Exhibition “The Shape of a City” by Nathaniel Rackowe

The opening of a new solo exhibition by the British artist Nathaniel Rackowe “The Shape of a City” was held at Letitia Art Gallery in the presence of H.E. Mr. Hugo Shorter, ambassador of the United Kingdom and the artist who came to Lebanon specially for this occasion.

Nathaniel Rackowe takes the city of Beirut as a point of departure in order to investigate the ever-changing nature of cites, and their continual destruction and renewal. He uses industrial materials such as corrugated roofing, galvanised steel and cement blocks, and combines them with artificial light; used to soften the hard edges of the mass produced materials, allowing him to explore the ways in which urban dwellers must continually adapt their behavior in order to successfully negotiate the built landscape.

Nathaniel Rackowe said “Beirut, the city itself, has become the specific departure point for a new series of work. These sculptures and works on paper seek to explore the notion of a fleeting beauty that an urban environment can surprise us with, allowing me to combine a formal and spacial investigation with concepts of habitation, alienation, movement, and cognitive mapping.”

Dominating the entrance and cutting through the gallery space is a large scale installation, which invites viewers to interact with it by walking around or passing through it. The structure combines different construction materials, which have been locally-sourced – mass-produced, glass re-enforced plastic (GRP) sheeting and folded galvanised steel - with standard white fluorescent lights, creating a structure that hovers between minimal installation and building site. In the combination of familiar parts into a new aesthetic, Rackowe invites the viewer to reconsider their relationship with the city. The installation demonstrates a progression from Rackowe’s existing Pathfinding series of works, which similarly use locally-sourced blocks and light and which has been constructed in cities from Paris to Bangkok.

Occupying the central gallery are six new floor-based sculptural works: cement blocks, each illuminated by a cube of white neon creating a geometric halo of light. These sit alongside a new series of framed, mixed-media works on paper, Petrol Station Series, the scale of which will range from small works to one large scale piece.

“The Shape of a City” extends beyond the walls of Letitia Art Gallery with the installation of two large-scale public works, one situated in front of Le Gray Hotel and the other at the Khan Antoun Bey Square in downtown Beirut. The positioning of the sculptures in the context of the urban landscape, which inspires so much of Rackowe’s work, allows the pieces to take on new meaning in the context of the open space.

Annie Vartivarian, the gallery’s founder, comments: “We’re delighted to welcome Nathaniel Rackowe to Letitia, with an exhibition that will challenge visitors to the gallery to reimagine the city around them. The Shape of a City will also make an invaluable contribution to the growing vitality of Beirut’s contemporary art and cultural scene, through the positioning of sculptural works in publicly accessible spaces around Beirut.”

About Nathaniel Rackowe

Nathaniel Rackowe was born in 1975 and lives and works in London, UK. He graduated from the Slade with a M.F.A in sculpture in 2001. Selected solo shows include Signs of a City, Galerie Jérôme Pauchant, Paris (2017); Radiant Trajectory, Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai (2015); The Consequence of Light, Bodson Gallery, Brussels (2014); and Reflections on Space, BISCHOFF/WEISS, London (2013). Group shows include LowFidelity, Etage Projects, Copenhagen (2016); Monologue / Dialogue, Bangkok Arts and Cultural Centre (2014); and Dynamo: A century of light and movement in art, 1913-2013, Grand Palais, Paris (2013). Public Art Projects include Black Shed Expanded, Village Royal, Paris (2014); Black Cube, DEN FRIE Centre of Contemporary Art, Copenhagen (2013); and Spin, Lima Peru (2010). Rackowe’s works are in notable public collections including CIFO (Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation), Miami, USA; Jumex Collection, Mexico; Museum of Modern Art, Lima, Peru; LVMH Collection, Paris, France; Museum of New Art, Tasmania, Australia; David Roberts Collection, London, UK; UK Government Art Collection, London, UK; Hauser & Wirth Collection, Zurich, Switzerland; and Ernst & Young Collection, London, UK.

About Letitia Art Gallery

Based in Beirut in the vibrant Hamra neighborhood, Letitia Art Gallery is a contemporary art gallery, founded by Mohamad Al Hamoud and Annie Vartivarian. It is focused on encouraging global engagement with contemporary art in Lebanon through the contextualization of both local and international artists and their work in the global art environment.