In the summer of 2015, The Nasher Sculpture Center presented a major exhibition of the work of British sculptor Phyllida Barlow. Barlow employs commonplace materials—wood, plaster, concrete, cardboard, and strips of colorful cloth or tape—in extraordinary, monumental, ramshackle, hand-built structures that expound a dizzying array of novel sculptural forms. Towering, bulky accumulations of matter “elbow their way into the room,” as the artist puts it, filling space and looming over viewers.
Projects at the Tate Britain in London and the New Museum in New York showcased the prodigious talents of the now 70-year-old Barlow, who, after a distinguished teaching career at the Slade School of Art in London, finally enjoys broad international recognition.
Her exhibition at the Nasher featured new work inspired by, and created for, the unique spaces of its galleries. Like several of Barlow’s recent projects, these works challenged accepted notions of sculpture, blurring the line between constructed form (sculpture) and constructed environment (architecture), and providing a powerful counterpoint to the refined surroundings of the Nasher’s Renzo Piano-designed building. More than simply a presentation of unique objects, Barlow’s installations created a coherent, if varied, environment, linking to one another through materials, method of fabrication, or color palette.