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Nextstep Gallery, Southampton
20 May 22 July
Reviewed by: Rosemary Shirley »
The Nextstep Gallery is described as the commercial side of the artist-run organisation A Space, and is ostensibly the staircase of The Dolphin Hotel in Southampton. Ben Scott, one of the founders of A Space, talks of supporting artists practice through generating sales at the low end of the price scale, eventually building an audience of art buyers and commissioners within the city.
For this show, the artists involved have all produced digital prints with the emphasis on saleability. Scott comments that many of these artists produce their own work in addition to these more saleable pieces, which act as a showcase for commissions, the idea being that if a potential client wants the same image in blue to match the sofa then that's no problem. This two-tier way of working (ie my own work and the work I do to sell) seems to be a situation that is common to many artists, and often produces where-am-I-going-type panics in the middle of the night. So is this way of working something an artist-led space should be advocating?
The Electronic Sketchbook Two also raises the question: What does commercial or saleable mean? Is it to do with the price, the audience or the content of the work? In this show the content is essentially variations on slick, young, masculine, urban themes. Chris Walker digitally collages skaters and metropolitan architecture; Julian Walton overlays semi-pornographic images of high heeled women; Guy Stauber creates what look like album cover designs for the likes of Run DMC and Stevie Wonder, and James Cooper shows a deconstructed image of the Dukes of Hazards car. Based on the premise that all the work was produced using laptops, the title of the show promises more curatorial content than it delivers. However with the news that Ikea is now the biggest supplier of art works in Britain, its clear that critical substance is not, at least in this case, the name of the game.
Rosemary Shirley is Interface editor, she writes about art for magazines, websites and galleries, she teaches at Goldsmiths, Birkbeck and University of Sussex.
Next Step Gallery »
The Dolphin Hotel, 34 High Street, SOUTHAMPTON SO14 2HN
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