I went to see the new show at London’s Gagosian Gallery, Crash: An Homage to JG Ballard.
It assembles work from mostly well-known artists with some connection to the recently-deceased Ballard or his themes.
So there are the obligatory car crashes from Warhol, referencing the eponynmous Crash, probably Ballard’s best-known novel. Indeed, works about cars and airplanes, sex and violence make up the bulk of the show. Tacita Dean’s Teignmouth Electron, Cayman Brac (Ballard) seems to be a scene from one of Ballard’s dystopian end-of-the-world sagas. Ed Ruscha’s posterish “Fountain of Crystal” gestures toward both Crash (where the featured quote is taken from) and the early novel The Crystal World. Roger Hiorns’ combines the two with his Untitled engines, encased in bright blue crystalline copper sulfate.
But my favorite works take up one of my own obsessions, Roger Smithson’s Spiral Jetty (with which Ballard had a documented passion). Florian Maier-Aichen’s “One Day at the Spiral Jetty” shows an eerie, inexplicably lit, nighttime scene of the work on the shores of the Great Salt Lake.
Florian Maier-Aichen, One Day at the Spiral Jetty, 2009
Another favorite, a part of Mike Nelson’s Triple Bluff Canyon, is also an obscure reference, since the original version of Nelson’s piece featured a reproduction of Smithson’s early-70s Kent State installation, Partially Buried Woodshed.
Warhol, Liechtenstein, Francis Bacon — as good as these artists and their works are, they’ve been drafted, but it is remarkable how many of the other artists are consciously engaging with Ballard. Which may be a statement about how scarily universal Ballard’s themes of violence, ennui and apocalypse have become.