Richard Wentworth

Yellow Eight

1985

Medium
Steel and brass
Dimensions
Object: 323 x 585 x 340 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Presented by Charles Saatchi 1992
Reference
T06528

Summary

In 1984, Richard Wentworth produced a film that brought together the many still photographs he had taken since 1970. He explained the appeal of his modest subject matter in the following way: 'We become accustomed to natural patterns - the door and its doormat. When their positions are disrupted something fundamental happens (commonplaces such as the ruck-and-jam method of holding a door open with a mat). The displaced doormat has a new identity, a shift of an inch or two changes it from passive to active. Such adjustments invigorate tired and overlooked relationships, as the contradiction, humour and absurdity of the new alliance presents itself.'(Quoted in Richard Wentworth, exhibition catalogue, Lisson Gallery, London 1984.) It is precisely this aesthetic of aberrant normality that informs Wentworth's sculpture of the mid-1980s.

Yellow Eight testifies to Wentworth's affection for the mundane: two galvanised steel buckets have been cut and soldered together to produce a hybrid, figure-of-eight object that is both single and double. An impression of water inside the buckets is created by the reflective surface of a highly polished brass sheet inserted just below the rim. Wentworth has frequently used buckets in his work. His decision to do so is prompted by a disdain for monumentality and a penchant for the everyday. His approach typically involves taking a mundane utilitarian object and transforming its role and identity. He establishes a double role for such everyday, manufactured objects as ladles, chairs (Siege Tate T07167) and ladders (35º9', 32º18' Tate T07167), and disrupts their conventional significance. While he is always careful to retain the defining characteristics of the objects he works with, Wentworth's subtle alterations block their usual functions. Everyday household objects thus assume new identities as works of art, embodying thereafter both the familiar and the unfamiliar.

Further reading:
Richard Wentworth, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 1993, reproduced p.38 in colour.
Richard Wentworth, exhibition catalogue, Kunstverein Freiburg, Freiburg 1997.
Richard Wentworth, exhibition catalogue, Lisson Gallery, London 1984.

Helen Delaney
July 2001

Display caption

Wentworth uses common and utilitarian objects in his sculptures in a way that can be both witty and unsettling. He has observed 'humour is trying to find pockets of breathable air in a stifling atmosphere'. Wentworth gave up making sculpture for a while in the 1970s, thinking that it had become 'as dry as broken biscuits'. He emphasised the difficulties in making sculpture when saying 'I hate the way I work, the anxiety in waiting for enthusiasm to meet method, material to meet image, idea to meet language'. As an inveterate collector of discarded objects, Wentworth regards their presence in his studio as enabling him to create an imaginative order rather than one which is typecast.

Gallery label, August 2004