British artist Jonathan Monk replays, revises and re-examines works of Conceptual and Minimal art by acts of witty, ingenious and irreverent appropriation. Through wall paintings, monochromes, ephemeral sculpture and photography he pays homage to leading figures of the art world such as Sol LeWitt, Ed Ruscha, Bruce Nauman and Lawrence Weiner, reflects on the tendency of contemporary art to devour references and asks of it “what next?”
For his sixth solo exhibition at Lisson Gallery, Monk revisits his own biographical narratives and transforms historical works by artists who have proved to be personal influences. This exhibition in itself is deeply personal, including moving pieces such as a slideshow that magnifies a single Monk family portrait 80 times over, and a series of childhood holiday snaps which are each juxtaposed with a vintage invitation card, for shows by the likes of Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt or On Kawara, sourced from the same date.
Contrasting with this everyday matter, Monk has assembled a monumental installation of seven coloured-coded pallets: minimalist metal pieces which each a shipment of rocks gathered from seven different contested territories in the Middle East. These enclosed tranches of landscape, culturally displaced and geopolitically charged, relate to Land Art exponent Robert Smithson’s Non-Site series; while other homages to recent heroes of art history include Blow Up, which reveals itself as a playful destruction of the photographic work of German couple Bernd and Hilla Becher and the life-sized, white ceramic Pig (2012) which is both a scaled-up version of a piggy bank from Monk’s childhood and an imagining of an unrealised sculpture by Jeff Koons. This significant piece interweaves the two dominant poles of Monk’s practice: his familial and art historical inheritance.
Throughout the exhibition, Monk’s artistic authorship is seen to either reaffirm and contextualise his life’s work, or channel, analyse and celebrate the work of others. Finally, melancholic objects like a discarded piano cover carved from wood, a blinking neon lightbox suggest a reflective strand, lamenting times past and reviving art historical heydays, this all takes place under a title that references key literary and musical touchstones: I ♥ 1984.
Jonathan Monk: I ♥ 1984, until 17 January, Lisson Gallery, 27 Bell Street, London, NW1 5DA.
1. Jonathan Monk, installation view, Lisson Gallery.