Rebecca Warren, 'In The Bois' 2005

Rebecca Warren
In The Bois 2005
Wood, MDF, Perspex, Neon gas, glass, plastic, wool, polystyrene, clay, nylon and paint
displayed: 580 x 1603 x 322 mm
Presented by Tate Patrons 2008© Rebecca Warren, courtesy Maureen Paley, London

This work has just gone on show at Tate Britain in a rehang of the contemporary collection displays. It’s part of a new display entitled The Space Between, which includes around thirty recent works acquired by Tate across the last decade. 

In the Bois is composed of three vitrines, each illuminated by a coiled coloured neon light, one visible and two shielded behind white polystyrene blocks. Various small objects are placed inside or on top of the vitrines; lumps of clay crudely modelled into abstract forms, roughly sawn pieces of wood, twigs, small polystyrene spheres, and several pompoms – one of Warren’s signature items. The Perspex front of each box is offset above or below, leaving a narrow opening at the bottom or top.

As well as vitrine works, Warren is well known for her roughly-modelled clay sculptures and bronzes often referencing female figures and forms (one of these clay works, Versailles, is also on display in this room), and at first glance it is harder to link these formally very different types of work. However, Warren has explained:

“For a museum, a vitrine is about preservation, airlessness, information and study, and your encounter happens from the outside. I realised that by trying to create an imperfectly sealed environment where the objects often also appear on the outside of the case, it would break that language of museum display. And so like the clay works around it in the room, the vitrine could be about that leakage, things shifting from one state to another, boundaries being pushed and broken. So, although initially I saw the vitrines as contrary to the clay works, I now see that they have similar properties.”

Rebecca Warren, exhibition catalogue, Serpentine Gallery, London 2009

This shifting of state is one of the concerns that unifies the whole display of The Space Between. In different ways, all the works in the display reveal a preoccupation with the physical properties of materials and their stability and instability. The artists, like Warren, are looking both at the finished objects and the act of making, exploring figurative and abstract forms, and through these tensions, finding the potential for new meanings to emerge.

The Space Between is part of BP British Art Displays Supported by BP