granite. There are also a number of lofty sculptures which conform to the more traditional notion of monument-in-landscape. Beverley Pepper’s marvelous Cor-Ten steel loop Curvae in Curvae (2013–18) and NH Harsha’s gold-painted ladder that arcs Jack-in-the-Beanstalk-like skyward, titled Desired for – Arrived at (2021), are two such.
Mythology and folklore are present, too, in works such as Matthew Darbyshire’s sculpture Hercules Meets Galatea (2022). Here the artist gives a contemporary twist to famous portrayals of these classical figures, portraying the virile strongman as a shifting, unstable amalgamation of layers (which were in fact made from polystyrene before being cast in bronze) compared with the assured, solid form of the sea nymph Galatea who sits calmly facing him. Works that invite public interaction is yet another strand of the show. Ron Arad’s playful cast bronze sculpture Dubito Ergo Cogito (2022) imagines the base of Rodin’s The Thinker after he has got up, leaving behind just the print of his buttocks and feet; members of the public can sit in his place ruminating on the meaning of life or just watch the world go by. All in all, an exhibition that has something for everyone.
Below, the best of what’s offer at Frieze Sculpture, which runs until November 13 in Regent’s Park.
Emma Hart, Big Time, 2022
Best known for her in-your-face ceramic sculptures that extend into the viewer’s space and anthropomorphize things like speech bubbles and megaphones, Hart has created five brightly colored sun dials with faces. Each face comprises a hemisphere with a pointy triangular cartoon nose for casting the sun’s shadow to tell the time and is positioned on top of a gray cuboid plinth. Although pared back to basics, Hart’s physiognomies exude oodles of character and convey emotion instantly. With its big white toothy grin over fanning orange, red, and yellow stripes, My Time seems pretty content, whereas angst is written all over Borrowed Time’s green and blue face split into a cross-eyed grimace. There’s an exuberant simplicity to the pictorial language formed by these faces, which convey our frustrations and joys with how we spend our time.
Correction: An earlier version of this article ran an incorrect image to accompany the description of Emma Hart’s Frieze Sculpture installation.
Péju Alatise, Sim and the Yellow Glass Birds, 2022
Alatise’s enchanting sculpture presents a series of window-like frames or portals into the fantasy world of a fictitious nine-year-old Nigerian girl, Sim, whose harsh daily existence is that of a domestic servant in Lagos. A poet, architect, and artist, Alatise was one of three artists to represent Nigeria for its first showing at the Venice Biennale in 2017 and exhibited her sculptural installation Flying Girls based on her first novel about a little girl who works as a housemaid. This artwork for Frieze Sculpture extends the theme of child labor and references Yoruba mythology in narrative texts etched on the four frames, three of which are shiny steel and one painted yellow. The yellow frame encloses two winged girls and in the top corner appears to dissolve into vines alive with butterflies and birds; the text on the side describes the “banana-shaped” moon “beckoning on the girls to come nearer and sit on its tail.”
Ro Robertson, Drench, 2022
This group of five welded sculptures partially painted in different shades of blue and white rear up from the grass at different angles like frothing waves and pool back into turquoise puddles. Carving diverse forms against the backdrop of landscape and sky, the sculptures seem to melt and flow in and out of their surroundings. In their practice, Cornwall-based Robertson explores the terrain of the queer body and these intriguing, shape-shifting forms resist simplistic binaries of figure and landscape, masculine and feminine, singular and plural, solid and liquid.
John Wood and Paul Harrison, 10 signs for a park, 2022
These two artists have created ten Beckettian signs that resemble public signage but subvert its typical bossiness with deadpan, absurd messages such as “You are reading these words,” “Daylight,” or “Some Thing to Look At.” Wood and Harrison have collaborated since 1993 and are renowned for their comical, meticulously choreographed performance videos that draw on the legacies of Dada, Minimalism, and performance art. This work invites us to reflect on the ubiquity of the signage that orders our lives with banal instructions and information and to ponder its purpose.
Pablo Reinoso, Speaker’s Corner, 2022
Reinoso’s five painted steel sculptures look like chairs crossed with trees, the back of the chairs rippling up and dividing into branches. The Argentine-French industrial designer is known for his “spaghetti benches” that take the bench form as a starting structure only to twist and twirl its slats into fanciful loops and tangles. This work, whose title Speaker’s Corner references the site in London’s Hyde Park where anyone can hold forth on any subject,evokes the idea of people coming together to engage in debates that might be sublime or whimsical.