• Current

  • Past

Caroline McCarthy

Park Lane, Spencer Dock
June 18–August 8

Caroline McCarthy, Riot, 2015, acrylic on canvas, 118 x 59".

When Theodor Adorno wrote of “art with its definitive protest against the dominance of purpose over human life,” he might have been writing a manifesto for Caroline McCarthy. The London-based Irish artist has made a career of works that play with ideas of utility in a market-dominated art world where value, or rather, price, is part of the purpose.

In McCarthy’s 2011 exhibition “Arrangements,” her piece Shelf Arrangement no. 1 of 720 variations, 2011, consisted of a stack of inexpensive shelving material supported by bronze brackets with hand-cast screws. Here, she escalates the idea of abstracting everyday objects from their functional use and creating a new scale of value Useless (all works cited 2015) is a twenty-meter-long table on which sit hundreds of bent screwdrivers. Dramatic and poignant, each of these is an identical plaster cast of one found by McCarthy in her studio.

Around this centerpiece, a series of works have been created by the painstaking painting of acrylic on canvas to create the impression that the images have been constructed from masking and insulating tapes. This places the work in a long tradition of trompe l’oeil and illusionism. The technique gives incredible depth, here ranging from the carefully constructed Op art chaos of Riot, to the elegant simplicity of Dublin Bay, in which the titular body of water’s iconic pair of industrial towers is clearly discernible alongside a pair of birds—two black lines in the striped sky.

Gemma Tipton

“Riddle of the Burial Grounds”

39 East Essex Street, Temple Bar
June 11–October 10

View of “Riddle of the Burial Grounds,” 2015. From left: Stéphane Béna Hanly, Length of a Legacy (Robert Oppenheimer), 2015; Lara Almarcegui, Buried House, Dallas, 2013.

Measured against geological time, humans haven’t been around for all that long. Judging from the works in this exhibition, the natural world may have met its match in humanity. Throughout the show, sixteen artists comment on the depredations of time, revealing in the process the moments of willful ignorance, brilliance, and extraordinary beauty that characterize our existence on this planet.

Pieces from Stéphane Béna Hanly’s 2015 series “Length of a Legacy” are featured in each of the center’s spaces. Three illuminated vitrines contain these meticulously sculpted busts, made in unfired clay, slowly dissolving in water. The Ozymandias-like busts are actually likenesses of Thomas Midgley Jr., Robert Oppenheimer, and Alexander Parkes, the respective pioneers of CFCs, atomic weaponry, and plastics. In the first space, Midgley’s erosion is juxtaposed with Matthew Buckingham’s The Six Grandfathers, Paha Sapa, in the Year 502,002 C.E., 2002, which imagines through text and image Mount Rushmore half a million years from now, the rock-carved faces obliterated by time.

The theater spaces have fittingly been curated to be more dramatic, with seats removed to make way for a series of sequentially played and illuminated video and installation works. Dorothy Cross’s gorgeous video Stalactite, 2010, features a young boy—his soprano voice on the cusp of breaking—singing beneath one of the world’s largest stalactites, itself precariously attached and yet a strangely glowing, glistening, living thing that has evolved over 500,000 years. Opposite, Nicholas Mangan’s video A World Undone, 2012, shows the slow-motion destruction of a piece of zircon. At 4.4 billion years, it is one of the oldest minerals on the planet. Haunting.

Gemma Tipton