words Manijeh VergheseGarden fencing, bitumen paint, fluorescent lighting, steel and cables sound more like the materials one would find in a hardware store than in a sculptor’s studio. Yet it’s these everyday objects that artist Nathaniel Rackowe says “shape our aesthetic palette.” Garden Fence Uprising, Rackowe’s latest piece, was specifically conceived for an exhibition at the Bischoff/Weiss Gallery – What the City Left behind. The installation and premise of the show are closely intertwined as Rackowe critique of the ‘sub-urban’ – the subtle, subliminal components of the city that remain once you remove all architectural interventions.
“The starting point of my work is through direct observation,” Rackowe states. “I take the train frequently from Dalston going west. Looking out of the window, I can see into the gardens of terraced houses. A huge component of urban space is these little hidden gardens. Each space usually has a shed. It’s all very private and personal and it’s very structural. Yet people don’t really think of gardens when they think of cities.” The garden shed or fence is a recurring theme in his work. Through rearranging their components with the help of structure and light, Rackowe’s work epitomizes the romantic notion of elevating mundane objects to create something beautiful.
Black Shed Expanded, shown at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, explores this theme of non-architectural structures and inspired Garden Fence Uprising. This subsequent piece consists of large-scale panels that interlock in a specific order and are installed on a tilt in two directions. The arrangement of panels evokes an architectural form but by placing them at an angle, the verticals and horizontals disappear along with the association with an inhabitation or dwelling. The eerie lighting and yellow cables highlight this constellation of fencing panels and force the viewer to acknowledge the spatiality and significance of the lowly garden fence. Rackowe explains, “A lot of my work deals with in-between spaces and temporary structures. The material of garden fencing belongs in this category and becomes architecture. The piece is about elements that don’t belong to architecture rising up to challenge the city.”
What the City Left behind is at the Bischoff/Weiss Gallery from 17 September – 30 October
top image Garden Fence Uprising by Nathaniel Rackowe.
image Black Shed Expanded by Nathaniel Rackowe was shown at Art Basel Miami last year.