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Split Piece

Peacock Trousers

Gabriel Hartley & Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom

1 July – 10 August 2011

Josh Lilley is delighted to announce the opening of Peacock Trousers a two-man exhibition at the gallery by Gabriel Hartley and Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom.

Sharing a graceful, and somewhat experimental approach to their practice where an irreverent humour, sense of performance, and enjoyment of colour are connecting threads, Peacock Trousers will feature 5–6 new large-scale sculptures by Gabriel Hartley, as well as an installation, film, and edition of photographs by Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom.

The first two gallery spaces contain works by Hartley whose sculptures appear to have been momentarily frozen in an act of collapse. Seemingly awaiting activation, they display an explicit monumentality in their inert states. Yet the power of Hartley's work lies in his ability to fill such minimally formal sculptures with a sense of character, with an emotional capacity, and with a sense of humour. These anthropomorphic works dazzle, tease and confuse with their sprayed and tarnished surfaces, and their contorted and irreparably bent limbs. Brancusi comes to mind, especially in the more totemic works on display and also in the use of coloured wallpaper downstairs, forming a backdrop for the presentation of the sculptures. Yet while Brancusi's works were etched out and carved from marble, bronze and wood, Hartley creates a sense of tension from a process which is not so readily identifiable.

They indeed seem as though they are made from metal, ceramic, wax or rock, when in fact the sculptures start with coloured sheets of paper, which are crumpled, folded or manipulated. These are then covered in resin and fiberglass, which are subsequently carved away or smoothed over, giving the effect of platinum metals or corrugated stone. The wallpaper consists of numerous drawings made from the same type of A1 paper from which the sculptures are constructed. The drawings call to mind the Frottage works of Max Ernst - using various surrealist motifs such as the eye, the key, and pairs of breasts. The Surrealist interest in cave painting is also alluded to here by Hartley, where he maximizes dramatic effect by placing these figures in front of the wall based drawings.

Just as Hartley seems able to conjure life or induce paralysis in his sculptures, so too do we see the more literal effects of performance in the installations, films and photos of Boakye-Yiadom. Enacting scenarios and actions upon ready-mades, Boakye-Yiadoms work deals with the after-effects of such happenings, reveling in the sudden absence of himself and the banality within the artists practice as a whole.

Boakye-Yiadom presents three works in Peacock Trousers. The first, entitled Peacock, is a set of 8 photographs each showing a low-lying lampshade with an increasing number of light bulbs perched beneath it. In each instance a different coloured glow emanates from the lamp casting a rainbow of colours over the whole series of works. The turning on of a light bulb is often seen as a sign of an epiphany, however in Boakye-Yiadom's work it is playfully deadpan through its straightforward construction. The work also references historical still life where the light bulbs have a similar composition to the classic fruit bowl. In traditional still life painting the light source comes from somewhere outside the composition, whereas in Peacock the whole subject is the actual source of light. Interrogation, and military medals of merit are other sources being touched upon in the work.

Bx2 is a development on Boakye-Yiadom's installation Red Stallion where a pair of boxing gloves dipped in bright red paint hang precariously on a noose above a bucket. Bx2 introduces a silver bucket dipped into a bucket of black paint and strung up to dry by a hangman's rope. Exploring ideas around paint and colour, as well as an active participation with everyday objects, Boakye-Yiadom creates a feeling of tension and apprehension, despite the absurd nature of his installation.

Golden Underground shows the artist playing the piano with a paintbrush, painting the piano's keys in the process. The film stop-starts, accompanied constantly by a rendition of Scott Joplin's seminal Maple Leaf Rag, played and recorded specifically for the piece by pianist Chris Jerome. Maple Leaf Rag set the standard for Ragtime music, which was at the forefront of popular culture / music at the time. In Golden Underground, Boakye-Yiadom's use of Joplin's much reproduced composition, is aligned with the classic image of the artist in studio (such as Vermeer's 1666 The Art of Painting) through his own painting performance on the piano. Drawing parallels between these acts of creativity, Boakye-Yiadom focuses on the notion of the artist becoming more self aware of his role within society. Such an act not only allows Boakye-Yiadom to explore perceptions of cultural and racial stereotyping, but also makes visible the instinctive elements of his practice.

Gabriel Hartley (b. 1981 in London) lives and works in London.
Hartley studied at the Royal Academy Schools, London (2005-2008). Previous solo exhibitions include Crimping, Furini Arte Contemporanea, Rome, 2011, Gabriel Hartley, Foxy Production, New York, 2010, and Gabriel Hartley, Swallow Street (Hauser & Wirth Project Space) London, 2009. Selected group shows include Rearrange your face, Sorcha Dallas, Glasgow, 2011, Young London, V22, London, 2011 and Newspeak: British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London, 2010.

Appau Junior Boakye-Yiadom (b. 1984 in London) lives and works in London. Boakye-Yiadom studied at the Royal Academy Schools, London (2005-08). Previous solo exhibitions include Misguided Warrior, Squid & Tabernacle, London, 2010, and Backwash, Primo Alonso Gallery, London, 2009. Selected group exhibitions include This is England, Uno & Uno, Milan, 2010 and A Broken Fall, Josh Lilley, London, 2009.