Poly – Park McArthur

At Chisenhale Gallery, London

Poly is the first UK solo exhibition by New York based artist Park McArthur hosted by the Chisenhale Gallery. WoMA decided to pay it a visit and was left impressed with the interaction of the pieces with the exhibition space. All 14 pieces are presented in one large open space where they interact with the audience, sound and atmosphere.

The artist plays with the perception of sound and time. Polyurethane Foam (2016) is composed by three rectangular blocks of high-density acoustic polyurethane foam that are strategically positioned at the entrance where, when passed by the acoustics changes, changes our perspective of space.

Polys 1, Polys 3 and Polys 4 (2016) consist of three large pieces of paper measuring 118x99x4 cm each. The paper is handmade and mixed with a superabsorbent polymer powder commonly used in products such as incontinence pads, bed liners and sanitary towels that reacts with liquids, creating a gel that increases hundreds of times its original size. When looked at from a distance, it appears like a blank natural canvas, but as one gets closer some yellowish shades appear, and as one gets even closer the shades turn out to be crystals. This is because the polymer applied to the paper turns into a gel with the humidity of the gallery and comes up towards the surface, once the gel dries out it leaves a crystal-like structure on the surface.

Due to the correlation between the piece and the gallery space, the artist decided to accentuate the gallery structure through lighting. Along with placing the lighting in a particular way, she also decided to leave the heaters that were brought in for the workers who installed the exhibition pieces. The artist’s idea behind this choice is to show to the public all the work behind an exhibition and how without all the people setting things up in the galley there would be no exhibition.

Poly - Park McArthur
Contact, 2016

Contact is an eight piece series consisting of stainless steal trays packed with single use items. They are sitting on low plinths and each piece has its own plinth. The choice for the height of the plinths was so that it could be accessible and reachable by everyone and anyone. The artist has dealt with this idea in other pieces in the past such as the series Ramps that concentrate on the exclusion of people with disabilities. Like the other pieces, these trays depend on the surrounding, many times things fall out of the trays or are taken or used, meaning that the piece put in the gallery at the opening will not be exactly the same when the exhibition closes. In an interview, the artist revealed that during the installation of a piece the workers used a pair of latex glove from one of the trays. She was also exploring the concept of space, by putting as many objects disorderly in a tray rather than ordering them to increase the aesthetic appeal. All the pieces in the trays have to do with human contact, but at the same tie they act as barriers. The reason is that this piece recalls the name of the exhibition “Poly” but this time not from the technical term (polymer) but from the idea of dual, non monogamous.

The last piece in the gallery, Equinox House (2016), consists in a pile of printed copies of a letter placed on a low plinth. The letter printed is a copy of the one received by benefit recipients in 2015 informing of the closure of the IFL (Independent Living Funds) due to the decision by the UK government to delegate care and provisions for disabled people to local council, resulting in substantial budget cuts affecting negatively the receivers.

Gabriele Rizzi