Anya Gallaccio’s current exhibition ‘highway’ at Annet Gelink Gallery in Amsterdam, is a graceful expression of a personal journey through the life and career of this leading British artist. Widely known for the ephemeral nature of her chosen materials, Gallaccio typically emphasizes notions of permanence, time, and decay. Yet, in her fourth show with Annet Gelink Gallery a preference for transient organic material has been transformed into the opposing and unexpected material of stone.
‘highway’ is based on the transatlantic journey of one boulder that Gallaccio alienated from it’s original environment while on a road trip through the arid landscapes of America’s Southwest. The stone now appears as three corresponding sculptural forms together with a series of otherworldly black and white photographs at its new home in the distant and unfamiliar environment of lively Amsterdam.
At first, the beautifully simple and minimal content of the exhibition mirrors the wide-open and peaceful environment of America’s Southwestern landscape. However, on closer reflection one begins to consider the complex emotions experienced while taking a road trip through an unfamiliar land. The first sculpture is in fact in negative, where the boulder has been cast in concrete, and the mould is displayed with the red sands of the Southwest dusted over and into each crevasse. This work brought to mind Roden Crater by the great artist James Turrell, who’s ethereal works appear to be in the thoughts of Gallaccio while she negotiated her relationship with this foreign and unforgiving landscape.
The second sculpture is the original stone, blanketed with a broken car windscreen found buried in the desert. In contrast to the mysticism of the first work, the second sculpture is more closely associated to the classic notion of the all American road trip. Time, music and hallucinogens all came to mind, transporting the viewer to the passenger seat of Gallaccio’s car. What would be on the radio? Deep Purple perhaps, or maybe Led Zepplin…to this visitor there was clearly an underlying psychedelic, 1970’s California feeling to the works, which was most prominent in the few black and white photographs. Gallaccio created microscopic close-ups of dirt she collected during the road trip, that once printed, looked to be alien landscapes, images more closely associated with the Hubble telescope than to the vast lands of the Southwest.
“ I wanted to make landscapes with an epic sense of scale, or a strangeness, like planets, and remote unexpected worlds from these tiny particles, normally overlooked, literally under our feet.”
Eventually moving to the back of the space, there is situated a bronze cast of the boulder, reflecting a psychological landscape that Gallaccio has poetically intertwined into the physical nature of the material. The bronze boulder expresses a preference for unconventional natural materials in an exhibition setting, while cleverly incorporating the traditional sculptural medium of bronze, who’s historic application opposes commonly held ideas associated with Gallaccio’s work.
Not only does Anya Gallaccio convey a passage through the Southwest landscape, she also reflects a journey in herself, where ‘highway’ communicates the sense of navigating work and life to new grounds, constructing exciting paths filled with the unknown.