This winter, the Serpentine presents an exhibition by Michael Craig-Martin (b. Dublin, 1941), one of the best-known British artists of his generation. This is the first solo show of Craig-Martin’s work in a London public institution since 1989 and brings together works from 1981 to 2015, including his era-defining representations of once familiar yet obsolete technology; laptops, games consoles, black-and-white televisions and incandescent lightbulbs that highlight the increasing transience of technological innovation. The exhibition will also feature new wallpaper that has been conceived especially for the exhibition.
From the earliest work in the show, a wall drawing first produced in 1981 (the same year that the first personal computer was made available), to a painting from 2014 that depicts the minimal lines of an iPhone, Craig-Martin’s work has recorded the profound impact that electronic technology has had on the way we consume and communicate. The exhibition explores the seismic shift from analogue processes to digital technologies that informed the production and distribution of new kinds of objects in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
Craig-Martin's early works explored the conceptual possibilities of contemporary art, testing the boundaries between functional and functionless forms. The introduction of digital technology in recent years has resulted in the breakdown of the relationship between form and function, a process that Craig-Martin captures in his depictions of successive inventions, from the battery to the cassette to the laptop.
As Marshall McLuhan wrote in his seminal book Understanding Media, which Craig-Martin read shortly after it was first published in 1964, ‘technical change alters not only habits of life, but patterns of thought and valuation’. Craig-Martin’s work holds up a mirror to these alterations, reminding us that we are as much produced by the objects we invent as they are by us.
Julia Peyton-Jones, Director, and Hans Ulrich-Obrist, Co-Director, said: “Craig-Martin's acute observations present an extraordinary picture of recent developments in the production, processes, functions and form of the objects that populate our world. His work reveals a search for the ultimate expression of contemporaneity in a way that we all experience – through the items we use every day.”
Craig-Martin has participated in a number of Serpentine events and group exhibitions: Memory Marathon (2012); Map Marathon (2011), Wall to Wall (1994), Here and Now: Twenty-three years of the Serpentine Gallery (1993); Objects for the Ideal Home: The Legacy of Pop Art (1991); Vessel: Sculpture, Glass, Ceramics (1987); Summer Show 5 (1976, as selector) and Art as Thought Process (1974). He also produced a new map, linking the Serpentine’s two buildings, to celebrate the opening of the Serpentine Sackler Gallery in 2013.