‘Antony Gormley: Aerial’ at White Cube New York




Antony Gormley, BIG SIDLE, 2023, Cast iron 267.8 x 87.5 x 63.5 cm. Photograph by Stephen White & Co. © the artist

White Cube is pleased to present ‘Aerial’, an exhibition by Antony Gormley, in which the artist considers sculpture as an instrument for proprioception – the body’s innate capacity to sense and perceive its position, movements and orientation in relation to itself and the environment. The exhibition features two recent developments in Gormley’s practice: one explores physical proximity in mass and scale, where two over-life-size bodies merge as one, while the other endeavours to catalyse space almost without mass. On view April 30th.

Antony Gormley, BIG TENDER, 2023, Cast iron 60.5 x 310.0 x 79.3 cm. Photograph by Stephen White & Co. © the artist

Aerial (2023), the work from which the show takes its title, manifests an orthogonal matrix that both measures and activates the architecture of the ground floor gallery in which it is contained. Built from a descending scale of solid aluminium bars that end in delicate elements referred to by the artist as ‘whiskers’, Aerial creates a zone of dispersed energy that interacts with light. The work’s branching system of vertical and horizontal bars speaks to Piet Mondrian’s ‘Pier and Ocean’ series, in which elemental space and the dynamic between distance and proximity are evoked through lines articulated at right angles.

Antony Gormley, STAY III, 2021 Carbon and casein on paper 38.27.7 cm/14 15/16 x 10 7/8 in. © Antony Gormley. Photo © White Cube (David Westwood)

Aerial endeavours to be both a receiver and transmitter of energy, the viewer and artwork mutually activated by the observer’s trajectory through space and time. The work kindles an understanding of space not as an emptiness isolating one object from another, but rather as a place that exists within and through objects. ‘You could think of this work as the root hair of the made world’, notes Gormley, ‘or as the antenna of architecture, perhaps even the whiskers of the room that allow us to sense space and the room to sense us.’ 

Upstairs, three solid cast iron ‘Big Double Blockworks’ (all 2023) explore physical intimacy through a radically reduced geometric language. Departing from Gormley’s earlier explorations of doubled forms, which focused on the organic mitotic duplication of his own body, these works refer to the orthogonal geometry of architecture – what Gormley calls our ‘second body’ – and use its physical language, rather than pure line, to form mass. Gormley conceived these recent works during, and in response to, the Covid lockdowns – periods when the intimacies of shared living amplified a sense of ‘being with’. 

Antony Gormley, CONTACT I, 2021. 8 mm stainless steel. 174.5 x 58.5 x 40.8 cm. Photograph by Stephen White & Co. © the artist

Resting prone on the gallery floor, the first double work, Big Tender (2023), mirrors two stacked body-forms, compressed through the exertion of counterbalanced forces, inclining them toward each other and propelling them downward to create a singular centre of gravity. In Big Sidle (2023) and Big Bare (2023), two upright bodies composed of stacked blocks converge into a singular mass, sharing a single load path, the precarity of both paradoxically creating the stability of the final form. Gormley’s ‘Big Double Blockworks’ evoke the intrinsic need for support and intimacy. 

Antony Gormley, HOLD VI, 2021 Carbon and casein on paper. 38 x 27.5 cm/14 15/16 x 10 13/16 in. © Antony Gormley. Photo © White Cube (David Westwood).

Adjacent to the blockworks in the upper gallery are a selection of Gormley’s drawings. Executed in various media, including carbon, casein and walnut ink, these drawings articulate both architectural trajectories and cosmogenic expansion. In the ‘Cosmic’ drawings (c. 2014–18), the artist explores the creation of light through the transformation of matter in space, as in the phenomena of quasars and supernovas. For Gormley, these drawings are ‘created by the forces of fluid matter and are discovered rather than made’. In ‘Aperture’ and ‘Lux’ (both 2023), layers of carbon and casein wash evoke the interiors of Gormley’s earlier large-scale works, such as Model (2012) and Cave (2019), which explore bodies as buildings. Here, architectural space is carried through fractal planes that appear to converge the dimensions of space, light and volume. In other drawings, dark diffusions of carbon evoke what the artist calls the ‘darkness of the body’. These works express the experience of meditation where, through stilling the body in a variety of compressed positions, one might gain a sense of the boundless, edgeless, objectless space within the body. 

Antony Gormley: Aerial will be on view from April 30 to June 15, 2024 at White Cube New York, 1002 Madison Avenue between 77th/78th Streets, NYC. Follow White Cub on Twitter; Instagram and Facebook 

Take a look back at Antony Gormley: New York Clearing at Pier 3, Brooklyn Bridge Park in 2020.