Collage City (4 stars)

Collage City

Dean Gallery, Edinburgh, until Sun 24 Feb


This latest offering from the Dean Gallery has drawn a number of key works out from the Gallery of Modern Art’s permanent collection to create an unassuming and intelligent exhibition. The title, ‘Collage City’, is derived from Colin Rowe and Fred Koetter’s once controversial book from the 1970s, which argues for a localised, ‘collaged’ approach to urban development as apposed to previous centralised planning.

Each artist in their turn can be related to urban fragmentation and collage, yet a number of contrasting sub-topics are also found. For instance, dystopia and utopia are contrasted in Max Beckman and Chad McCail’s work; Beckman’s postwar urban landscapes, ‘Der Nachhausweg’ (The Way Home) and ‘Die Letzen’ (The Last Ones) contort the eye with jagged, disturbing visions of prostitutes, cripples and tormented animals, while Chad McCail’s rounded, excessively colourful vision of a modernised supermarket, ‘No One Charges, No One Pays’, shows men, women and children participating harmoniously in supportive activities. David Shrigley and Toby Paterson reveal the small and large scale urban landscape respectively; Shrigley presents us with photographs which play with the minutia of city life – his own model of an oversized cigarette butt is photographed alongside other street detritus, including normal cigarette butts and crisp packets. In contrast Toby Paterson’s pristine, immaculately rendered paintings of buildings pan out from the local, eradicating context, character and personality, the buildings floating anonymously on white surfaces as if beyond reality.

Yet, it is Paolozzi’s voice which is most dominant in this exhibition, in part due to the placing of the show right next to his permanently installed recreated studio, and opposite his giant sculpture ‘Vulcan’. His clumsy, roughly handled sculptures are not the most visually absorbing works here, but they do present us with some fascinating ideas. For example, a number of his works explore labyrinths as symbols of the intricacy of the city, and the triumphal dominance of culture over nature. But then the exhibition closes with his sculpture ‘Icarus’, who, despite defying nature by creating his own wings, could not escape the burning rays of the sun, and ultimately nature’s fate.

Collage City: Urban Space in Contemporary Art

  • 4 stars

Works on paper by artists such as Toby Paterson, Langlands and Bell and Carol Rhodes looking at the way skylines, maps and city architecture have inspired creative work. This exhibition highlights the crucial position of urban space as a playground for artists over the past 60 years.

Collage City: Curator's Talk

  • 4 stars

Daniel Herrmann, Curator of the Paolozzi Collection, gives a talk on this small display of works from the Gallery's permanent collection.

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