Approaching Stephen Friedman’s Mayfair gallery, one is greeted with a large glowing green neon reading “Mayfair Tennis Ball Exchange.” Just beyond the glass, row upon row of gentle green orbs peer back at the viewer, making up artist David Shrigley’s newest exhibition at the gallery. The show, which shares the title with that neon work, makes for a fascinating look at relational work and simple, comical iterations, long a hallmark of the artist’s work.
The evolving installation transforms two spaces in the gallery. Visitors are invited to bring an old ball to swap with a new one from the numerous shelves that line the walls. Gradually the rows of yellow spheres are replaced with misshapen and discolored forms that represent the joy of trade. Discussing the origins of this work, Shrigley explains: “My dog likes tennis balls. I throw them and she chases them. [Her interest is] more about exchange than possession.”
Toying with notions of commerce and community, the installation interrupts expectations of a gallery context. Participants are rewarded with a pin badge decorated with its title, in Shrigley’s distinctive handwriting. This text also appears in the gallery window in green neon letters that amplify the feel of a high street shopfront. Co-opting the aesthetic of a sign or advertisement, the ambiguous string of words undermines its informative format with mischievous humor.
In the second space a large-scale digital clock in the practical style of those at train stations or airports is visible from the street, mounted on the back wall. Although local time is set correctly, the display is illegibly out of focus. Whilst this useless object can be appreciated for its pure absurdity, it also hints at a slippage between personal experience and social consensus. Sparked by the artist’s own diminishing eyesight, the work speaks to those excluded from everyday conventions.
Continuing his long interest in upsetting and inverting relations of sense-making and understanding, the show is on view through January 8th.
– C. Rhinehardt
David Shrigley at Stephen Friedman [Exhibition Site]