Go See – Melbourne: Antony Gormley’s “Memes” at Anna Schwartz through April 23rd, 2011

April 14th, 2011

Antony Gormley,  MEME CLII (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

Antony Gormley‘s new work, a series of small iron sculptures, is being exhibited at Anna Schwartz Gallery from March 17th through April 23rd. The show’s title, “MEMES”, draws inspiration from the analogical relationship between genes and the unit of social information named memes–a cultural phenomenon that transmits information through self-replication and mutates in order to successfully adapt to its environment. These properties provide a syntactic framework for Gormley’s series, where he aims to set up a correlation between the dynamic and unpredictable meme, and the individual iron-cast sculptures.

More text and images after the jump…
Antony Gormley,  MEME CL (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

Antony Gormley,  MEME CXLIII (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

With these works, begun in 2007, Gormley presents his particular elaboration on the subjects of adaptation, meaning, and memory. The anthropomorphic sculptures are no larger than fifteen inches and, according to Gormley, reproduce elements from the formal language of architecture by substituting anatomical structures with successive polyhedrons. Every sculpture–thirty-two in total–depicts a different body position. Their formal genesis is not distinguishable, simultaneously making them all an origin and a replica. They are placed on the gallery’s floor, allowing the audience to walk among them and–because of  their small scale–they offer multiple angles for observation. Their positioning outside of the conventional range of vision reflects the artist’s intention of defying the viewer’s notion of comfort in the gallery. The visitors become self-conscious of their gait, they bend down to get a closer look, and inadvertently engage in a candid, ongoing performance.

Antony Gormley,  MEME CXL (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

Antony Gormley,  MEME CLI (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

The male body (more precisely, Gormley’s own body) has been a constant in the artist’s work (i.e. “Event Horizon”, installed in London in 2007, and in New York City in 2009). The cast replicas of himself, the primal entity, also give an insight into Gormley’s notions of spirituality. In an undated interview for Journal of Contemporary Art, he declares that “the self-referential ideal for art was a mistake as was the postmodernist obsession with language.” He also mentions that he “experienced consciousness at the center of a transitive field of energy in which the ‘me’ of the ordering mind was expelled.” The juxtaposition of these ideological stances with the recurring element of physical self-replication in his artistic production brings questions about his work portraying an implicit relationship between masculinity and the pursuit of self-perpetuation–shared by genes and memes alike–and its contrast with reproduction and gestation. It’s also pertinent to inquire about the distinction he makes between the roles of language and formal language in postmodern art.

Antony Gormley,  MEME CL (2011). Via Anna Schwartz Gallery

With “MEMES”, Gormley delivers an interesting exploration of an abstract and dynamic cultural phenomenon, through anthropomorphic sculptures cast in iron. In appearance, a contradiction, these static memes are a catalyst for unusual social behavior, as the visitors similarly adopt unconventional body postures–commonly associated with the private realm–while they observe them.

– M. Silva

Related Links:

Antony Gormley [Anna Schwartz Gallery]
Antony Gormley [Journal of Contemporary Art]