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Schizophrenogenesis: Damien Hirst at Paul Stolper Gallery
October 11, 2014
It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Damien Hirst has a solo show in Central London this month and the queue along Museum Street in the pouring rain on opening night proved the PR machine is definitely in full working order. An extension of Hirst’s pervious exploration of drugs and medication – see works like Medicine Cabinets, 2010, and Dippy Dappy Dabby, 1993 – Schizophrenogenesis is an oversized selection of pills held in the undersized Paul Stolper Gallery, London.
The two meter tall surgical stainless steel Swann Morton Scalpel is beautiful; the balance and shine of a medical instrument being something relatively unconsidered until its minimalist lines are made so blatantly oversized. Indeed the increase in size creates something threatening (perched precariously against the wall with a small block of wood holding it upright) yet the sculpture is beautiful to look at. Similarly there is a two and a half meter long syringe, which appears equally as pleasing, however can only be seen from afar as it displayed on a plinth round a corner in a part of the small Paul Stolper Gallery you are not allowed to enter.
The key to this show is the representations of drugs and medicine bottles; however the selection of over twenty variants is hit-and-miss. The large printed plastic and resin boxes are great, immaculately printed and Warhol-esque they’re sharp, clean and aesthetically engaging. A comment on how consumerist the pharmaceutical market is through their nod to Warhol’s Brillo Boxes, 1964. However the Chlordiazepoxide bottles look odd, the lid was chipped on the display bottle and something about the print of the label was just wrong. The oversized pills range from the beautiful – the Theophylline or Theo-24 editions, to looking like dog chew toys – Visken 5 editions, and kids lunch boxes – Hygroton editions, an increase in size not always working. I want to really like these pieces but I can’t bring myself to find them as “seductive” as Paul Stolper tells me they are.
Again taking Warhol as an influence, Hirst’s series The Cure is made up of thirty silkscreen pop-art-esque images of a single pill. Each two-colour pill is set against a contrastingly vibrant background, the colours as unnatural as the cure they depict. A mainstay of the cliché contemporary art show, these prints loose something of Hirst. A gallery goer commented that “[they] didn’t know that Damien wanted to be Gavin Turk pretending to be Andy Warhol”, a low blow against such an important artist.
It becomes increasingly difficult to breathe thought and humanity into Damien Hirst’s work. As much as he is an extremely influential artist to be revered and someone we can get excited about the prospect of seeing new works from, these dead pieces of plastic don’t have the humour or intelligence of past works. All editions, some reasonably priced, means money is being raked in and financially we’re sure they are a realistic investment opportunity for the buyer – but Hirst can do better (especially when his shows don’t feel like a gift shop to tempt London’s imminently arriving Frieze tourists). This time last year a Blain|Southern exhibition paired Hirst with Félix González-Torres for a memorable and touching Frieze fringe event, an exploration of medication that was not so heavy handed as this year’s offering from Hirst.
If you can fit into the gallery space definitely go see Schizophrenogenesis, it’s a chance to see Damien Hirst editions that will all enter into private collections away from public view. There is some child-like wonder in the enlarged medication, both enticing and threatening, and the curation (if you pretend that you didn’t want to see all the pieces up-close and in detail) is fun.
Schizophrenogenesis: Damien Hirst runs at the Paul Stolper Gallery until 15th November. For more information go to – http://www.paulstolper.com/exhibitions/works/75-schizophrenogenesis