Pop in for Art

A visit to Wolverhampton Art Gallery proved to be, as usual, quite fruitful. Coincidence took me there on the same day the local paper announced the news that the new pop art gallery will go to planning commitee next week.

To promote the proposal there is an exhibition in the contemporary gallery of the usual suspects, including quotes on the wall from Andy Warhol and Marshall MacLuhan. At the back of the room is a plan and cut-away aerial view, showing the proposed design by Niall Phillips Architects. I’m encouraged by what I saw and hope Development Control treat it favourably. Although if it’s dealt with by whoever approved the monstrosity next to the market; anything could happen.

Triangular in plan, the new building sits in an existing courtyard space with one side parallel to the existing buildinq – the other two travelling towards the street and colliding just past the building line of adjacent properties. The wedges of remaining space will provide an interesting tension between old and new. You might describe it as being one third respectful, two thirds cheeky. Which seems like a fitting recipe for a building to house pop-art.

Inside, the gallery is top lit and there appears to be some form of internal brise soleil to control the sunlight on the walls. Using natural light in a gallery is notoriously difficult; let’s hope Niall Phillips can pull it off. Viewing the work in a triangular space should be interesting and I’m looking forward to seeing the pieces chosen to face each other in the corners. Could be a happy marriage, could be Clash of the Titans. Either way, there is a danger that the form will negate the program. It wouldn’t be the first time this had happened with a gallery design, just ask Guggenheim. Often called the ‘mother of all arts’, Mother Architecture sometimes forgets that her children should be given the space to grow up on their own.

The main gallery is currently running an exhibition called ‘Forest’. A mixed bag really, but there are one or two items worth a look. Such as, Colorado Impression No. vi by Dan Hays and The Wax Room by Ken Parsons.

Hays’ work was inspired by Googling for his own name on the internet and finding another Dan Hays who’d published pictures of his home town, Colorado, on a web site. The resulting landscapes are painted pixel by pixel, as if produced by digital rather than analogue means. From across the room their form is quite clear, but as draw nearer you realise they’ve been heavily compressed; the jpeg algorithm forming new landscapes at the boundaries between objects. It’s equally captivating from any distance.

Stepping into Parsons’ Wax Room made me wish I’d worn my flares. Psychadelic and hippyesque1, the walls and ceilings are covered in back-lit, kaleidascope like panels depicting different types of landscapes. Scatter cushions are provided for you to sit on whilst you listen to the voice over tell you about the imagery, in between the rise and fall of atmospheric music. If you have an Afghan coat; wear it. All that aside, the detailing of the panels is a delight and each is executed with care and rigour.

Later, in the cafe on the fourth floor, whilst I struggled with the metaphysics of popforestart2, my nine month old daughter struggled with the physics of cucumber slices.

The beginning of this entry was accompanied by a cup of Gunpowder green tea and a Martin Joseph CD playing on the stereo3. It was a little bitter to begin with, but mellowed after I’d had something to eat. I’ll leave you to guess which one I’m talking about.

  1. Yes, I made this word up.
  2. Yes, I made this word up as well.
  3. One of the first CDs I ever bought was by Martin Joseph, it was called Dolphins Make Me Cry. I was clearly a rather melancholy teenager. Strangely, he was on Radio 2 again the morning I posted this entry.

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