21 January – 19 February 2000
White Cube Duke Street
For his exhibition at White Cube, Steven Gontarski presented a series of fetishist and futuristic sculptures cast in fibreglass and sprayed with high-gloss paint. Before this exhibition, Gontarski was largely identified with his life-size, part-transparent, part-shiny, silver-skinned sculptures, made with hand-stitched PVC, and filled with synthetic wadding and hair. The new works presented featureless, partial bodies—headless torsos with truncated limbs that extrude other limbs, seemingly melding together in different contorted sexual positions.
With their lustrous surfaces, the sculptures have a fluid quality—they transform and mutate when viewed in the round. In each work, Gontarski freezes and makes a composite out of various body movements and positions taken from skateboarders and snowboarders. From one viewpoint, Speed I (1999-2000), is a multifaceted representation of a body performing a ‘virtuoso flip in the air’; knees tucked up, baggy trousers trailing behind; yet, from another position, the seemingly figurative sculpture dissolves into four interlocking abstract shapes. Whilst these futurist works have a nubile aestheticism influenced by contemporary culture, they also reference moments in early 20th century Modernism—the sculptural abstraction fuses the organic grace of a Henry Moore work with the shiny hard skin, the speed, and the highly reduced forms of a Constantin Brancusi.