While doing some research the other day, I ran across work by British artist Barry Reigate (b. 1971). In London Reigate is primarily known for his lecherous cartoon imagery of disembodied breasts and Disney characters, but geometric forms like cubes, spheres and pinwheels are also embedded in his large-scale paintings. In his October 2011 exhibition at Paradise Row, Reigate included geometric sculptures and earnest gouaches of geometric volumes, and I wondered if he was in transition, perhaps moving away from the pop culture references. According to Reigate, the gouaches, which have underlying political content, are not just studies for the larger paintings, but are works in themselves.
Taken from children's statewide math tests that are used to measure children's progress and thus the effectiveness of the schools, the geometric forms are part of a language system that Reigate believes bends truth through the use of statistics. Reigate took the test images and drew them on graph paper, removing them from their original statistical language and bringing them into the realm of modernist abstraction. In the sculptures, Reigate pushes the shapes from the original equations into freestanding, structural objects.
"When I was making these pieces, there were ‘riots’ going on outside and kids were burning down buildings on their school holidays," Reigate said. "All our government kept going on about was healthy social structures while the physical ones were being burnt down. So there is this whole social-political thing going on in regards to education and the social (the government kept talking about the ‘underclass,' families on welfare, no one working and poor education). There is political content within the work but only layered aesthetically, ornamentally, within the structural content amongst so many other things."
Reigate is in the process of opening an experimental space called City of London Art with his friend Alastair Mackinven. The gallery won't represent artists, but will focus on the critical, thought-provoking work that commercial galleries aren't showing.
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