Conrad Shawcross (b. 1977) is the featured artist in the 179th installment of the MATRIX contemporary art series at the Wadsworth Atheneum
, his first museum exhibition in the Americas. Well known in the United Kingdom and the youngest member of the Royal Academy (admitted in 2013), Shawcross creates large-scale sculptures that push the boundaries of physics, technology and geometry. MATRIX 179 showcases the artist's recent work, combining the immense outdoor sculpture "Monolith (Optic)" (2016) with two midsize sculptures, several maquettes and project drawings, artist interviews and a new shadow-producing light machine inside the museum. The exhibition is on view June 21-Sept. 9, 2018.
MATRIX 179 is a compact study of Shawcross's work from the past five years, in which industrial robotics are "hacked" to create an aesthetic environment through balletic movement; mathematics and sound are mapped in solid forms; and the materiality of built solids are challenged by illusion. The indoor installation fill three rooms, the first featuring three metal sculptures and a set of related drawings embracing the ephemeral effects of light and sound. In the second, the machine-based, robotic "Slow Arc X" (2018) fills the gallery with patterned shadows as a dual-ended light source revolves slowly and precisely inside two overlapping metal cages. The final room, a related, adjacent installation of studies and maquettes, connects the exterior component of MATRIX 179, the colossal "Monolith (Optic)," with the history and impact of public sculpture in Hartford's downtown.
"Monolith (Optic)" (2016) is a faceted steel construction that uses moiré patterns to capture and refract light. The nearly 20-foot-tall sculpture relates to the monumental "The Optic Cloak" (2016), standing at 160 feet tall, which Shawcross designed to disguise the flues of a low-carbon district heating plant on London's Greenwich Peninsula. On loan from a private collection for the next three years, "Monolith (Optic)" has been installed on the west lawn of the Wadsworth Atheneum's Morgan Memorial, at short distances from other major outdoor sculpture projects in Hartford's downtown, including Alexander Calder's "Stegosaurus" (1973), Carl Andre's "Stone Field Sculpture" (1977) and the museum's "Amaryllis" (1965) by Tony Smith.