Gary Webb. Industrial materials influence.

Gary Webb Double Bubble 2008

Gary Webb is a young British sculptor whose work I have found very interesting and inspiring and led to my interest in industrial materials. In my case these were materials such as polythene and perspex as other industrial materials and processes were beyond both my financial reach and my skill set to investigate properly.

I was primarily drawn to Webb's work as almost a continuation of my interest in painterly abstraction and in particular its formal exponents powerful use of pure geometric form and solid opaque colour. Webb was approaching things differently and his references to material industrial culture and manufacturing processes that emerge as these strange abstract sculptural forms was very inspiring. His solid configuration of form, space and colour doesn't allow dismissal into pure abstraction but rather it adequately allows the work to stand progressively alongside the work of previous 20th century sculptors. Yes the work is idiosyncratic and fun but there is mastery also of shape, line and beautiful juxtapositions of material texture and density. If the sculptures are whimsical or comical tales than they are told with great intelligence.

The sculptures are highly polished and beautifully made reminding me of the commercial brand Alessi with their polished bright finish and design philosophy. They make the industrial process beautiful and Webb exhibits the same high level of quality control as high end manufacturers in his pieces. I am inspired by the idea of the industrial process in general both from the perspective of what it might leave behind seen in the work of Gedi Sibony etc and also in what it might create beyond purely manufactured consumer functionality as seen in Gary Webb's work.

Whilst Webb's work seems entirely modern there are for me senses of South American tribal art within many of his pieces. This is often seen for me in the overall sculptural shapes rather than the colour palettes. In looking at Aztec, Inca and American Indian paintings it is possible to denote some structures that emerge in Webb's sculptural forms. The bone necklaces in particular have links that echo the shapes in Double Bubble for example and there is no dying its equally desert cactus like appearance.

Some critics have described his anti reduction sculptors as almost baroque in their exuberance. Sally O'Reilly in her essay in Phaidons 'New perspectives on sculpture and installation' points out Webb's work retains 'the autonomy of mid 20th century British sculpture by the likes of Anthony Caro and Phillip King… but the accumulation of parts that constitute the whole is an unstable state, that threatens to unravel or cancel out the whole.' O'Reilly sees the joy of this as something beyond the sculptors wish for 'metaphysical essence' and more to do with an accumulative amalgamation for the 'pure joy of it'.

There are interesting parallels to modern consumer culture drawn from Webb's shiny sensuous dream objects. There is a feeling of desire for desires sake when often looking at his work, reflecting back appropriately in this time period perhaps the folly of object acquisition for its own sake. I think one might be over intellectualising to feel the artist is using his sculptures as some pop art type reflective missive upon modern culture. There is no denying however that these shiny examples of exquisite manufacturing must intrinsically say something as Sibony and Johanasson's work does at the opposite end of the manufacturing process seeks to do. Webb's sculptures to me aren't merely an assemblage of shiny attachments and materials if they aren't reflective of a wider cultural argument then they certainly enter discussions about art itself returning back to the discussions the formalist abstract artists were presenting as an anti tide to pure expressive principles.

Webb may be a hybrid for all that and his work may express far more than I currently derive from it. I have tried to move away from reading other critical assessments of artists work in my project and formulate my own responses that encourage me to investigate for myself why a certain artist's work appeals to me. Webb certainly fired my enthusiasm for industrial process and materials and he seemed a natural progression to me from the painters I was looking at. He also seemed at the other end of a spectrum to Sibony for example and as such I found that equally interesting in my project.


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