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Materials and Objects

Discover artists from Tate's collection who have embraced new and unusual materials and methods

Photo: © Rikard Österlund

 

13 rooms in Materials and Objects

Marisa Merz and Nairy Baghramian

Marisa Merz and Nairy Baghramian

See the diverse and inventive approaches to materials explored by artists in this display

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Nairy Baghramian Scruff of the Neck (LL 23/24b & LR 26/27/28) 2016 Copyright Nairy Baghramian. Courtesy the artist and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York, Paris & London

Collage

Collage

Find out how combining everyday objects and materials became a new technique for twentieth-century artists

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Jirí Kolár
They Pass before Me, Those Electric Eyes Some Abstruse Angel Must Have Magnetized 1972
© reserved

A View From Tokyo: Between Man and Matter

A View From Tokyo: Between Man and Matter

Discover how sculptors working in Japan, Europe, and the United States in the 1970s inspired and influenced each other

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Jiro Takamatsu
Oneness of Cedar 1970
© Estate of Jiro Takamatsu, courtesy Yumiko Chiba Associates, Tokyo

Irving Penn

Irving Penn

Irving Penn’s photographs of rubbish on New York City streets transform overlooked objects into intriguing images

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Irving Penn Underfoot I New York, October 27, 1999 

Courtesy of The Irving Penn Foundation 

Tacita Dean

Tacita Dean

Kodak 2006 documents the making of 16mm film stock inside a factory about to go out of business

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Tacita Dean
Kodak 2006
© Tacita Dean, courtesy Frith Street Gallery, London and Marian Goodman Gallery, New York/Paris

Haegue Yang

Haegue Yang

Haegue Yang explores the history of conceptual art shaped by a set of rules

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Haegue Yang Sol LeWitt Upside Down – Structure with Three Towers, Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three 2015

Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt

Sol LeWitt is a leading figure in conceptual art

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Sol LeWitt
A Square Divided Horizontally and Vertically into Four Equal Parts, Each with a Different Direction of Alternating Parallel Bands of Lines 1982
© The estate of Sol LeWitt

Expanded Painting

Expanded Painting

In the decades following the Second World War, find out how artists explored a number of radical approaches to painting

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Pinot Gallizio
Industrial Painting 1958
© Estate of Pinot Gallzio, courtesy of Galleria Martano

Rudolf Stingel

Rudolf Stingel

Sculpt the surface of this artwork

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Visitor with Rudolf Stingel's Untitled 1993
© Rikard Österlund

1/12
Highlights in Materials and Objects

With a Smile

© The estate of Mimmo Rotella

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Mimmo Rotella
With a Smile
1962

In the early 1950s, Rotella began to rip posters away from the walls of outdoor hoardings in Rome, and used them to create elaborate collages. Many of these were film posters but he also used advertisements for appliances and other goods, so that his works became a commentary on the post-war consumer boom. In the studio he would mount the poster fragments onto canvas, rearranging the pieces into new compositions but also stripping away further layers to accentuate their distressed appearance.

Gallery label, March 2010

Ink Splash II

© El Anatsui

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El Anatsui
Ink Splash II
2012

Ink Splash II resembles an abstract painting. However the illusion of swift, gestural brushstrokes and splashes has been created through a painstaking process of weaving flattened bottle tops together with copper wire. The artist explains, ‘the most important thing is the transformation. The fact that these media, each identifying a brand of drink, are no longer going back to serve the same role but are elements that could generate some reflection, some thinking, or just some wonder…[T]hey are removed from their accustomed, functional context into a new one, and they bring along their histories and identities.’

Gallery label, January 2016

Shibboleth II

© Doris Salcedo

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Doris Salcedo
Shibboleth II
2007

Shibboleth II is a medium-size digital photograph by the Colombian artist Doris Salcedo that depicts the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern, London, with a long narrow crack running along its floor. The print is part of a portfolio of four photographs each showing different views of the same scene, including Shibboleth I (Tate P20334), Shibboleth III (Tate P20336) and Shibboleth IV (Tate P20337), and the portfolio as a whole is number one in an edition of forty-five plus ten artist’s proofs. The photographs were made as part of Salcedo’s 2007 installation project for the Unilever Series at Tate Modern, also titled Shibboleth, which involved the artist creating a deep fissure in the floor of the Turbine Hall that stretched from one end of the gallery to the other, into which she placed a concrete cast of a Colombian rock face with a wire chain-link fence set into it. These photographs are digital composites made up of images of the Turbine Hall seen from four different angles and photographs that Salcedo took of a small-scale model of the cracked floor that she made in her studio in Bogotá, Colombia.

Fountain

© Succession Marcel Duchamp/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Marcel Duchamp
Fountain
1917, replica 1964

Fountain is the most famous of Duchamp’s so-called ready-made sculptures: ordinary manufactured objects designated by the artist as works of art. It epitomises the assault on convention and accepted notions of art for which Duchamp became known. The original, which is now lost, consisted of a standard urinal, laid flat on its back and signed with a pseudonym, ‘R. Mutt 1917’. This work is one of a small number of replicas which Duchamp authorised in 1964, based on a photograph of the original by Alfred Stieglitz.

Gallery label, January 2016

From Surface to Surface

© Susumu Koshimizu

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Susumu Koshimizu
From Surface to Surface
1971, remade 1986

Koshimizu investigates the substance of wood by sawing planks into different shapes, exposing their surface qualities through different kinds of repetitive cuts. Koshimizu was part of Mono Ha (‘School of Things’), which reacted against the embrace of technology and visual trickery in mid-1960s Japanese art. They sought to understand ‘the world as it is’ by exploring the essential properties of materials, often combining organic and industrial objects and processes.

Gallery label, January 2016

Jauba

© Mrinalini Mukherjee

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Mrinalini Mukherjee
Jauba
2000

Jauba (Hibiscus) 2000 is a freestanding sculpture that was created by knotting yarn made from dyed hemp fibre over a vertical metal armature, with the bulk of its woven detail on the front. The yarn has been dyed red, green and black and is woven into pleated organic forms which drape the frame like a robe. ‘Jauba’ means hibiscus in the artist’s native language Bengali. Visually, the sculpture resembles a botanical, floral form, roughly symmetrical, which droops slightly towards the floor due to the weight of the material.

Sol LeWitt Upside Down - Structure with Three Towers, Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three

© reserved

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Haegue Yang
Sol LeWitt Upside Down - Structure with Three Towers, Expanded 23 Times, Split in Three
2015

Industrial Painting

© Estate of Pinot Gallzio, courtesy of Galleria Martano

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Pinot Gallizio
Industrial Painting
1958

Pinot Gallizio was an early member of the Situationist International, an avant-garde group that attempted to analyse and subvert the capitalist commodification of daily life. Gallizio’s ‘industrial painting’ adapted mechanised manufacturing techniques to challenge established models for the production and distribution of art. The paint was applied onto long rolls of canvas by a team of assistants using a low-tech ‘painting machine’, so that the result was mass-produced but also unique. Gallizio would then cut off sections to be sold.

Gallery label, May 2013

Simmering

Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, CA

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Sam Gilliam
Simmering
1970

Every time this ‘drape painting’ is hung it takes on a different form, with the folds and curves of the canvas changing with each re-installation. Gilliam spread the canvas out on the floor and covered it with diluted acrylic paint in layers so colours mixed together within the fibres of the canvas. He then suspended the canvas from a wall and applied drips and splashes of thicker paint. It was, he explained, an attempt to ‘deal with the canvas as material … using it as a more tactile way of painting.’

Gallery label, January 2016

Relatum

© Lee Ufan

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Lee Ufan
Relatum
1968, 1994

Lee Ufan’s sculptural works focus on the essential character and presence of their materials and their interconnections. Here he uses a single material – one hundred flat bands of stainless steel – and explores how the different elements relate to one another and to the space in which they are arranged. He has explained: ‘a work of art, rather than being a self-complete, independent entity, is a resonant relationship with the outside. It exists together with the world, simultaneously what it is and what it is not, that is, a relatum.’

Gallery label, January 2016

Breath 5

© Archivio Penone

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Giuseppe Penone
Breath 5
1978

The clay is modelled on the imagined shape of a breath of air, exhaled from the artist’s mouth. At the top is the form of the interior of Penone’s mouth, squeezed into the clay. The impression along the side of the clay is of the artist’s leg, wearing jeans, as he leans forward. Penone has made many works concerning the impression of man on nature. For Breath Penone has spoken of the influence of mythological explanations of the creation of man.

Gallery label, January 2016

Emak Bakia

© Man Ray Trust/ADAGP, Paris and DACS, London 2020

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Man Ray
Emak Bakia
1926, remade 1970

Emak Bakia is made from the neck of a cello and loose horse hair. Man Ray found the original cello piece in a fleamarket. As it looked old, he felt the urge to point humorously to its age and gave it flowing white hair – the horse hair that would be used in a bow. The hair gives the piece a disconcerting vitality. The title comes from an experimental film or ’cine-poem’ of the same name that Man Ray made in 1926. In the Basque language it means ’leave me alone’.

Gallery label, October 2016

Highlights

With a Smile
Mimmo Rotella With a Smile 1962
Ink Splash II
El Anatsui Ink Splash II 2012
Shibboleth II
Doris Salcedo Shibboleth II 2007
Fountain
Marcel Duchamp Fountain 1917, replica 1964

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