A small cartoon boy stands on a sketchy sculpture of a reclining figure, while a girl reaches out to touch the figure’s head. A man, presumably dad, looks on—not at his actively curious children but at the flattened approximation of a Henry Moore. He strokes his chin in deep contemplation, doing what adult art lovers are supposed to do when placed in front of a sculpture. Positioned on a piece of lawn at the entrance to Hospitalfield—the former home of Scottish artist Patrick Allan Fraser, built in 1902 and now a site for residencies, exhibitions, and other art activities—this is one of three life-size scenes created by Glasgow artist Mick Peter as part of the venue’s Annual Sculpture Commission (on view through October 31, 2021). The exhibition is wittily titled “Gerroff!! (or User Feedback).” Visitors may touch and take selfies with the works, which are made from an acrylic-based material more commonly used for kitchen work surfaces. Real-life clambering kids are welcome.
Hospitalfield is an organization in transition; its reopening after Scotland’s latest Covid-19 lockdown also marked the first stage of a $15.5 million “Future Plan,” developed with architects Caruso St John. The initial fruits of this plan include a glazed cafe space—with bespoke tabletops designed by Peter—and a renovated 19th-century fernery. A newly planted formal garden hosts another of Peter’s playful works. This time, a circular concrete base supports two figures and a sculpture of a female nude on a pedestal (a loose approximation of a historical piece that can be viewed inside the house). A casually dressed guide explains the work to an old lady who appears, with some determination, to be poking it with her walking stick.
Peter likes to have fun, and not only with the tropes of sculpture and public reactions to it. The two-dimensional world of hastily drawn-to-deadline newspaper cartoon strips, with their insistent black lines and jokey narratives, provides the visual prompts for his mini-dramas, which start as drawings before taking shape in enlarged form. Beyond the wall of the formal garden, positioned in long grass, a third situation unfolds. This one involves an old man not paying close attention to his defecating dog, a very annoyed woman on her phone, and an arrangement of three totem-like, postwar Modernist sculptures—art and the prosaic everyday in perfect disharmony.
“Gerroff!!” has echoes of Peter’s 2019 exhibition at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art in Gateshead, which consisted of a three-dimensional, cartoon-strip deconstruction of the worlds of art-making and exhibiting in which galleries and the idea of artistic integrity took a gentle bashing. At Hospitalfield, Peter brings 20th-century art and popular culture into conversation with contemporary notions of heritage, leisure, and what audiences expect, or don’t expect, to get from sculpture. The resulting dialogue between expectation and reality is both comic and thoughtful.