Roelof Louw

Untitled

1968

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Not on display
Artist
Roelof Louw 1936–2017
Medium
Aluminium
Dimensions
Object: 991 x 5334 x 5334 mm
Collection
Tate
Acquisition
Purchased 1970
Reference
T01250

Catalogue entry

Roelof Louw b. 1936

T01250 Untitled 1968

Not inscribed.
Sandblasted and painted aluminium, 39 x 210 x 210 (99 x 533.5 x 533.5).
Purchased from the artist (Knapping Fund) 1970.
Exh: British Sculpture out of the Sixties, I.C.A., August–September 1970 (15) (another version, collection Kasmin Gallery, reproduced in the catalogue).
Lit: Charles Harrison, ‘Some Recent Sculpture in Britain’, in Studio International., CLXXVII, 1969, pp. 26–33; Charles Harrison, ‘ Roelof Louw’s Sculpture’, in Studio International, CLXXVIII, 1969, pp. 126–9.

The following information is based on a conversation with the artist in August 1971.

About 12 space-frame pieces on the lines of T01250 were made, but by the time of the Tate’s acquisition only some five were still extant, one of which was in the collection of the Kasmin Gallery.

Louw began making the pieces in rough form in January 1968 and he had used poles in an earlier (1967–68) series to create sculptures which involved the piling up of units and which were to be read, according to the notion of vertical thinking, in the sequence in which they were constructed. (That this was in fact not readily perceptible was one reason for abandoning that series).

His specific concern in the space-frame pieces was to articulate open space and to develop that articulation—the way the spectator experiences space—in terms of action. The spectator is invited to step over the low bar on one side of the sculpture and experience the work from inside as well as from outside.

The majority of the space-frame pieces are square but about three have sides of unequal length, which become increasingly elongated, making for a less obviously enclosed space, one more connected with the space in which the sculpture stands.

The scale of the pieces is important, as is the quality of ‘openness’ for which the artist was striving. Louw felt at the time that scale was something the ‘New Generation’ sculptors had failed to come to terms with, whereas if was something American artists seemed basically to have understood.

That the pieces referred directly to space, that they were nor concerned with surface was another factor. Previously Louw had used colour in what he terms as a ‘New Generation’ way to articulate sculpture according to mood, different kinds of surface and so on.

The combinations of colours in which the poles were painted were formulated subjectively. The ways the colours work with and against each other were built up in action, in the square, the artist perhaps putting on the colour four times a day until he got it right. He would normally have a vague notion of what the colour should be, which would be related to the shape of the piece, but the working out would be a matter of trial and error. T01250 he sees as relating to the idea of colour glowing. The piece in the collection of the Kasmin Gallery, on the other hand, which is green, black and pink is concerned with the idea of energy.

In all cases in the different colours of the poles Louw is concerned with ‘a kind of intensity to do with brilliance’ which he associates with paintings by Morris Louis. Louw has said that these pieces were the product of a long hard look at American painting and they formed an extension of the formalism of artists such as Noland and Judd.

In developing the articulation of open space in terms of action they led directly to his subsequent series of rope sculptures and later to the lead pieces where these notions were made more explicit by the presence and treatment of the material and the intentions inferred from it. However it is typical of Louw that the elements he uses in the pole pieces also are employed absolutely straight, basically unchanged, from his sculpture made up of 5800 oranges at the Arts Laboratory in 1967 through the 200 slats scattered in Holland Park in 1967 to the festoons of rope in 1969 and the lead pieces of 1970.

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1970–1972, London 1972.

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