British artist Nathaniel Rackowe presented his exhibition “The Shape of a City” back in June 2018 at Letitia Gallery where he took the city of Beirut as a point of departure in order to investigate the ever-changing nature of cites, and their continual destruction and renewal.
“The Shape of a City” extended beyond the walls of Letitia Gallery with the installation of two large-scale public works, one situated at the Khan Antoun Bey Square in downtown Beirut and the other in front of Le Gray Hotel on which light was recently added showing the sculpture at night as well.
The positioning of the sculptures in the context of the urban landscape, which inspires so much of Rackowe’s work, allows the pieces to take on new meaning in the context of the open space. LP46 (2018), constructed from lengths of steel RSJ, or I-beam, formed into three intersecting squares. It towers above the viewer, yet has a surprising fragility and sense of movement. The Rackowe signature golden glow appears here again, created by fluorescent tubes, nestled inside inner cavities painted acid yellow.
Asking him about the repeated use of yellow, Rackowe told us he felt the colour to be the most urban of all colours, relating as it does to things like warning signs, construction machinery, hard-hats and back-lit takeaway menus. Artificial, industrial, digitally rendered colour has a particular quality that entranced the Minimalists in New York in the 1960s; David Batchelor in his seminal book, Chromophobia, talks of one outcome of the movement being “the embrace in art of a colour world which, in one way or another, existed far outside art… A glimpse of another world or, rather, several other worlds: the past-present worlds of minerals and crystals, and the future-present worlds of science fiction”.
Whilst Rackowe’s work is several steps away from the Minimalists, there is a common language and a shared interest in pulling the rarefied art world and the everyday urban experience closer together. With LP46, this literally takes place: the piece is situated in a public space and therefore visible to everyone passing by, and available for anyone to see.
The piece combines raw materials and light, creating associations with the built environment and exploring the transportive power of light.
The form is derived from a platonic solid, a cube, but described by intersecting planes. LP46 quotes from a formal language of sculpture, but inhabits a contemporary context with its raw finish and refined lines echoing the paradoxes in the cites that Rackowe observes.
The piece stands just over 2.5 meters tall and is self-supporting, the meeting points of the three squares giving it significant structural integrity. The metal parts are Universal Beams, left in a dark raw steel self-colour finish.
The light fittings are standard T8 fluorescent tubes in cool white, while the metal behind is painted yellow. This gives a subtle yellow gradient to the white light which spills out.
Steel, light, Paint
350 x 350 x 350 cm
About Nathaniel Rackowe
Nathaniel Rackowe was born in 1975 and lives and works in London, UK. He graduated from the Slade with a M.F.A in sculpture in 2001.
Selected solo shows include Signs of a City, Galerie Jérôme Pauchant, Paris (2017); Radiant Trajectory, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai (2015); The Consequence of Light, Bodson Gallery, Brussels (2014); and Reflections on Space, BISCHOFF/WEISS, London (2013). Group shows include LowFidelity, Etage Projects, Copenhagen (2016); Monologue / Dialogue, Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre (2014); and Dynamo: A century of light and movement in art, 1913-2013, Grand Palais, Paris (2013). Public Art Projects include Black Shed Expanded, Village Royal, Paris (2014); Black Cube, DEN FRIE Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen (2013); and Spin, Lima Peru (2010).
Rackowe’s works are in notable public collections including CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation), Miami, USA; Jumex Collection, Mexico; Museum of Modern Art, Lima, Peru; LVMH Collection, Paris, France; Museum of New Art, Tasmania, Australia; David Roberts Collection, London, UK; UK Government Art Collection, London, UK; Hauser & Wirth Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; and Ernst & Young Collection, London, UK.