Artist Alex Hartley builds a Modernist ruin in a London gallery.
By Cassie Davies
Wedged into the bank of Victoria Miro Gallery’s waterside garden in London, artist Alex Hartley’s architectural intervention ‘A Gentle Collapsing’ looks like it’s been there for eons. The structure borrows ideas from Modernist architecture – open plan interiors, clean and horizontal lines – which Hartley has left vulnerable to the elements. His sculpture is shrouded in the pond’s jungle-like foliage.
‘It’s been quite a strange work to make because it sits so well with the planting that some people think it was always there,’ says Hartley. ‘The gallery has to explain what was pre-existing and what wasn’t.’
The faux-historical structure is a preview of Hartley’s show at the gallery, After You Left, which opens this weekend and reimagines Los Angeles’ iconic Modernist abodes as the ‘ruins of the future’.
Blurring architectural elements with sculpture and photography, the show explores the battle between the manmade world and the natural environment. We caught up with Hartley to discover what fascinates him about this eternal struggle.
‘A Gentle Collapsing II’ is part a string of pavilions you’ve created. How did the series begin and how it has developed?
Alex Hartley: I was commissioned by a collector in Kentucky and we started talking about making a building for his land – my proposal was to make a Modernist ruin. I was interested in the idea of the folly, and also in what these Modernist buildings might look like in the future.
The first one [in Kentucky] is a big, galvanised steel structure which stands where it is. I decided I wanted to make a series of them, which led me to think about how they might work together.
They’re informed by site visits and what would fit within the landscape. [‘A Gentle Collapsing II’] is like that too: its shape and structure is born by the landscape it’s built on. I lived on the canal for a while during the last show [in 2011], and since then the pond has been redone and given a jungle feel, which helped with making the structure.
Image: Alex Hartley, A Gentle Collapsing II, 2016, installed in Victoria Miro's waterside garden. Photography: Thierry Bal