Martin Creed
Scales

September 22, 2013, to March 9, 2014

The multifarious activities of Martin Creed—visual artist, composer, musician, performer, and choreographer—are received and contextualized as artworks, yet he resists that definition; rather, he catalogues his output by a simple taxonomy: a number followed by a descriptive title. Since the initial Work No. 3, Yellow painting (1996), the intervening seventeen years have seen the accumulation of nearly two thousand works, including Work No. 1652 (2013), a Victorian upright piano whose lid mechanically opens and then drops closed. The abrupt slam causes the faint resonance of every string, an atonal drone that ebbs and flows with the creak and bang of the lid's movement. What might be considered music in this work is as much tied to the object's inherent qualities as to an incremental, relative, and nimble exercise in classification.

Michelangelo, master of the High Renaissance and progenitor of the multi-hyphenate, is supposed to have said that the sculpture was inside the marble and it was just a matter of finding it. Creed often refers to this anecdote as "a nice way to think about working—finding it, not making it." Scales assumes this exploratory methodology, finding music both sonorously and conceptually in the most obvious and least likely of things and ways, in works in paint, ink, sculpture, and video.

This exhibition is bound together by the artist's consistently applied methodology: playing off characteristics essential to light, metronomes, balloons, a piano, a drum machine, paint brushes, and people, rather than manipulating them to a desired effect, which yields work as much about music as all forms of creative expression. Unexpectedly complex expressions are drawn from breaking things down by units and measures, allowing new subtexts about happiness, love, relationships, anxiety, fear, failure, and death to emerge. Consider these works amongst Creed's on-going experiments, which might illuminate some things we don't know while helping us to enjoy the process of finding out.

Martin Creed lives and works in London, England, and Alcudi, Italy.

Kelly Taxter, curator




Top of page: Martin Creed, Work No. 1190, Half the air in a given space (installation view, Hyde Park Art Center, 2012), 2011
Courtesy of the artist and Gavin Brown's enterprise, New York
Photo: Nathan Keay, © MCA Chicago