Phyllida Barlow, a London-based artist and teacher who passed away earlier this year, challenged the ideas of where a sculpture could be and what it could be made of. The artist’s work is known for its use of unconventional materials located in unconventional places.
Her final and latest installation, PRANK, is no exception; the work consists of typical home furnishings that have been warped and stacked into “gravity defying forms.” This is Barlow’s first series of outdoor sculptures, a departure from her other pieces which typically use indoor-safe materials, notably cardboard, fabric, plywood, scrim, and cement. The new conditions for the series led Barlow to move toward more outdoor suitable alternatives, such as steel and fiberglass. There are a total of seven sculptures in the series, each with a name relating to the idea of a “prank”: antic, hoax, jape, jinx, mimic, stunt, and truant.
“What happens if the art object isn’t a polite object, but rather an unwelcome guest? For a long time I’ve been considering where art ends up and who it is for—PRANK continues this line of inquiry,” Barlow shared in a statement, before her passing in March.
This current series revisits many of the concepts and themes from Barlow’s 1990s Objects for series, which involved strange sculptural forms staged alongside household objects. Prank also includes Barlow’s iconic “rabbit ears,” a topper added to her sculptures, which originated in her Objects for series.
“With Phyllida Barlow’s characteristic ambition, rigor and irreverence, PRANK upends sculptural tradition with captivating invention,” said Public Art Fund Artistic and Executive Director Nicholas Baume in a press release. “It feels both apt and poignant that this body of work revisits an earlier motif, adding complexity and embracing the public context. Phyllida takes her iconic ‘rabbit ears’ on a gravity-defying journey of sculptural acrobatics: scaling stairs, grasping edges, and balancing atop improbably accumulated objects to survey their City Hall Park domain.”
PRANK, supported by the Public Art Fund and partly funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, will remain on display in City Hall Park throughout the summer and into the fall, and is slated to be taken down on November 26.