Gustav Metzger

Serpentine Gallery, London
29 September-8 November 2009

If you’ve spent any time in the London art scene, you’ll no doubt have seen a distinctively small, mysterious man quietly milling through the crowds at many a private view. This man is German-born, 82-year-old Gustav Metzger, and his solo show at the Serpentine this autumn has been a long time coming. After a flurry of “auto-destructive” and “auto-creative” activity in the 1950s and 1960s—including throwing acid at paintings on London’s South Bank in 1961, liquid crystal projections and the “Destruction in Art Symposium” in 1966, attended by the Viennese Actionists, Yoko Ono, John Latham and others)—Metzger largely withdrew from the art world, finally re-emerging with a solo show at Oxford’s Modern Art in 1998.

After participating in a number of the Serpentine Pavilion’s marathon interview sessions since 2006, Metzger is now showing a full retrospective of his works at the gallery, ranging from 1945 to 2009. A major focus of the exhibition is a large-scale installation of newspapers, a version of which—“100,000 Newspapers: a Public-Active Installation”—was first shown by Wolfe Lenkiewicz’s T1&2 space in east London in 2003. The piece involves a huge archive of newspapers collected by the artist since 1995, which the public can cut images and articles from to be displayed on the walls of the gallery. The show also includes newly commissioned pieces and reconstructions of auto-destructive and auto-creative works under the instructions of the artist. Metzger has had a lifelong dedication to environmental issues, and the Serpentine is holding a conference on “Extinction” in November to accompany the exhibition.

This article was published in The Art Newspaper, September 2009, p67. To view it in context, click on the PDF link below

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