In the White Cube

On Saturday was in St James and stopped in at the West End White Cube ‘Mason’s Yard’ and caught the last week of Doris Salcedo. A new name to me and this show definitely had an unusual quality.

I have to say that I can’t help feeling that White Cube is enemy territory. I’m not sure why. All I know is: it’s not white and it’s not a cube and I don’t trust it.

A Rose by any other name

A Rose by any other name

Doris’ work was suitably enigmatic and large scale. Upstairs was a large floor sculpture – a sort of giant mat of treated rose petals sewn together. There is even at this late stage in the exhibition, a lingering smell of flowers and also of some sort of embalming the exact nature of which remains a Colonel Sanders-like trade secret and about which we are clearly invited to speculate. It is very dead.

Downstairs there is by contrast an installation of small green shoots pushing through tiny holes a maze of upturned tables in a windowless basement. Economic pun intended? You might very well think that but I could not possibly be sure.

Installations like this have to catch me at the right moment, in one of those very rare receptive moments. This did not, I took away a slight suggestion of life struggling in adversity only to be plucked in its flower to be embalmed by artists and turned into something else entirely…the roses gave their petals for the association they give but their life is gone. And that really is the difficult bit – turning the base metal of raw materials into some sort of artistic gold. Where life is transfigured, but not lost. When you use things to represent themselves the absence of artistic life can sometimes be very palpable.

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