Formal situations: Abstraction in Britain 1960-70

Tate Liverpool

The rise in popularity of contemporary artists, such as Sarah Morris and Ian Davenport, whose styles recall work produced in the 60s and 70s, has refocused attention on those decades. The starting point for this exhibition is the eponymous “Situation” exhibition of 1960, organised by a group of artists who were influenced by the 1959 American Abstraction exhibition at the Tate. They demanded complete abstraction and a minimum size of at least 30 square feet for each work. Both these qualities encouraged the appreciation of the works as objects, perhaps even ones that envelop the viewer, rather than a “window to look through”. Their work was nevertheless quite diverse, and this exhibition (5 April to 5 October) is even more so as it tracks the aftermath: Geometric compositions by Peter Sedgley jostle with the “gestural” brushwork of Gillian Ayres; Op Art by Bridget Riley with sculptures by David Annesley (right, “Swing Low”). The importance of size, especially relative to the room in which it is to be exhibited, has led Tate Liverpool to construct many partitions to break up the space.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 135 April 2003