Recent British Sculpture
Keizersgracht 82, 1015 CT, Amsterdam
After we came out of the church, we stood talking for some time together of Bishop Berkeley's ingenious sophistry to prove the nonexistence of matter, and that every thing in the universe is merely ideal. I observed, that though we are satisfied his doctrine is not true, it is impossible to refute it. I never shall forget the alacrity with which Johnson answered, striking his foot with mighty force against a large stone, till he rebounded from it - "I refute it thus!”
- James Boswell, Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
‘Recent British Sculpture’ is an exhibition of (mostly) sculpture, by artists (mostly) based in the UK. Its plain and intellectually modest title pays homage to a particular type of traveling group show produced by bodies such as the British Council in the late 1970s and early 1980s, designed to showcase British art abroad. With their absence of a foregrounded curatorial agenda, and their apparent reluctance to reflect on the cultural politics in which they were enmeshed, these exhibitions now seem very distant from contemporary practice.
Determinedly empirical, the title ‘Recent British Sculpture’ also alludes to a particular strain in British thinking, exemplified by Dr. Samuel Johnson’s famous refutation of Bishop Berkeley. Sculpture, in the exhibition, is the ‘large stone’ kicked by Johnson, but also his boot, and the (somewhat comic?) ‘mighty force’ with which it strikes. It is a show about objects in the world: their insistences, the nagging fact of their physicality.