Hurly-Burly: Phyllida Barlow, Rachel Whiteread, Alison Wilding

Gagosian, Paris

Alison Wilding's work will be in a group show at Gagosian Paris, alongside sculpture by Phyllida Barlow and Rachel Whiteread. The exhibition opens 19 January. 


Hurly-burly features several works by each artist, providing viewers with a rare opportunity to compare their diverse but interconnected approaches. It is presented not as a conversation between the works themselves, but rather as a record of an ongoing exchange between the personalities and visions behind them. None of the artists saw or discussed what the others were making during the run-up to the exhibition.


The exhibition’s title makes playful reference to another famous alliance, in the opening scene of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It also alludes to the ever-changing character of the art world that Barlow, Whiteread, and Wilding have observed and participated in over the course of their careers. Wilding first met Barlow in London in 1969 when the latter was teaching at Chelsea College of Art, and both met Whiteread in 1982 at Brighton Polytechnic, where they were her tutors. Barlow and Wilding left Brighton to teach at London’s Slade School of Fine Art, and Whiteread followed them there to study sculpture and worked as an assistant to both. The three have remained friends throughout the forty years since.


Barlow makes frequent use of everyday and industrial materials such as cement, plywood, and polystyrene, producing anti-monumental structures that are often painted in vibrant colors, and in which the means of construction have been left strategically on view. In large-scale works such as modernsculpture (2022), she plays with balance, mass, and volume, testing and redirecting our negotiation of the physical world, while smaller works such as TORSO (1986–89) encompass wry bodily allusions (the latter is also one of her oldest surviving sculptures).


In her recent sculptures, Whiteread has moved toward the use of more open, natural forms than in her previous cast works, but maintains an acute sensitivity to objects’ fine details. Untitled (Crease) (2021–22) and Untitled (Climber) (2022) are made from found branches and slats of wood bound together with other materials. Coated in opaque household paint, the ghost-white structures hint at unfinished or interrupted narratives while evoking a fleeting corporeal presence. In smaller wall-mounted works such as Untitled (Lemon and Blue) (2020–22) and Untitled (Blue, Blue, Blue) (2022), Whiteread returns to the casting process, imparting familiar industrial surfaces with unexpected colors and finishes.


Wilding, for her part, combines a wide variety of techniques and forms to produce eclectic abstract sculptures centered on material contrast, concealment, and disparity. She rejects any traditional hierarchy of materials, whether industrial or organic, reclaimed or repurposed, and her selection frequently arises from what is available to her at any given time. (2018) is an elegant segmented double curl of patinated brass that resembles a shell or spiral staircase, while the spiked top of the copper tube in Pointing (2021) transforms it into an extended archetypal crown, rising from a hexagram-shaped azobé base.


A catalogue featuring essays by art historian and critic Briony Fer and author and journalist Louisa Buck will be published on the occasion of the exhibition.


Press release courtesy Gagosian

December 19, 2022