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The Los Angeles-based artist will cover the Barbican's Curve gallery with over 12,000 abstracted silhouettes made from exposing objects in direct sunlight
It must be daunting to try and fill the long, elliptic corridor that is the Barbican’s Curve gallery, but London-born, LA-based Walead Beshty has certainly given it a good shot. He’s drawn on his expertise in early photographic practices to create more than 12,000 cyanotype prints. All were made over the course of 2014 in the US and London, and all of are now covering, tip-to-toe, the Curve’s mighty 20-foot high wall.
To make the prints, UV-sensitive chemicals are applied to materials with porous surfaces such as newspaper and wood. A common object is placed on top of each sheet, then exposed to sunlight. The result is a white silhouette of the object against a beautiful cyan-blue background. There are many newspaper-based prints, but despite the headlines showing through – ‘World Leaders Shun Russia, Raise Pressure’ (Wall Street Journal), ‘Queen’s Fear Over Break Up of Britain’ (Daily Mail) – the show’s main focus is personal, not political.
What we’re seeing is the prosaic details of the artist’s day-to-day studio activity – the ghosts of ladders, priority-mail folders. And it all comes out looking very pretty indeed: gentle geometry, swirls and clouds, the ‘souls’ of appliances. But the overall effect is strangely distancing. It’s too tidy. As though all this stuff only serves to obscure Beshty, rather than connect us to him and his world.