In White Black Gold, Coventry continues his multi-decade exploration of the relationship between Modernism and its manifestations in the contemporary. In the exhibition—comprised of two new bodies of work and a monumental bronze—Coventry disabuses Modernism of its utopian promise, locating its residue in the debris of the social landscape.
In the new Pure Junk series, Coventry constructs white monochromatic paintings of smoothly sloping forms derived from the contours of McDonald’s golden arches logo. Constructed from wood, muslin, beeswax, gesso, glass and wood, these works assume a low-relief sculptural presence, emphasizing the object quality of painting. Evoking a strand of Modernist and post-war art, Coventry establishes a link between a hygienic aesthetic free of decoration and this larger emergence of junk food, which assumes further complexities in light of the all-natural media of the work.
A second group of new Junk works employs the geometry of the McDonald’s logo in small bronze and gold sculptures that literalise the golden arches euphemism. The works, in Coventry’s words, “ennoble the ignoble, transforming the design motif of hamburger wrappers into the kinds of oversized pendants popularized by rappers.”
Destroyed Shop Window (2016), a cast bronze work modelled after a bombed-out storefront, will span the gallery. In much the same way that the Junk works lend a sense of permanence to the discarded, this large sculpture memorializes a transient moment in a building’s history, capturing it in a state of disuse while it awaits demolition or reconstruction. The sculpture highlights the lattice skeleton of the building, and, in Coventry’s conjuring of art history, evokes Modernism’s leitmotif: the grid. Described as orderly, anti-nature and anti-real, the grid asserts itself in the sculpture as a resilient and very real artefact of Modernism. Amidst this monument to wreckage, Coventry questions what the legacy of Modernism is and what became of its intellectual ideals.