Shopfront is one of twenty works produced by contemporary artists for the Cubitt Print Box in 2000. Cubitt is an artist-run gallery and studio complex in north London. In 2001 the complex moved from King’s Cross to Islington and the prints were commissioned as part of a drive to raise funds to help finance the move, and to support future exhibitions and events at the new gallery space. All the artists who contributed to the project had previously taken part in Cubitt’s programme. The portfolio was produced in an edition of 100 with twenty artists’ proofs; Tate’s copy is number sixty-six in the series.
This half-tone photolithograph depicts the front of a garage or shop locked up for the night. The heavy metal shutters are down and fixed with a large padlock. A white and yellow neon sign proclaiming ‘LOCAL BOY’Z’ runs the length of the building above the shutters. The street number and contact telephone number also appear on the sign in smaller neon lettering. The 071 prefix in the phone number was a local code for inner London in the early 1990s.
The image was taken from a low vantage point some distance from the front of the garage so that the paved ground in front of the building covers a large area of the bottom of the print. The entire image is bathed in a warm red light. The saturated colour of Lloyd’s print recalls the richly coloured nocturnal photography of Rut Blees Luxemburg (born 1967; see Viewing the Open, 1999, Tate P78570)
Shopfront has an expectant narrative quality; the eerily empty forecourt and the ambiguous nature of the shop raise unanswered questions about the significance of the site. The local boys alluded to in the neon sign recall the subject of E1, an artist’s book by Lloyd that documents the dubious chat-up lines used on her by men in the locality represented by that East End postcode.
Lloyd is primarily known as a video artist. Her work often focuses on people engaged in simple actions: putting on and taking off a t-shirt, unravelling a large ball of twine, thrashing walls with a cardboard tube. More abstract video works focus on a stretch of shimmering water or the moving ground as seen from the perspective of inner-city skateboarders. There is a sense of open-ended mystery in her work. She has described her characteristic themes as ‘time, place [and] being alone’ (quoted in Morgan, p.22).
Virginia Button and Charles Esche, Intelligence: New British Art 2000, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London, 2000.
Stuart Morgan, Matter & Fact, exhibition catalogue, Collection Gallery, London, 1993.
Hilary Lloyd, E1, London, 1993.
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