Martin Creed, Hayward Gallery

Martin Creed
Southbank Centre, Belvedere Road
January 29–May 5

Ostensibly, there is a multitude of ways to logically organize Martin Creed’s artwork from the past two and a half decades into a retrospective. One can do so chronologically, of course, but one can also just as easily arrange the works in numerical order, following the artist’s oblique system of logic in assigning a number to each work. Or it can be done alphabetically by concept, a good system as any and a tack taken in this exhibition titled “What’s the Point of It?”

Every floor and terrace, as well as the elevator, of the gallery is filled with more than 150 witty curiosities, sunny yet unsettling exercises in Conceptualism, and vague provocations such as MOTHERS, FEELINGS, and THINGS written in neon. Thousands of white balloons are enclosed in a small room in the installation Work No. 200, 1998, a buoyant scene that upon entry quickly turns into waves of isolation and claustrophobia. Creed also uses humor, whether optimistic or canny, to propose a bit of mischief into quotidian sculptural arrangements of cardboard boxes in Work No. 878 and Work No. 916, both 2008; tiles in a shower stall in Work No. 271, 2001; a horizontal line of nails in a wall in Work No. 701, 2007; and a row of cactus plants arranged from shortest to tallest in Work No. 629, 2007, and Work No. 960, 2008.

The oeuvre is not reductive or severe enough in its approach to alienate or impose existential crises, as Conceptual or Minimalist works often wish to do. Creed, instead, fully commits to executing an idea to its halfway point. As he says in the entry for the artistic concept “Half and half,” filed under H in his exhibition guide, “If I can half do it, and half not do it, that makes me feel all right about it.”


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