Review of Ian Kiaer: Tooth House, Henry Moore Institute

Review of Ian Kiaer: Tooth House, Henry Moore Institute

In Tooth House, Ian Kiaer responds specifically to the physical context of Galleries 1, 2 and 3 at the Henry Moore Institute. His overall intention is to find alternative purposes for debris. The pieces of debris employed are arranged and titled with the aim of raising questions about the value and form of each. The resulting works act as speculative props or proposals for the perception of objects in the space.

The titles of the works in this exhibition are linked specifically to thinkers. Here, Kiaer draws on the writings of Alexandre Dumas and makes a connection with the architectural theorists Frederick Kiesler, Aldo Rossi, Paul Scheerbaut and Bruno Taut. The title of the exhibition draws specifically on the work of Frederick Kiesler. Kiesler’s work – his design work and architectural proposals – aimed at the unification of lived experience. Tooth House was a 1940s residential scheme modelled on a tooth.

Scale, material, encounter – all key to the study of sculpture – are facets drawn on by Kiaer in the making of these models. The model as exemplar is the central focus of Tooth House as a construction aimed at allowing thought to be examined and tested.

On entering the space at the Henry Moore Institute, the visitor is chiefly impressed by Erdrindenbrau project; inflatable (2006). This work is a large, transparent plastic ball that ‘breathes’ with the use of an attached fan. Erdrindenbrau is a German compound word that means a building formed from the earth’s crust.

Some other works are given variations on this title, all containing the German word. Of these works, this is the one that makes most literal sense taken with the given title. Spherical, earth-like form is given an abstracted translation with the employment of the transparent plastic in tandem with its name. The work also has spectacle for its scale.

Another, Erdrindenbrau project: Scheerbaut picture (pink deer) (2006) consists of a paper and small plastic image of a silhouetted deer or stag. With ignorance, the suspicion is that this work is likely to have significance for a viewer with knowledge of Scheerbaut. It seems a highly esoteric piece at first glance. Such can be said of all work exhibited in Tooth House, given the use of titular references to other thinkers.

Nevertheless, the viewer is given to understand the nature of the disciplines in which the thinkers worked. This context enables an appreciation of the raising of the question of value and form of the works. Discarded debris is given value by the power of the institution and related institutions that allowed for its exhibition. Further value is endowed according to the kudos associated with the inclusion of the stated intellectual context of the thinkers with which the work engages.

Where elsewhere there is a degree of spectacle for the scale of individual works, the viewer is seduced by the value endowed simply by its inclusion in the exhibition. Such can be said of Offset/black tulip (frame) (2009), a six-metre high aluminium frame. Likewise, Black tulip, sleep (2012) consists of long, fan-inflated, transparent bag suspended from the ceiling of the gallery.

On their own terms, the works in context impart an esotericism that borders on the solipsistic for the artist. As a comment on value and form, or indeed as an aesthetic collection of works, Tooth House is an exhibition requiring a high degree of sensitivity on the part of the viewer.

Ian Kiaer: Tooth House, until 22 June, Henry Moore Institute, 74 The Headrow, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 3AH. For more information visit

Daniel Potts

1. Ian Kiaer, a.r. nef, sol (2013). © Ian Kiaer. Courtesy of Private Collection, Paris, Marcelle Alix Galerie, Paris and Alison Jacques Gallery, London. Photo: Aurélien Mole