Alex Hartley At The Victoria Miro Gallery

Alex Hartley is an internationally recognised British contemporary artist known for his spectacular shows.

For Hypothermia in 2012, he looped a three-hour video recording of his own core body temperature dropping below 35℃. His Nowhereland project the same year took an iceberg on a 500-mile journey around the south west coast of England before it was smashed into pieces and sent into orbit. In 2003, the artist scrambled over Los Angeles architecture (for his LA Climbs book), risking life and limb to describe aerial routes of the city.

Hartley’s work often asks us to think differently about our landscape and surroundings. For his latest exhibition at Victoria Miro, the gallery’s garden has been transformed into a scene of poetic dereliction and decay. Built on the canal bank and into the water itself, jungle-like ferns surround an abandoned modernist ruin. The work encapsulates classic modernist tropes – the clean lines of Bauhaus architecture as exported to the US by Mies van der Rohe, Philip Johnson and Richard Neutra, amongst others. Looking at the work, you feel you’ve been transported into the future in order to look back at the present or recent past.

Inside, a series of black-and-white photographs of recognisable mid-century architecture – such as the residential buildings designed by Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Eames Case Study Houses, all taken when Hartley was living in LA – covered by semi transparent Perspex. Caught up in these works are ideas of privacy and voyeurism, and the contradiction of modernist aspiration. Further large-scale works present fragmentary architectural details in front of dense jungle scenery. As with the garden, these works allude to the manmade world versus the natural environment.

Well worth seeing before it closes on December 16th.