In this edition of Things That Drive Me Crazy, we have the ridiculous statement from Lisson Gallery for artist Jason Martin’s Behemoth.
It isn’t that the work isn’t ‘good’, per se. I actually have nothing at all against it. In fact, just looking at it (left) I am intrigued! Why does this exist? What is it saying? I want to know more about the artist’s motivations!
Unfortunately the Gallery had other ideas. Behold: possibly the best-worst art statement of the year!
In a daring new work, Martin has dramatically transcended the two-dimensional. On arriving at the gallery, the visitor is confronted by the monumental, matt black, cubed block, Behemoth, measuring 3m x 3m at its base and over 2.6m high.
Whoa whoa whoa. Hold up. First: Matte. Not matt.
Second. It’s not a cube. It’s not a cubed block. It’s a block, period. I mean, how do you give those dimensions and still claim it’s a cube?!
Comprising layer upon layer of stacked virgin cork coated in pure black pigment, the squatting sculpture dominates its setting. The work is impossible to understand in a single perspective and the spectator is forced to negotiate its sides and edges, unable to access its top.
This is a really roundabout way of saying “it’s a black block of wood that you have to walk around”.
Simultaneously awe inspiring and intimidating, elusive and alluring, Behemoth accesses a shared primal memory: the Kaaba of Mecca, a mausoleum to a long dead dignitary, an inviolable alchemist’s box.
Initially solid and impenetrable, closer inspection reveals the gnarled, pitted unruly surface of the untreated, pigment-blackened cork, sourced from the area around Martin’s Portuguese studio.
Use your eyes. Not your crazy eyes, your real eyes. Does this look solid to you? Do you need ‘closer inspection’ to figure out this thing isn’t made of obsidian? Jesus christ.
Its natural undulations and inconsistencies echo the raw, worked, sculptural surfaces of Martin’s pigments. The form of Behemoth, and its physical presence in the gallery space, echo the theatrical preoccupations of Minimalist sculpture but the ancient and organic nature of the material conversely alludes to an inherent human narrative that belies these conceptual concerns. Behemoth marks a radical departure in Martin’s oeuvre.
And there you have it. You have managed to learn nothing about the purpose of the work, which is arguably the single most important piece of information a viewer can have when exploring a work of Contemporary Art. A word to gallery writers: Just as telling me how many pages are in a book doesn’t make it a book review, telling me the specs on a piece of art in the most condescending, paternalistic manner doesn’t make it a review of the art.