Rita McBride: Explored
Exhibition, WIELS, Brussels, Belgium.
Rita McBride works with the language of sculpture, employing the vocabularies of architecture and design. Her cross-disciplinary practice also encompasses collaborative publications, editions, performances, and large-scale works in the public space. The exhibition features new productions and existing works, including several pieces never before shown in Europe. Attuned as McBride is to space and context, with her signature humour she has developed an exhibition that responds to the particular qualities of the WIELS building and its architecture. She is critical of Modernist architecture and the utopian project of Modernism, with work that provides a witty critique of the pleasures and vagaries of the movement.
Spanning all three floors of WIELS’ exhibition spaces, McBride presents a new work titled Guide Rails (2017). The installation, 200 metres of freestanding white wooden structures, quotes original guide rails found in the Santa Monica mountains that once led to the private ranch of the humourist and celebrated cowboy, Will Rogers. The length of McBrides’ Guide Rails replicates that of the white walls of Richard Venlet’s exhibition architecture, commissioned by WIELS for its 10th anniversary exhibition, The Absent Museum. These newly created temporary delineations for WIELS highlight the lively and co-dependent relationships between architects, artists, cultural institutions and the politics of real estate. The Guide Rails will host more than 20 artist interventions, described as Something Stronger Than Me*.
In dialogue with this new installation, the exhibition presents a selection of McBride’s pieces that reveal how sculpture and architecture inform and measure one another. These works reintroduce forms that are often overlooked in our built environment: air conditioning units, pipes, skylights, telecommunications boxes. McBride transforms their typical materials or shifts their scale to explore the tensions between functionalism and formalism. The earliest date from 1992, the most recent from 2017, revealing the consistency of her approach and vision. They include her Glass Conduits (1999-2004), White Elephants (1999-2015), Managers and Minimanagers (2003-2004), and Vents (2010), among others.