Steve McQueen, Tate Modern - ★★★★ - Until May 11, 2020

Ashes video still by Steve McQueen, 2002–15.

Steve McQueen is probably best known for 12 Years a Slave (2013) and his other feature films. In this exhibition fourteen works expose McQueen, the artist, exploring his experimental use of the camera and powerful social messaging. Most of the pieces are from the period after 1999 when he won the Turner prize. There are works which take us out of ourselves like Once Upon A Time (2002) presenting the images that NASA has sent into space as representing earth's civilisation or Static (2009) which invites us to contemplate American reality after the 9/11 attacks. There are also intimate works like Cold Breath (1999) which explores the sense of touch and Charlotte (2004) which contemplates our vision and how it adjusts to environmental stimuli. These are pieces that situate us uneasily in the macrocosm or focus us uncomfortably on the microcosm. Both ends of this spectrum seek to challenge us with the perspective they are bringing to the human condition. Between these two poles are McQueen's meditations on political and social realities. 7th Nov. (2001) presents a distressing narrative made all the more compelling by the way it is matter-of-factly recounted while we contemplate a single image. Ashes (2002-15) reflects on the short life and brutal death of a young man as his grave is stoically constructed. The striking contrast between the horror of events and their quiet acceptance is what makes these works so emotive and gripping. As in End Credits (2012-ongoing) McQueen brilliantly uses a banality of presentation to shock and reawaken us to the real impact of what we are experiencing. There is all the power of his films in this intriguing, not-to-be-missed exhibition.

Reviewed by J.C.

 Our Score:  ☆☆☆☆ 

WHEN, WHERE, GETTING THERE:
Until May 11, 2020
Sun - Thu: 10 am - 4:30 pm
Fri & Sat: 10 am - 8:30 pm
Tate Modern
Nearest tube: Waterloo
https://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/steve-mcqueen

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