Upon approaching the White Cube Bermondsey on your next visit you’ll be greeted by a tree — it goes uncredited but there’s a newly installed mature trunk rich with foliage obstructing the North entrance on the corner of Lamb Walk and Bermondsey Street. There are trees inside too, palms revolving on rotating plinths at disconcertingly slow speeds. They intercept new neon works illuminating the South Galleries, opened up in this show to their fullest extent, allowing the work greater room to breath and for the polished concrete floor to mirror back the squiggles and forms the lights make up.
Back in 2010 Cerith Wyn Evans exhibited S=U=P=E=R=S=T=R=U=C=T=U=R=E (‘Trace me back to some loud, shallow, chill, underlying motive’s overspill…’) in the Masons Yard gallery and the piece not only audibly buzzed but it gave off a terrific heat. You knew you werenext to something of great power. The structures gained a greater audience at the Hayward’s Light Show three years later and I still remember the warmth as the lights came on and the sudden cooling when they were turned off. In this new show the illumination is constant and temperature unchanging. The artist has referenced Duchamp with Oculist Witnesses and its circular forms; with others he has concerned himself with the Japanese Noh Theatre and their movements. Like stop motion animation suits, the three dimensional squiggles are referencing arm movements and footsteps, turning something fluid and transient into solid and permanent.
Blink and you miss it, one of the gallery’s own ceiling strip lights outside the screening room has been rewired to stutter out a message in Morse code. The transcript of which has been more legibly transferred on to the wall and concerning itself with another of the artist’s ongoing themes, that of solar eclipses, celestial radiance and the movement of light or shade across the globe.
On such a grey miserable day there’s a lot to be taken from such bright positive works and where as Cerith Wyn Evans’ work here can be largely considered joyful, the straight faced output of Robert Irwin is more staid and literally dimmer. Exhibiting since the 1960s and using highly reflective acrylics and in this show strip lights, there is a more clinical execution with his work. A massive diptych Black Painting references Albers and other minimal champions from the era but carries too a modernism more akin to current product design and a slickness bringing to mind high concept packaging as much as art history. The void in fact is more reflective than consuming and the subject very readily becomes what you see back of yourself and surroundings.
In the 9 x 9 x 9 space Irwin has set up two acrylic columns and if anything these are even more invisible in the space than the last occupant’s. Imi Knoebel placed wall coloured forms out of reach towards the ceiling, Irwin’s slim towers need to be navigated around to be seen. It is only really in circling them, in seeing the gallery entrance or a door or another observer that the forms can be absorbed themselves. The press release quotes the artist as saying, “You don’t think about whether it’s art or not art. It’s just about what you’re seeing or not seeing.”
http://whitecube.com/exhibitions/cerith_wyn_evans_bermondsey_2015/ previews from tonight, running until November 15th