Reviews For Friends #13: Julian Opie at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham

Tucked away in the Ikon Gallery’s Tower Room, almost as a strange afterthought, is a nod to a poignant work by British artist Julian Opie.

Part of the Ikon Icons series that celebrates the 50th birthday of this much-loved gallery, this installation of high-rise building sculptures was originally exhibited in 2001. Clean, linear shapes cut up through the space and you have no choice but to be up close amongst them, peering into blank window squares. Punctuated with bright block colour, the sculptures lend a warped sense of perspective to this already claustrophobic room. Recent history lends this rendering of simple efficiency a monstrous air. In the context of the terrorist attack that coincided with the original exhibition of this work, it is chokingly poignant and unpleasant.The looming and impersonal shapes ring in the silence of the room with the weight of sadness from that day. You could be forgiven for vertigo.

Perhaps best known to most of us for his artwork on 2000’s Best of Blur album cover – remember those colourful pop-art portraits of the band members? – much of Opie’s work has explored this architectural model-making. Constructions such as these high-rises - generic, soulless buildings - comment on a disengaged society. They reflect an emotional numbness in our collective response to events and people in the outside world.

An eerie, curious choice from the Ikon.

 
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