Richard Deacon explores innovative re-fabrication in Some Time

ANTWERP – With technological development growing at an ever-faster pace, innovation is increasingly associated with groundbreaking discovery, and often relegated to the high-tech realm.

Richard Deacon’s work on the other hand shines light on a different way to innovate – through an artistic strategy that revolves around re-fabricating. While some might view re-fabrication as an act of restoration rather than invention, Deacon’s sculptures demonstrate that innovation does not necessarily need to correspond to novelty per se. To rethink and remake allows new meaning to transpire, and so corresponds to a form of innovation in itself.

On the left stands Richard Deacon's I Remember (2013), with Morning Assembly (2008) on the right.

Deacon’s latest exhibition, Some Time, takes place at Antwerp’s Middelheim Museum and consists of 31 works of contemporary architecture dispersed in the museum itself as well as its vast outdoor sculpture park. Many works in the exhibition are either wholly or partly based on re-fabrication, which allows them to produce new possibilities for new audiences when it comes to meaning.

Bronze Skin (2002). The sculpture was originally made out of cardboard and then cast in bronze (the original cardboard marks are still visible).

When The Land Masses First Appeared (1986) was first built with wood. Due to the material's short lifespan, Deacon re-fabricated the sculpture using plastic.

The show also revolves around a new commission, namely the resurrection of Deacon’s sculpture Never Mind. Originally made out of wood and recently re-fashioned with stainless steel by the artist specifically for the exhibition, the work epitomizes the concept of re-fabrication at the heart of Deacon’s work.

Never Mind (2017) was also previously made out of wood. Due to its being an outdoor sculpture, the wood began to decompose and lose its original look, causing Deacon to remake the sculpture with stainless steel.

Continuous with this concept of re-fabrication is the notion of variation, equally important in the artist’s work and also illustrated in his Infinity series, which consists of 35 works that appear similar at first glance, but reveal themselves as different from one another to various degrees when juxtaposed. Never Mind relates to the theme of variation in a relatively similar fashion; as a retake, a new perspective and a return to a past form in order to further innovate.

Two of Deacon's Infinity sculptures, similar at first glance, but different from up-close: illustrative of the concept of variation that underwrites the artist's work. 

On the left I Remember (1) (2012), and on the right, Tomorrow And Tomorrow And Tomorrow (2000).

Deacon purposely stresses the making, or fabricating, of his sculptures by flaunting their materials’ quirks. Screws and rivets are left visible as reminders of the process of creating art. Such an emphasis on transparency is illustrated in his twisted wood sculptures pictured above, and highlights the dialogue between artist and material at the heart of Deacon’s work.

Some More For The Road (2007).

Deacon refers to himself as a fabricator, and his work continuously tests the resilience of not only materials, but also of language and the significance we attach to objects – which is very often socially constructed. Deacon places equal emphasis on language and on the material presence of his works, as communicated by his sculptures’ poetic titles as well as the vinyl record he made to coincide with the launch of the show, on which he recites the name of every work he has ever produced in alphabetical order.

Deacon's limited edition vinyl record Something for Everyone was produced for the 2017 exhibition.

Location Middelheimlaan 61, 2020 Antwerpen, Belgium

Richard Deacon: Some Time is on show at Middelheim Museum in Antwerp, Belgium, until the 24th of September 2017.

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