Twenty international artists, fifty years in art that mark the gallery’s anniversary, a variety of media that play with the sense of space – the new exhibition at Southbank Centre, Space Shifters, opens on Wednesday, the 26th of September.

space shifters hayward gallery

Space Shifters transforms the gallery’s distinctive architecture by creating structures that disrupt the sense of space and provoke physical and physiological responses in the audience. Often minimalist in nature, they don’t succumb to its traditionalist spirit, steering away from geometry and soberness in favour of elegance and elaborate constructions that play with eye-deceiving effects.

Curated by Hayward Gallery Senior Curator Dr Cliff Lauson, with Assistant Curator Tarini Malik and Curatorial Assistant Thomas Sutton, the exhibition spans fifty years, inviting twenty artists working in mixed media (i.e. glass, resin, mirror) to alter the gallery’s open space. The structures on display feature historical and contemporary pieces, as well as commissions created exclusively for Hayward Gallery’s show.

“Space Shifters brings together a leading group of international artists who explore how we perceive objects, their surrounding spaces, and each other,” said Dr Cliff Lauson.  “These sculptures and installations together form a series of interlinked optical experiences across the Hayward Gallery that are as technically and aesthetically impressive as they are playful and pleasurable.”

Many of the displayed works reflect the distinction between the physical mirroring of an object and the thought process attached to it. At the entrance, 360° Illusion V by Jeppe Hein welcomes visitors with a rotating mirror sculpture reflects the space around it and the audience, drawing them into the world on the other side of the reflection. Anish Kapoor’s Non-Object (Door) distorts the space around the viewer, while his Sky, Mirror, Blue reflects the sky and the roof onto the gallery’s sculpture courts. Interactions of the Abstract Body by Josiah McElheny engages with a continuous performance of dancers clad in mirrored costumes which reflect the stationary sculptures around them.

The second gallery, a new commission by Daniel Steegmann Mangrané utilises the brutalist environment and gets inspiration from its elements to create a close relationship between the artwork and the surroundings. WeltenLinie by Alicja Kwade deceives with appearances, distorting and changing the visual impressions as the visitors walk around it.  But it isn’t only about the mirror reflections: De Wain Valentine’s Gray Column is a large-scale resin sculpture you can see through, while Robert Irwin’s Untitled (Acrylic Column) hides in the plain sight in the upper gallery, visible to the visitors through the refractions it casts.

Drawing attention to the 1960s Light and Space movement, a selection of the works of American artists shed some light on the experiments that it undertook. Helen Pashigian’s acrylic columns use the transparency of the material to engage with light and create optical illusions, Fred Eversley’s coloured lenses experiment with light refraction, while Larry Bell’s installation engages with the reflections and effects reflected around the viewers who enter the sculpture.

The exhibition offers another opportunity to see Yayoi Kusama’s creation: her Narcissus Garden consists of mirrored steel spheres that reflect the visitors walking up the gallery stairs. Monika Sosnowska’s PVC handrail also makes use of the stairwell, twisting around the handrail and extending onto the wall of the gallery space above it.
Using glass surfaces to experiment with colour, Ann Veronica Janssens uses reflective film and smashed glass for her Magic Mirrors, Roni Horn’s glass lozenge-shaped Untitled (“Everything was sleeping as if the universe were a mistake.”) juggle the relationship of time to space and light through repetition and pairing, while Leonor Antunes uses the gallery’s ceiling coffers for suspending exquisite brass shapes filled with light. A monumental installation 20:50 by Richard Wilson occupies the entire upstairs gallery, using recycled oil that reflects the building’s roof lights and the sky. It surrounds the viewer up to their waist when they walk through an aisle leading them through the pools of inky liquid.

space shifters hayward gallery

Space Shifters, 26 September 2018 – 6 January 2019. Hayward Gallery, Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road, London SE1 8XX. Opening times: 11am – 7pm every Friday-Monday and Wednesday, 11am – 9pm on Thursdays. Tickets (£16.50) available on the Southbank Centre website.

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