Gabriel Kuri, internationally acclaimed Mexican artist, has his first solo exhibition in a public gallery here in South London. Taking up three of SLG’s exhibition spaces, Kuri’s Before Contingency After The Fact fills the gallery with a sense of curiosity and intrigue for his rugged use of materials and space.
When I arrived at the gallery, I wanted to walk through the entirety of the exhibition without looking at pamphlets or information to see what my initial reactions would be and how they would change when I knew the artist’s ideas behind his work.
There was a flow to the gallery, the open doors made a sort of wind tunnel that seemed to carry me along through the main space, into the back garden and around to the studio. Kuri’s instillations were spread out on the floor, up the walls, and at one point, I even walked through one of his pieces, Untitled (Opening).
It was all very interactive, the pieces weren’t contained in a frame or set shape, and there was a lot of movement to them. I did not get a sense of welcoming or friendliness from the exhibition though. I had feelings of materialistic isolation. The materials he used repeatedly like cigarette butts, used water bottles, matches, and old voting booths made me think about modern day society now compared to that of society before man-made materials and consumer goods when all you had was what you could get from the land you lived on.
My initial reactions to his work fit well into his explanation of his pieces and the exhibition as a whole. Kuri’s main goal was to explore the relationship between ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ materials and resources and his sculptures used imagery and materials associated with housing, shelter, aid and economics to show this relationship.
In one of the first sculptures I noticed called Untitled (Platform), glass, stone, concrete and cigarettes were arranged in sheets looking like layers in soil or sedimentary rock turned on its side. Kuri used this to represent “found versus manufactured objects. Everyday and often ‘throwaway’ things were meshed with those which have been specially produced, bringing into question the value system which underpins our consumerist society.”
Much of my time spent in this gallery I felt I was constantly reminding myself that I was in an art exhibition because each piece was constructed with so many materials I walk by on the street each day but never pay any notice to. With the help of Kuri’s explanation of his pieces, I left the gallery with new ideas about my own disposable material possessions and the human instinct for ownership and personal belongings.
The Gabriel Kuri exhibition is running from 29 September- 27 November 2011. For further information please visit www.southlondongallery.org.