A sparse aesthetic vocabulary belies conceptual complexity in the work of Liam Gillick (British, born 1964), in which distilled elements of utopian modernism, power ideology, social interaction, and corporate production make up a constellation of open-ended proposals. His work references function, then departs from it; mines architecture, but prioritizes aesthetic; suggests known structures, only to abstract them; proposes narratives, then fragments, rearranges, and corrupts them. Alluding to iconic mid-century modernist architectural forebears, such as Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, and the Minimalist sculptors who followed shortly thereafter, such as Donald Judd and Carl Andre, Gillick’s three-dimensional objects tend to be industrially fabricated in materials such as steel, aluminum, and Plexiglas and to take the shape of autonomous platforms, shelves, cubes, and architectural interventions on walls, floors, or ceilings. Emerging from the dynamic arts program at Goldsmiths College, University of London, in the late 1980s, Gillick expanded into social sculpture, cultural critique, and “Relational Aesthetics,” the critic Nicolas Bourriaud’s term for art within a context of relationships. Gillick’s process of creating and producing his commissioned objects is an intellectual and participatory one, catalyzing collaboration and engagement with both the commissioning institution and the public. His sculptural works—in combination with his excursions into writing, architecture, design, film, and music—propose a network of phrases, sentences, and paragraphs that critique a set of idealistic objects and ideas implicit in our lived environment.
For his two-part exhibition at The Contemporary Austin, Gillick has taken on the rich and complex identity of Laguna Gloria, a site with a historic Italianate villa and twelve acres of lush, semi-wild landscape bordered on three sides by water. At the Jones Center—on view in the video gallery and as audio projecting from the first-floor soundscape—is the second in a series of films the artist has produced dealing with specific architectural sites toward the construction of new, speculative narratives addressing territory, power, and change. At Laguna Gloria, Gillick has created a multicolored, powder-coated steel platform structure, with the participation of the museum as well as local architects, engineers, and fabricators, installed at the base of the Driscoll Villa stairs on the shores of Lake Austin. With its colorful fins and geometric forms, the work is a surprising architectural insertion into the site’s natural beauty, inviting the wayward wanderer to sit, play, or take shelter beneath it.
—Heather Pesanti, Senior Curator
Liam Gillick (British, born 1964 in Aylesbury, U.K.) currently lives and works in New York. He is perhaps best known for a traveling retrospective titled Three Perspectives and a Short Scenario, shown at the Kunsthalle in Zurich, the Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art in Rotterdam, and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago in 2008-09, and for his installation in Germany’s official Pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale in 2009. His books include Meaning Liam Gillick (MIT Press, 2009). His collection of bags, accessories, and knitwear was launched at Art Basel Miami Beach in 2011.