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.
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
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.
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.