AO On Site – New York: Antony Gormley’s “Breathing Room II” at Sean Kelly Gallery, through May 1, 2010

April 13th, 2010

Antony Gormley, Breathing Room II, 2010. Installation view with lights off.

Currently on show at the Sean Kelly Gallery is an exhibition of new works by the preeminent British sculptor Antony Gormley.  This exhibition acts as a welcome compliment to Gormley’s current public art installation, Event Horizon, in Madison Square Park, continuing his career-long exploration of the human body in space. Conversely to Event Horizon, the Breathing Room exhibition investigates the human body confined within the boundaries of architecture. What is more, Gormley’s work is ostensibly the visual representation of how the body exists as a “bounding box of the mind” [Sean Kelly Gallery Press Release] and how architecture becomes fortification for the body.  Thus he draws parallels between the body and architecture, which are particularly well articulated in this exhibition.

Antony Gormley, Breathing Room II, 2010, Installation view with lights on.

More text and images after the jump…

Antony Gormley, Cast and Cast II, 2009. Photograph by ArtObserved.

The exhibition begins in two smaller gallery spaces, populated by some of Gormley’s newest freestanding works, where the artist translates the organic human figure into the abstract, geometric forms of the modern urban environment, in a contemporary take on the vitruvian man. In the first gallery the human form is still very obviously present, tall figures are constructed from a plethora of small cuboids of cast iron. These orthogonal shapes are stretched further and farther away from the human body in the second gallery where the more figurative Construct, 2009, is compared to the abstract Propose, 2009. However, Propose still retains the horizontal orientation of its counterparts and thus in our minds it is still related to our own forms.

Gallery owner Sean Kelly with Cast, 2009, at the exhibition opening. Photograph by ArtObserved.

Antony Gormley, Construct, 2009.

Antony Gormley, Propose, 2009.

The highlight of the exhibition is the Breathing Room II installation in the main gallery; here the artist’s stimulating play with the audience’s spatial awareness reaches its acme. The viewer enters the space, which has been blocked off by a wall, through a disorientating, dark tunnel (from which the more cautious may be tempted to turn back).  Through the pitch black of the main gallery a monumental framework structure glows gloomily to form a kind of three-dimensional drawing.  Five cuboid frames of aluminum tubing stretch along different interlocking axes, painted in Phosphorus paint that absorbs the 15,000 watts of brilliant light that flood the gallery on a ten-minute loop for 1 minute. The vision alternates between utter darkness and surprisingly bright light, each of which makes for a very different experience of the piece which they are allowed roam in and around freely.  As the gallery’s press release states: “The viewer becomes the subject in an experiential field that oscillates between the meditative and the interrogative.”

Antony Gormley, Breathing Room II, 2010. Installation view with lights off. Photographs by ArtObserved.

Video of Breathing Room II by Art Observed

Antony Gormley, Breathing Room II, 2010, Installation view with lights on. Photograph by ArtObserved.

Antony Gormley, Propose, 2009. Installation view. Photograph by ArtObserved.