Magazine article Artforum International

David Batchelor: Ikon Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

David Batchelor: Ikon Gallery

Article excerpt

The title of David Batchelor's first major solo show at a public institution, "Shiny-Dirty," neatly encapsulated the beat-up brilliance of his trademark stacks of reconditioned light boxes and fleets of low-slung, four-wheeled monochromes. Expanding on this title, the artist's description of his work in a catalogue interview as "dirty readymades for shiny monochromes" signaled a conscious engagement with two of twentieth-century art's most significant forms. Batchelor's work is informed, though by no means governed by, his writings on the theory and cultural history of color. "Chromophobia I-IV," 2000, for example, a series of photographs of a roughed-up toy panda in a garish clown costume languishing on a sidewalk, was made the same year as the artist's justly celebrated book, whose title it borrows. Yet his work's consistent emphasis on accident and experiment, its embrace of the casual and the contingent, effectively distances it from the dictates of programmatic critical inquiry.

The first work the viewer encountered was also the most imposing. Brick Lane Remix, 2003, was an array of salvaged steel shelving units, bearing an assortment of light boxes and rectangular acrylic sheets of various hues, that oozed yards of cabling from the back. It had something of the brute swagger of a spruced-up inner-city doorman as one skirted around it in order to proceed into the gallery's other rooms. The resolutely urban nature and provenance of Batchelor's art was underscored by the works' titles. "I Love King's Cross and King's Cross Loves Me," for instance, is an ongoing series (begun in 1997) of painted acrylic sheets on secondhand dollies. Despite its knowing nod to Joseph Beuys, the title suggests an affectionate, if not celebratory, attitude to place (and a notoriously seedy place at that), rather than one intended as provocative or ironic. …

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