Riflemaker becomes Indica

Artvehicle 6/Review

20th November 2006 — 12th January 2007

Once upon a time there was a trendy gallery called Indica. It never made any money but was where all the hip young things hung out - no doubt making the whole experience extremely cool but not helping pay the rent so it shut after two years in 1967. Marc Bolan painted the walls but he probably did a lot of lousy jobs and Polanski visited but he went to lots of places. More importantly Indica showed some really interesting, cutting edge art by unknown artists. Riflemaker becomes Indica seeks to juxtapose the works of some of the original artists with some contemporary pieces. Describing the present art climate as 'harsher, more cynical and much more business-orientated' it steps up as an example of this 'cultural scene'. Although there may have been work shown at Indica that would now be more cringeworthy than praiseworthy enough big hitters passed through the doors to be able to present some iconic works.

This exhibition could have become a kind of competition, or worse, a kind of 'homage', but it doesn't do either. It is a remarkably even show with new and old works complimenting each other well around the vague theme of kinetics. There is an innocence and simplicity with rather less of the aforementioned cynicism. Dominating the upstairs room is an elegant, wooden contraption by Conrad Shawcross with four light bulbs on arms thrashing round. They are all geared from the same motor with old-school cogs, gears and mercury bushes. This was built in 2006 but blends perfectly with the older works as well as the rough wooden floors and olde worlde charm of the building itself. The wall text talks of 'the afterimage' but I was more enthralled with the danger of the beast, applying the rather laxer health and safety requirements of the mid 60s perhaps. More elegant apparatus runs some flickerbook machines of, what appears to be, mobile phone footage of some blokes in a street. The room is competed with three lights on poles and a cut and paste text piece.

On the ground floor are a number of multicoloured floor to ceiling forms made from resin and wire. Had these been made forty years ago they may have been exciting but now they resemble 'crafty' lamps. Yoko Ono's apple is the only piece that was shown in the original Indica gallery. Obviously it is not the same apple, firstly because it is a nice fresh Granny Smith's and secondly because when it was shown initially some arrogant Scouse philistine came along and took a bite out of it. Ono must have been furious, you just don't need that kind of grief at your private view. I'm sure Lennon tried to justify it but it was totally out of order and he's lucky that she ever gave him the time of day again. As a piece it displays a deft use of materials - a nice shiny green apple sitting, like a logo, on a crystal clear (and space-age modern at the time) plinth.

The Boyle family reproduced randomly chosen 6' squares of the earth that are displayed as wall pieces. The one we have here has 1 1/2 drain covers, some bits of glass and a gutter. I have always had a mental picture of the Brady bunch heading off to a set of co-ordinates only to discover again that it is: A. in a huge building B. on a 'secret' government base C. in the sea. A few contemporary abstract/op-art paintings fill up the rest of the wall space.

I cracked my head something rotten going into the basement adding to the dizzying effect of flashing lights and jumping shadows - I recommend you do the same. Once again the work here is simple and elegant. Lights in the frame of 'Cosmic Flares III' 1966 are turned on and off by cams. By the stairs are a series of extremely watchable films by Peter Whitehead. The vibe in these swings from past to present with interviews with 'dolly birds' on funfair rides and films of the horseguards parade and fainting guardsmen. At one point two quaint bobbies run over and tell him off for filming.

Indica was a welcoming, open space that encouraged discourse. Riflemaker isn't - the door is sometimes locked and, while most members of staff were extremely friendly and helpful, sometimes the original spirit 'collaboration and fluidity' seems lacking, exchanged perhaps for one more 'business-orientated'. Ring the bell and wait though because this exhibition is well worth a visit. There will be a second part of this show in January and there are a series of talks and happenings programmed. Could any contemporary gallery make such a mark as Indica and be remade in 2050 to the same effect? I doubt it.


79 Beak Street
London W1F 9SU

Monday-Friday, 10am-6pm
Saturday, 12pm-6pm

Riflemaker becomes Indica —  Conrad Shawcross, Counterpoint: Piano:(Second 9:8)  2006 140 x 140cm
            Mixed Media Photo- Chris McAndrew

Conrad Shawcross, Counterpoint: Piano:(Second 9:8)
2006 140 x 140cm Mixed Media Photo- Chris McAndrew