Tract (from Boost to Wham) 1993Richard Wentworth

The Tate Gallery, Albert Dock
21st January - 24th April 2005, £4(£3 concessions)

Reviewed by Kenn Taylor

The latest special exhibition at Tate Liverpool is from renowned sculptor Richard Wentworth, who since the late 1970s has tried to change the way we see sculpture as an art form. It is his largest and most comprehensive exhibition to date, encompassing a selection of his work from the last thirty years and new pieces created specially for the show.

Wentworth creates his pieces by utilising everyday objects in unfamiliar ways to make new forms of three-dimensional art. Once describing the nature of his art he said "I find cigarette packets folded under table legs more monumental than Henry Moore."

Probably Wentworth’s best known work is 'Spread' a massive circle made out of dinner plates which is exhibited here. Plates are one of the materials that Wentworth uses time and again, seen also in 'Brac' with plates lying on a baby grand piano. He also seems to have a pre-occupation with making works out of chairs and lead balls.

Books are also a favoured material for the artist. Two of the three rooms used by the exhibition are dominated by book-based work. 'Mirror Mirror' gives the effect of a large metal shop book shelf toppling over while for me one of the best works in the show was 'False Ceiling' - with books suspended low from the roof by wire cable which created an interesting claustrophobic atmosphere and provoked thoughts about space and weight.

One of the most interesting elements of the exhibition was the collection of photographs that which Wentworth describes as "a background noise" to the rest of his work. Many are artistic shots focusing on details in everyday situations; street signs, door numbers and plastic bags on car window screens. While continuing to highlight the artist's obsessions with chairs and light bulbs the pictures also act, perhaps unintentionally, like documentary snapshots of our changing times.

Many of his works are visually stimulating in terms of shape and texture and he also manages to use everyday materials in creative ways. Despite this, the artist often seems to be repeating the same ideas time and again with little change in effect and his works seem to offer little more than interesting decoration, though maybe that’s the point. The biggest work in the exhibition is a new piece called ‘Tantamount’ consisting of a bale of straw and a tensile barrier like you would queue around in a bank. Is this optimism about his popularity by Wentworth, or perhaps a comment on those who flock in droves to see conceptual pieces of art supposedly filled with meaning?