Alex Hartley ‘After You Left’ at Victoria Miro, London N1

In the lecture he gave us about his practice, Alex Hartley gave us a preview of this show at Victoria Miro. I had already seen the installation in the garden, which  was installed back in October, so the new elements were the paintings and the sculptures.

The paintings are made with black and white photographs of modernist buildings, mounted with a layer of Perspex which has been painted. Hartley talked about one of the contradictions of modernist houses with glass walls and large windows: the desire for privacy meant creating boundaries in some other way, within the home or further out, with hedges and trees. These works keep us at a distance from the buildings but in a  gentle, serene way.


Miller, 2016


Stahl, 2016


Eames (South Elevation), 2016













The painting on the surface of the Perspex picks out the elements of nature in the scene, creating a softer organic frame for the buildings they highlight and yet conceal. Within the painting are some lovely delicate drawings


Detail of Eames (South Elevation), 2016


Detail of Yew, 2016







There were also three small sculptures, like details of the architectural installation in the garden, associated with large black and white photos of lush nature.


The Present Order, 2016


Detail of The Present Order, 2016








I think I understood the idea of these works better second time around: there is a nostalgia for the ideals of modernism, that is different from nostalgia for other architectural/cultural movements, because of modernism’s optimism and overt intent towards progress. Its failure or decay is therefore particularly poignant.