Exhibition Review:
Restless Sculpture in London

There’s something deeply satisfying about DRIFT’s Shylight. The piece, inspired by flowers that close at night, comprises illuminated silk structures which descend, unfurl, then fold up and tuck themselves away. They bounce in tandem, causing the room to light up and dim in a cycle. It would be easy to sit and stare for hours, but Shylight is the first thing you see when entering Hayward Gallery’s When Forms Come Alive. It sets the stage for what’s to come: a dynamic spectacle of sculptures that move, glisten, bounce and vibrate. The visual feast continues with Teresa Solar Abboud, whose tantalisingly smooth, claw-like structures burst with colour. You’ll find yourself asking: what is that made of? How did she do it? Marguerite Humeau, meanwhile, echoes the structures of honeycomb and mushrooms; her textures are almost an invitation to take a bite. Later, audiences will emerge into a room filled with bulbous pink tendrils; it takes strength not to climb inside Eva Fàbregas’ tangle of forms, or want to take a ride on AJ Hill’s neon-lit rollercoaster.

Yet play and sensory joy are just part of the picture here. When Forms Come Alive is, at its core, a journey through the story of 20th century sculpture, teaching us about overlooked figures and ticking off key turning points in the history of art. Ruth Asawa’s 1950s and 1960s hanging wire works are given special attention, as are iconic chewing gum shapes by Franz West and hulking structures from Phyllida Barlow. Elsewhere, Lynda Bengalis’ Quartered Meteor, which usually lives at Tate Modern, melts into a corner, whilst Senga Nengudi stretches and pins a pair of tights to the wall. Crucially, wrapped up in all the fun and absurdity are serious narratives about ecology, feminism and freedom. The exhibition, like all good sculpture should, questions what it means for a human being to occupy and experience space.

When Forms Come Alive is at Hayward Gallery, London, until 6 May.


Words: Eleanor Sutherland

Image Credits:
1. Installation view of EJ Hill, When Forms Come Alive (7 February — 6 May 2024). Photo: Jo Underhill. Courtesy the Hayward Gallery.
2. Installation view of Tara Donovan, When Forms Come Alive (7 February — 6 May 2024). Photo:Jo Underhill. Courtesy the Hayward Gallery.
3. Installation view of Eva Fàbregas, When Forms Come Alive (7 February — 6 May 2024). Photo: Jo Underhill. Courtesy the Hayward Gallery.