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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

With a Smile

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

© The estate of Mimmo Rotella

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Ink Splash II

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

© El Anatsui

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Shibboleth II

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.

© Doris Salcedo

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Fountain

Marcel Duchamp, Fountain  1917, replica 1964

Fountain is Duchamp’s most famous work. It is an example of what he called a ‘ready-made’ sculpture. These were made from ordinary manufactured objects. He then presented them as artworks. This invites us to question what makes an object ‘art’? Is this urinal ‘art’ because it is being presented in a gallery? The original 1917 version of this work has been lost. This is one of a small number of copies that Duchamp allowed to be made in 1964. Do you think it makes a difference that it is not Duchamp’s original urinal?

Gallery label, July 2020

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

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From Surface to Surface

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

© Susumu Koshimizu

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Jauba

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.

© Mrinalini Mukherjee

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

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

© reserved

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Industrial Painting

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

© Estate of Pinot Gallzio, courtesy of Galleria Martano

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Simmering

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

Courtesy of the artist and David Kordansky Gallery, CA

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Relatum

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

© Lee Ufan

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Breath 5

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

© Archivio Penone

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Emak Bakia

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

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

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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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