Sam Griffin’s solo show at Gallery Vela

Corvée by Sam Griffin
26 November 2010 – 15 January 2011
Gallery Vela – 38 Langham Street


The secret of corporate aesthetics is the power of elimination, the celebration of the efficient, the eradication of excess: abstraction as camouflage, the search for a Corporate Sublime.

Rem Koolhaas, Junkspace

The view from the top of 30 St “Gherkin” Mary Axe is a vista worthy of Caspar David Friedrich. Man appears as an insignificant but critical cog in the flow of capital, as it ascends the glass elevators of the Lloyds building, floats in a hedonistic fog lubricated by speculative financing in the bar of Tower 42, and watches the Pinnacle ascend to the heavens from its Bishopsgate pit. James Rosenquist’s Swimmer in the Econo-Mist beckons from beyond the lobby doors of Deutsche Bank, as Pret refuels assistants between meetings and commutes. Architecture gives wipe-clean form to corporate rapture – framing the heavens and reflecting the sky – whilst lobbies overflow with trees, high-tech and breezeway suburban designs, connoting the ecological order of “vest-pocket“ urban parks, in high-rise office buildings.

Contemporary artists are the perfect late-capitalist workers – freelance, mobile, with no pension and personal responsibility for their overheads: intensely self-motivated entrepreneurs acting in their own material interest. Museums emerge as Frankensteinian cut-n-shuts of office, shopping mall, restaurant and lobby space. Does an adoption of the architectonics of businesses work as a sweetener to corporate philanthropy? Did MoMA’s 2004 renovation really do away with an indoor sculpture garden, in favour of further canapé space and the ‘enchantment of a bank after hours’?

An aside: In 1956/7, Sol Lewitt worked for I.M Pei, one year on from the architect’s firm becoming incorporated, and 32 years ahead of Pei’s glass pyramid for the Louvre. In 1972, esoteric op-artist Vasarely designed a new logo for Renault.

In Corvée we see Aloe Vera (a salve for malaise of workers’ spirit?) defying gravitation; deified in a bastardisation of Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion solution to the problem of Spaceship Earth. A Stucco Marmorino splash-back for the corporate gods (or totem to both illusory surface and human labour, layed out in the form of Le Corbusier’s Poéme de L’Angle Droit) stares down a delicate explosion of graphite planes, as if contemplating its imminent dissolution (“Muzak For Erwin S Wolfson” – a framed isometric void dedicated to the patron of John Cage’s unrealized music for NYC’s Pan Am building). Ghostly drawings of abstracted forms (spectral traces of blueprints for aestheticisations of power?) lurk as hand drawn records of labour invested – hauntological counterpoints to the very present seductions of Dibond®, succulent and faux-travertine elsewhere.

Cut glass fetishes line-up as micro-architectural equivalents – positing that The Ice Berg might join The Shard in a Swarovski skyline. Daryl Hannah’s obsidian mirror gloats in an alcove (“The Old Man”), all the better for her furtive contemplation of the ‘just-so’ brick wallpaper that will rub shoulders with Scnabel paintings in the loft apartment of Bud Fox, protagonist of Oliver Stone’s Wall St. And over all watches the logo Frank Stella might have designed under the employment of Omni Consumer Products – the fictitious corporation central to Paul Verhoeven’s Robocop.

Like it or not, the office is where many of us spend most of our waking lives. So doesn’t it make sense for us to try to make it as pleasant a place as we can?
Ambius: the premier creator of ambience for businesses

Justin Jaeckle

Sam Griffin lives and works in London, UK. He will be featured in the forthcoming publication ’100 New Artists’ collated by Francesca Gavin which will be published in 2011. Recent solo shows include ‘The Olduvai Cliff’, Galerie Shirman de Beaucé, Paris (FR) and group shows ‘Studio Voltaire 2010 Members Show’, Studio Voltaire, London (UK), ‘All That Remains’, Art Auto Italia, London (UK) and ‘Los Vinilos’, El Basilisco, Buenos Aires, (AR)

Picture above: Ifafa Five, 2010 - 162 x 81cm - Aluminuim composite, plaster on board


Delta City, 2010
Aluminium composite, pebbles, plant
70 (w) x 102 (h) x 70 (d) cm


Groupthink, 2010
Plaster on board
129.5 (w) x 237.5 (h) cm


Make No Little Plans, 2010
Aluminium composite, pebbles, aloe vera plant
27 (w) x 60 (h) x 30 (d) cm


The Old Man, 2010
94 x 128cm
Aluminium composite, plaster on board


Cursus Honorum, 2010
Glass trophies, walnut shelf
95 (w) x 25 (h) x 35 (d) cm


Eyewash, 2010
50 x 50 cm
Pencil on paper


State Of Becoming, 2010
38 x 62.5 cm
Pencil and graphite powder on paper


Muzak For Erwin S. Wolfson, 2010
47 x 47cm
Pencil on paper


Installation View, Room Two
From the left:
Muzak for Erwin S. Wolfson, 2010
Ifafa Five, 2010


Installation View, Room Two
From the left:
Delta City, 2010
Muzak for Erwin S. Wolfson, 2010