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LONDON — A new generation of British sculptors is stirring up excitement in London’s East End with an exhibition called, “Early One Morning,” which runs through Sept. 8 at the Whitechapel Art Gallery. Winning rave reviews from London’s art critics since it opened last month, the exhibition (timed to coincide with the Tate Britain’s “Tra-La-La” show of sculptors like Tim Scott and Phillip King from the Sixties) features works by five sculptors: Shahin Afrassiabi, Claire Barclay, Jim Lambie, Gary Webb and Eva Rothschild, all of whom graduated from Goldsmiths College in London or Glasgow School of Art in the mid-Nineties.
In the lower part of the gallery, “Over the Rainbow” echoes eerily from a microphone at the base of Webb’s black marble-like sculpture, creating the sad nostalgia of a haunted ballroom. “I use sound to up the personal level,” he says. “Where the materials are not doing enough, you need the sound to just talk to you a bit.” His sculptures are a joyous celebration of Sixties modernism. Psychedelic Perspex cubes entwined in silver metal strips lie beside a large, transparent stone with fluorescent tubes flowing through the center.
Irish-born Rothschild takes a more spiritual approach. “I’m interested in un-systems of belief, nonsystems, how people move their ‘spiritual’ desire between different objects and traditions,” she said. “That’s where sculpture comes in, making something that seems to have something extra to what is physically there.” An oversized dream catcher hangs from the ceiling, skimming the floor. Woven balls in pink, green, purple and black hang from it, sprouting colorful mops of woven leather. A display of joss sticks, entitled “Disappearer,” bursts from a wall, filling the room with incense.
Afrassiabi’s work takes the form of seemingly unfinished sculptures: A simple display of wooden tables and shelves with an assortment of paint and gloss jars on them, while Barclay uses materials such as wood, clay and plastic. One of her key pieces is an arrangement of black plastic rocks — like a miniature Stonehenge — with a large gold cymbal hanging above it like a hangman’s noose.
Lambie’s work, however, is more grounded. In one, the floor is covered with a silver, black and gold pattern of stripes made from vinyl tape, resulting in a jazzy and beautiful vision.
“These artists are returning to form,” explains Rachel Mapplebeck, a spokeswoman for the gallery. “They are finding their own materials and making the objects themselves. This is the future movement in sculpture.”