- Beirut, The Shape of A City, Nathaniel Rackowe
London-based sculptor Nathaniel Rackowe was born in 1975 and his works have been included in notable public collections including CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation), Miami, USA; Museum of Modern Art, Lima, Peru; 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. His artworks recreate the experience of navigating the city around us, abstracted impressions of today’s metropolitan experience.
In collaboration with Letitia Art Gallery, a contemporary art gallery founded by Mohamad Al Hamoud and Annie Vartivarian located in Beirut's vibrant Hamra neighbourhood, home to prestigious universities, hotels, libraries, and a thriving restaurant and café scene, with The Shape of A City Rackowe covered the Lebanese capital. The artist says: “Beirut, the city itself, has become the specific departure point for a new series of work. These sculptures and works on paper seek to explore the notion of a fleeting beauty that an urban environment can surprise us with, allowing me to combine a formal and spacial investigation with concepts of habitation, alienation, movement, and cognitive mapping.”
Nathaniel Rackowe's response is a two-part exhibition, one inside the gallery itself, where six new floor sculptures are displayed: blocks of cement, each one lit by a white neon cube that creates a geometric halo of light. These sit alongside a new series of framed, mixed-media works on paper, Petrol Station Series. The Shape of A City extends beyond the walls of Letitia Art Gallery with the installation of two large-scale public works, one situated in front of Le Gray Hotel and the other at the Khan Antoun Bey Square in downtown Beirut, engaging people and encouraging them to walk around and pass through the sculptures.
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.
The artist used different, locally-sourced construction materials for the structure – glass re-enforced plastic (GRP) sheeting and folded galvanised steel – and combined them with standard white fluorescent lights, creating a structure that hovers somewhere between minimal installation and building site. By bringing together familiar building parts into a new aesthetic, Rackowe invites people to reconsider their relationship with the city. The installation demonstrates a progression from Rackowe’s existing Pathfinding series of works, which similarly use locally-sourced blocks and light and which has been constructed in cities from Paris to Bangkok.
Hence, Nathaniel Rackowe's The Shape of A City at the Letitia Art Gallery is more than just a very appealing art installation. It becomes food for thought for gallery visitors, getting them to rethink the city around them. For Annie Vartivarian, the gallery’s founder, this exhibition is “an invaluable contribution to the growing vitality of Beirut’s contemporary art and cultural scene, through the positioning of sculptural works in publicly accessible spaces around Beirut”. An illuminated vision that stresses the importance of art in the social and cultural progress of cities.
The Shape of A City
by Nathaniel Rackowe
from 27 June to 25 August 2018
at the Letitia Art Gallery, Beirut, Lebanon
Images: Courtesy Letitia Art Gallery
Find out more: http://www.letitiagallerybeirut.com/