Sculptor Michael Dean presents tactile exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds

By Ruth Hazard | 04 May 2012
A visitor gets up close to 'health (working title)'© Jerry Hardman-Jones
Exhibition: Michael Dean: Government, Henry Moore Institute, Leeds, until June 17 2012

Tactility is an essential sculptural quality for Michael Dean, who says that he wishes for us to "touch with the eyes, and then allow ourselves to touch with the hand".

Government features a set of entirely new works by the sculptor, many produced on site at the Institute as part of their new programme in which artists create pieces that specifically respond to the gallery spaces.

yes (working title), one of the door handles to the gallery recast as a sculpture© Jerry Hardman-Jones
Even the wall-to-wall 1970s-style carpet spanning the three rooms of the exhibition has been intentionally included in the display.

Instead of standing, the Institute’s Information Assistants sit on this specially designed woollen floor, with visitors encouraged to do the same.

Similarly, the door-handles at the entrance to the galleries have been recast as four sculptures, two titled Yes and two No (working title).

Single words are always the starting point for Dean’s sculptures. The chosen words for this exhibition are government, yes, no, education, health and home. (The term "government" refers to the way human conduct is regulated.)

The three dominant sculptures in the display, Education (working title), Health (working title) and Home (working title), copy, enlarge or reduce the architecture of the gallery.

Health (working title), a scaled-down ratio of the dimensions of the longest and highest wall of the space, is more than six metres long. Having been cast within the galleries, it is too large to leave and at the end of the exhibition will be broken up and destroyed.

Home (working title) scales the space between two of the display rooms, obstructing the route between them. The gap left by the artist for visitors to pass through measures the exact minimum legal limit.

Installation view with analogue series (head)© Jerry Hardman-Jones
Writing is also an essential part of Dean’s artistic practice: his pieces are always accompanied by intimate, observational texts in which he recounts human activities – such as watching television, making words in the mouth, or touching the hand of another.

These texts are gathered into paperback books placed among the sculptures which visitors are invited to tear pages from to take away and read elsewhere.

The artist’s working notes are also read aloud by Institute staff in an unscheduled programme throughout the day.

Accompanying the exhibition is a series of evening events for which Dean has invited four artists - Becky Beasley, Ed Atkins, Francesco Pedraglio and Franziska Lanz - to use the sculptures as projection screens and sound stages.

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