Like other pieces he produced in the same year, this laminated wood sculpture was presented at solo exhibitions of Richard Deacon’s work held in Maastricht, Lucerne, Madrid and Antwerp in the year it was executed. Two years later it was selected for a show at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. The year the sculpture was made, 1987, was a key one in Deacon’s career: he won the Turner Prize and presented the works Like a Snail (A) and Like a Snail (B) in Münster, which launched him on the international scene. At the time he was regarded as one of the representatives of so-called New British Sculpture, which became known in Europe in the early 1980s. The materials he selected at the time were industrial in origin (galvanised steel, stainless steel, linoleum, carpet, brass, copper and laminated wood) and were complemented by the same elements normally used with such materials (rivets, screws, glue, and so on). In this sculpture and others, these elements were used to create forms devoid of any narrative, a customary approach among artists of his generation, who were firmly committed to developing a discourse focusing on everyday objects and their reuse. Like his peers, he was also determined to maintain the DIY character attributed to this generation of English sculptors. The open, sinuous form of this sculpture evokes organic structures. The process by which it was made remains visible in the layers of laminated wood and the way they are superimposed and compacted with red glue. At the same time, it takes on an intensely pictorial quality by overflowing the boundaries of the wood, and in the contrast with the white interior. When the work was presented in Madrid in 1987, Deacon pointed out that in an object, even when we know its internal structure, what prevails is the surface, and for that reason his sculptures were unconstructed inside, they hid nothing and therefore allowed full knowledge of their surface, their skin. In short, in works like this one he combined a cleanly industrial finish with allusions to the organic, while introducing the possibility of the sculpture rocking as a way of destabilising the viewer’s gaze. In his view, the material must be left to take on a shape of its own, but at the same time it must allow for the attribution of a particular form. Deacon is aware that many of his pieces are rather indefinite in form and can therefore be difficult to read, but he addresses all these issues without employing any visual stratagems, with the ostensible industrial specificity of the materials selected.
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