‘We are striving in our architecture as in our whole life to create a social order, that is to say, to raise the instinctive into consciousness.’ El Lissitzky, Ideological Superstructure, 1929
Kupfer are proud to present an exhibition by UK-based artists Mike Cooter and Ross Downes that investigates the forms, shapes and surfaces that condition our experience of public space. By scrutinising the utilitarian, Cooter and Downes’ practices reveal both the aesthetic and coercive potential and ideologically utopian underpinnings of the contemporary built environment.
Through a subtle interrogation of the surfaces encountered in municipal environments Downes reinvigorates the histories contained within. His interest in the generic post-Constructivist abstractions found commonly within public buildings has led to an ongoing series of works in cut linoleum flooring that intentionally stray into a territory between pastiche and homage. Here the rubber flooring of trains, buses and hospital floors has been re-purposed to play out its internal contradiction of simultaneously referencing socialist models of symbolic gesture that sought to integrate ideology with functionality through the use of new industrial materials and techniques, and the sublimation of these concerns into the ‘tasteful’ design tropes of contemporary commercial design.
The works taken from Cooter’s series Guidance exemplify his interest in the choreographic potential of sculptural forms. Based on and inspired by a series of bespoke handrails designed by the Swedish architect Sigurd Lewerentz for the Östra kyrkogården / Eastern Cemetery in Malmö they draw on Lewerentz’s famously fastidious relationship with the design and fabrication of all elements of what would become his masterpiece. By displacing these interventions into the gallery these works deliberately exploit an ambiguous position between architectural support and a formal sculptural object, intentionality rendered in three dimensions: a line drawing in space.
For the exhibition at Kupfer, Downes’ concerns with the sublimation of ideological representations into the fabric of the everyday are at once intervened, interrupted and complemented by Cooter’s quasi-functional sculptures, exemplifying the artists’ shared interest in the physical and ideological constructs that constitute ‘guidance’ in both exhibition and public space.