LONDON—This spring, the inaugural London presentation of Jordan Wolfson’s Colored sculpture (2016) is taking place in the Tanks at Tate Modern. The work was first shown at David Zwirner in New York in 2016 before traveling later that year to LUMA Arles and the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, and is co-produced by Sadie Coles HQ, London.
Featuring a boyish animatronic figure reminiscent of literary and pop cultural characters such as Huckleberry Finn, Howdy Doody, and Alfred E. Neuman, the mascot of Mad magazine, the work is suspended with heavy chains from a large mechanized gantry, which is programmed to choreograph its movements. The sheer physicality of this installation, which includes the work being hoisted and thrown forcefully to the ground, viscerally blurs the distinction between figuration and abstraction, while furthering the formal and narrative possibilities of sculpture.
“I realized very early on that it wasn’t just the figure that was the sculpture: it was a total sculpture, where the chain was just as much a character as the boy,” Wolfson explained in an interview with Beatrix Ruf for Kaleidoscope in 2016; “It wasn’t just the boy being controlled by the chains; it was also about the chains having a relationship to the sculptural figure. Both elements were equally sculptural; what was important was looking at the entire artwork compositionally. . . . Every decision I made in making this artwork, I didn’t ask myself intellectually, I asked myself intuitively and physically, what did I feel more for? Did I feel more for it being shiny or matte? Did I feel for more speed in a violent scene or for less? Did I feel more for it having red hair or orange hair? Should it have color, or should it be monochrome? What felt more? What do I feel more? . . . That was really my compass.”