In this exhibition Cornelia Parker turns her attention to facets of the city streets that are usually overlooked, from the cracks in the pavement and accidental spills, to discarded pieces of wood, transforming them into evocative and highly charged images and objects.
In Black Path (Bunhill Fields), 2013 Parker has cast the spaces between the paving stones of the non-conformist cemetery of Bunhill Fields. The graveyard’s most famous incumbent is William Blake, painter and poet who wrote the poem ‘Jerusalem’ (later turned into the popular anthem by composer Hubert Parry). Parker had often played ‘don’t step on the lines’ or Hopscotch while walking her daughter to school on a route that took them through the graveyard. These games rekindled an obsession with pavement cracks that had lain dormant since the artist’s own childhood. By pouring liquid cold-cure rubber into some of the gaps and letting it set, Parker was able to lift up this part the geography of the city that had been mapped out in stone many years before. The captured rubber cracks were upturned and then cast in black bronze. Placed on steel pins, they appear to hover just above the floor, creating an obstacle in the form of a petrified line drawing.
Building joists, pallets and broken pieces of furniture can be found abandoned in any cityscape, often left leaning precariously against a wall. Unsettled 2012 uses wood collected from the streets of old Jerusalem. Parker has plucked these pieces from an uncertain future and reassembled them. Now relocated in another country they are suspended just above the ground, seemingly, but not quite touching the wall.
Cracked walls provide the inspiration for Prison Wall Abstracts: A Man Escaped, 2012 – 2013. This set of 12 photographic prints depicts the perimeter wall of Pentonville Prison in London. The broken surface of wall had been repaired by workmen with white filler in gestural patterns worthy of any abstract expressionist painter. Parker photographed the marks literally seconds before they were obliterated forever by a layer of magnolia paint. Later that day, after the paint was barely dry, a prisoner (incarcerated for a shot gun murder) escaped from the prison after scaling the walls.
The exhibition coincided with Thames & Hudson’s publication of a major monograph on Cornelia Parker by Iwona Blazwick with a foreword by Yoko Ono, with an introduction by Bruce Ferguson and commentaries by the artist.