Elmgreen & Dragset: Harvest

3 out of 5 stars
Courtesy The Artists and Victoria Miro Gallery London Β©Elmgreen & Dragset Elmgreen & Dragset, Harvest, 2012

Elmgreen and Dragset's take on the tradition of the monochrome is a typically meticulous, cerebral affair – even if it is a bit like the proverbial watching paint dry. Using sophisticated conservation techniques, the Scandinavian duo have removed 14 large, rectangular sections of white paint from the walls of various public galleries around the world, and mounted them on canvas. A combination of monochrome and ready-made, then, brimming with institutional gravitas – yet also objects that are interesting for their purely physical, material qualities: from the glossy, softly scumbled surface of 'Tate Liverpool' to the pockmarking of Kassel's 'Kunsthalle'. Nearby, the museological theme jokily continues with a transparent 'Donation Box', filled with objects – sunglasses, an old trainer, a smashed brick – too bulky to ever fit through the coin slot.

In the upstairs space, the institutional tinkering is on a larger scale, with the gallery being de-evolved into a kind of hay barn (inspired by the building's original bare, wood-beamed ceiling), complete with hay-strewn floor and kitsch, agricultural motifs: rustic-looking furniture; a waxwork farm-boy sat on a ledge; farm-tools and horseshoes fixed to a timber-framed wall. The sense is of contrived, idealised versions of things, a deliberate air of theatre and artifice: the timber-framing spells the word kunst (art), and the whole diorama is overlooked by an evil-looking cast of a vulture entitled, a touch defensively, 'The Critic'. Yet it's never entirely clear what the artists' own position is – whether they're ridiculing rusticity itself, or simply the adoption of its iconography as a kind of aesthetic pose.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Defiant haystacks, more kunst than country.


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