Antony Gormley, installation view of “Aerial,” 2024. Photo: © White Cube (Theo Christelis), © Antony Gormley

Antony Gormley

New York

White Cube

Aerial (2023), Antony Gormley’s new site-specific aluminum work, is remarkably arresting, its complexity clear from the moment that visitors enter the exhibition of the same name (on view through June 15, 2024). The installation takes over the entire lower level of White Cube’s New York gallery, filling the space with a labyrinthian matrix of aluminum bars of various thicknesses that span from floor to ceiling and extend to the walls. Like a three-dimensional Mondrian painting through which one can move—navigating the horizontal and vertical branches that pierce the space—the work forces viewers to stop and carefully pick a path. Through this construction, Gormley draws attention to the entire volume of the room, as if dissecting the air into a dense pile of blocks, not unlike the towering stacks that compose the New York City skyline. Aerial, however, strips away the frenetic energy of the city, homing in on the body, the sculpture, and space itself.

While Gormley has created matrix-like installations in aluminum before, Aerial marks a further departure from the weighty cast iron and anthropomorphic sculptures for which he is known, relying on the absence of mass to consider sculpture’s relationship with the body, which it does to an extraordinary degree. The precarious pathways through the installation require constant re-evaluation. Branches that were previously hidden by thicker ones or obscured by the brightness of the room emerge as one negotiates the physical and visual field to find safe passage (protective eyewear is provided). Gormley indeed demands active viewing, drawing attention to the work as a whole as well as to each geometric compartment that the viewer may or may not be able to navigate.

Emerging from Aerial feels triumphant, yet the sense of excitement and discovery experienced during the journey also leaves a lingering desire to explore further. When one finally does leave the work behind and ascends the elevator to the rest of the exhibition, a very different exploration of sculpture and the body emerges.

The second part of the show features three cast iron pieces from the “Big Double Blockworks” series (all 2023), human-like stacks of solid geometric blocks that can stand vertically or lie on the ground. These works continue Gormley’s interest in mitosis—cell division in which a form is duplicated—a concept that he has explored for decades. The “Big Double Blockworks” each feature two intertwining abstract bodies. Measuring nearly nine feet tall (with the recumbent work over 12 feet long), these bodily forms are large and heavy as they tower over the viewer. Their intimate configurations are inspired by the pandemic and the long periods of isolation we faced during lockdown, as well as the things that formed our support systems. The entwined bodies are resolute in their tight embraces, lending a tender air to the industrial, rigid material—as if the rust were a marker of their endurance.

Whereas Gormley relies on volume and perception to create a sense of space in Aerial, with “Big Double Blockworks,” his consideration of the body returns mass to the equation. The space occupied by the forms is clearly delineated—a space irrefutably separate from the rest of the room. Gone is the infinite, edgeless field of Aerial. Instead, Gormley offers a moment to consider the human inclination toward intimacy, whether that’s found within another body, or within interiority and perseverance. What is clear throughout the show is Gormley’s keen understanding of sculpture, the body, and space and just how different this exploration can appear.