Michael Craig-Martin, Waddington Galleries
Michael Craig- Martin’s influence on contemporary British art has been considerable. He produced several important conceptual works but more significantly, as the head of the art school at Goldsmiths College for much of the Eighties and Nineties, he taught and helped promote the likes of Gary Hume, Damien Hirst, Fiona Rae, Ian Davenport and other “art stars” of that era. And indeed both the blank aesthetic of his own work and his willingness to engage artistically with the stuff of everyday life are characteristics echoed in the work of his former students.
The nine works on show are large, two-dimensional sculptures that function like drawings. Highly stylised representations of everyday objects such as trousers, bicycles and ladders are fashioned in thin steel. These outline shapes are mounted on the walls in front of brightly painted strips of aluminium to create the finished pieces.
Private Dancer, the first piece you see as you enter the gallery, looks much like its title sounds and is wonderful in its awfulness. The form of a pair of Walkman headphones is completed by two strips of painted metal, one in mauve, the other in mint green. Less offensive in its colouring is French Trousers, where the outline of a pair of trousers hangs down from a coat hanger, along with two metal rectangles painted blue and red.
Other more complex pieces combine these modern pictograms with canvases, some entirely monochrome, hung within aluminium frames. But the aesthetic universe that these works inhabit is one of uniform simplicity and flatness where differentiation and hierarchy are unknown. He affords the same status, for example, to a man in a suit as he does to, say, a coat hanger.
In Craig-Martin’s case, this flat-world aesthetic is the product of his personal artistic journey, through a conceptualism that was born from his respect for minimalism and that transmuted into the kind of intellectualised pop-art represented by this work. But as a child of the Sixties, Craig-Martin was luckier than his famous ex-students who, as children of the Eighties, one suspects, saw this bland and object-filled vision of the world as perhaps the most honest depiction of it.
Until 9 November. Information: 020 7851 2200.