Magazine article Art Monthly

Terry Smith: The Foundling

Magazine article Art Monthly

Terry Smith: The Foundling

Article excerpt

Terry Smith: The Foundling

The Foundling Museum London

7 October to 3 January

The Foundling Museum in London's Brunswick Square, although open to the public only since 2004, is located on the site of the original Foundling Hospital, established in 1739 as the first home in the UK to care for abandoned babies. William Hogarth, who was an early benefactor of this institution, was responsible for setting up within it the UK's first public art gallery. The building houses an important library devoted to another famous benefactor, the composer George Frideric Handel, as well as a large collection of paintings and antiques. Terry Smith's installation involves three components: a quartet of short video works, collectively titled The Foundling, 2009, displayed in the museum's dedicated exhibition space, a sound piece, String, 2009, located in the museum's central stairwell, and a series of photographic prints (also 2009) housed in the institution's cafe.

Although made especially for the museum, the works presented here were derived from a series of projects held in London and Venice, and Smith is keen to emphasise not only their evolved--and evolving--form but also their collaborative nature. Smith worked on this project with the composer and sound designer Ian Dearden and several other musicians, including Miguel Tantos Sevillano, as well as with the filmmaker Jonathan Callery. The critic and poet Mel Gooding supplied a new poem, parts of which are employed within The Foundling's third and fourth sections, notably the intriguingly titled 'Orpheus in Shoreditch'.

Despite the number and diversity of contributors involved, and regardless of The Foundling's quartered form, Smith has produced a video whose coherence is apparent, though its division into black and white and colour sections might have made it bitty and discontinuous. A better way to think about the piece would be to consider the four sections as being akin to a four-part musical score. Not only do the four parts of the work have strong individual moods, they also have compact zones of sound and silence, a clever mixing together (and holding apart) of imagery and aural event. Beginning with a number of bright abstract patterns that turn out to be out-of-focus streetlights, the viewer is taken through a complex weave of branches and trees, followed by a sequence of mostly still images of doorways, corridors and institutional bathrooms--the trees and corridors staged in a stately but restrained black and white. …

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