les nouveaux diables
The Young Devils

10,000 Roses for Ms. ANYA GALLACCIO

There is no safe distance from which to observe a work by Anya Gallaccio, she doesn't allow you that escape. The chances are that you are already "in" the work before you know it that is if your senses had not already been assailed by the acid-sweet odor of one tonne of ripe oranges in Tense, the sickly-sweet smell of chocolate in Stroke or the pungent perfume of 10,000 roses in Red on Green, or if your flesh had not contracted in reaction to the icy blast of cold air at the entrance to Intensities and Surfaces, a huge block of ice glowing fri-gidly in the dank space of the derelict building below.

In this, her most recent work comparisons with Richard Serra, in particular with Weight and Measure, made for the elegant Duveen Galleries of the Tate in 1992, again come to mind. Again, because such comparisons were drawn when she used poured lead to make the floor piece, Waterloo, for the Freeze show in 1998. Later, Gallaccio actively courted such comparisons, claiming a similar heroic quality for some of her work but insisting, too, on the feminine aspects of her approach while deliberately choosing to work with such cliché-ridden materials as chocolate and flowers which for a woman, as Gallaccio has acknowledged, "is a really crazy thing to do, at least if you want to be taken seriously." In the case of Intensities and Surfaces, her most monumental work to date, the 34 tonne, 3m-high ice stack is the polar opposite of Serra's forged steel block, Weight and Measure. Fire and water, steel and ice where the one solidifies as the air cools it, the other slowly but inexorably melts, the resulting puddles of water reflecting the decaying walls of the Pump House. Nothing is forever, "all that is solid melts into air" in Karl Marx's famous phrase and unlike Serra's sculpture, Gallaccio's work makes no claim to permanence. On the contrary, to accelerate the process of dissolution, Gallaccio threw in "a time bomb" a large lump of rock salt which worked its way down, leaving a void in the center of the block. Gallaccio likened the salt both to a heart and to a cancer: "one destroys and the other makes things live." Life, death and transformation; these may be the dominant themes in her work the rose petals turn brown, "like scabs," exposing the thorns underneath, the chocolate blooms with mold-but they do not explain it. Such simplification cannot convey, any more than a photograph can, what it is like to , in Gallaccio's terms, enter into a "relationship" with it and with the space, since all her work is site-specific. Gallaccio is insistent upon the need to encounter the work directly, even to the extent that, though she herself documents the work by means of photographs, she does not allow them to be sold as artworks in their own right, "À la Richard Long." Each work is a one-off even if reconstituted, it will be a reinterpretation of the work.

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A photograph of Intensities and Surfaces, for example, will not have prepared you for the scale of it, its physical impact. Gallaccio has recalled that as a child she enjoyed looking at "Amazing But True" books in which you had to imaging how big things were. In a sense she is still playing this game: how many are 10,000 roses? What will they smell like? How many gold chocolate wrappers will it take to cover an empty swimming-pool? How long will it take 34 tons of ice to melt? There is, of course, only one way to find out and that is to do it. You only get one shot at it but it is worth the risk. It is a bit like life.

Patricia Bickers


resume of the artist


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