The ‘trigger work’ in the display is Industrial Landscape 1955 by the English painter L. S. Lowry (1887–1976), part of the last group of panoramic city views that he painted as British industry was declining. It is an imagined landscape, but contains familiar post-industrial elements of the northern cities of Lowry’s experience.
Around this work, other artists represent labour conditions, struggles and hopes for possible futures – from Margaret Harrison’s part-political banner, part-painting addressing working conditions for women in 1970s Britain, to Cao Fei’s video work Whose Utopia?, drawing attention to the factory workers in contemporary China who have been affected by their country’s recent massive economic progress. Andreas Gursky’s Chicago Board of Trade II 1999 shifts focus onto the mass of figures employed by one outpost of the global economic system, provoking us to see these individuals as cogs in a machine.
In another register, painters working between abstraction and figuration relate to the notion of the system and of the imposition of rules. Georges Braque and Robert Delaunay present everyday objects and a view of the Eiffel Tower via the refracted planes of cubism and orphism, styles that applied analytical systems to visual material, the shifting perspectives of vision reflecting the experience of modernity. Elsewhere in the display, Gabriel Orozco uses the rules of chess to create an abstract painting, while Piet Mondrian’s system of black lines, white planes and blocks of colour reflect the rhythm and structure of a cityscape with the most limited of means.
In the gallery at Tate Liverpool, you are invited to add your own ideas to a set of key words that suggest connections between the works in this display. Use your smart phone or tablet to complete a quick and easy web form, and if you don’t have your own device, you are welcome to use the one of ours. If you have any questions, please ask a member of staff.