Robert Montgomery on Poetry, Berlin and Why He Loves John Ashbery
Looking at the work of London-based artist Robert Montgomery, it’s clear that while he may be connected to his YBA predecessors, he’s part of the conceptual text-based tradition of such artists as Jenny Holzer and Lawrence Weiner. But a closer look at the textual content of his work uncovers an elegant and insightful wordsmith behind the bold visual artist. Montgomery certainly has a way with words. According to the press release of his recently opened solo exhibition at New York’s C24 Gallery, "scores of people across Europe and America…have used his texts as the basis for tattoos."
The exhibition includes texts from billboards that appeared on the streets of Berlin, London and Paris alongside major new neon works, which together reveal the 41-year-old Scottish artist’s canny use of verse to explore the consumerist strategies of modern-day advertising. Finding inspiration in the Situationist International movement of the 1960s, he offers his own twist on Guy Debord‘s concept of "the spectacle," which the French Marxist theorist generally defined as the mass media—"its most glaring superficial manifestation."
Matilda Battersby, online arts editor for The Independent, described Montgomery as "an artist who sneaks around London plastering verses of poetry over advertising" in an article about a new movement called "brandalism." But there was no sneaking around last Thursday evening at the artist’s packed opening at C24 Gallery. BlackBook dropped by to take a look and had a chance to ask Montgomery about his work. Check out the video below to get a glimpse of the exhibition opening reception, some of the work in the show and a short interview with the artist, including an impromptu recitation of Montgomery’s favorite poem—John Ashbery’s "So Many Lives"—which he recited from memory.
Montgomery’s solo exhibition—his first in New York—is open to the public through October 19, 2013, at C24 Gallery, 514 West 24th Street, New York. For more information, click here.
image: Robert Montgomery, "The People You Love," 2013 (oak, polymer, 12 volt LED lights, 69 x 72 in.)