Artnews, p. 122
1 July 2009
Perennial provocateur Malcolm Morley continued to surprise his audience in this splendid show. Once again his subject matter was sports stars-this time mostly motorcross riders and Nascar drivers-who, for him, are the contemporary equivalent to mythological heroes, a belief he articulated in a statement published to coincide with the show.
The standout work in this group was Ring of Fire (2009), an audacious lifesize sculpture of a motorcyclist leaping through a flaming circle. Though the artist had requested that the material used to create the piece remain classified, it was eventually revealed to be heavy watercolor paper.
Morleys occasional forays into sculpture are always fascinating. This work brilliantly demonstrates his skill at combining different styles of representation. The motorcylcles chain and sprockets are reconstructed with almost loving accuracy, and the chunky tires are rendered with incredible complexity, but the cyclists faces is simply generic, as though it had been sketched by a teenage motorcross fan.
The amusement Morley derives from having several things going on in the same work was obvious throughout the show. Thor and Hubris (both 2008) feature more or less lifelike representations of motorcyclists painted immediately adjacent to what seem to be images of the same picture ripped up and crumpled. Morley entertains himself in Ring of Fire as well, having strewn about the motorcycle and the riders outfit little jokes in the guise of sponsors logos.
Morleys art dealer, Angela Westwater, is honored in this way, as are member of his studio team. Most significantly, the riders goggles bear the stylized signature of Cézanne, as if to remind viewers that the artists real subject is art itself rather than the motorcycles and cars that are merely its vehicle. (Pun intended)
- Robert Ayers