Tim Noble and Sue Webster

October 12–December 29, 2003

P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Tim Noble and Sue Webster, a selected survey of artworks by the renowned British artists. Partners in both life and art, Tim Noble (b. 1966) and Sue Webster (b. 1967) explore the toxic influences of consumer culture through new modes of portraiture. Turning garbage into complex and visually arresting sculptural installations, Noble and Webster exploit, manipulate, and transform base materials, often using self-portraiture to undermine the "celebrated" authorship of the artist.

In New Barbarians (1997), Noble and Webster use fiberglass and translucent resin to create a life-size sculpture of themselves in the likeness of our primate ancestors. The hairless and naked Barbarians step in mid-stride out of a white void, apparently in conversation, with his arm casually draped around her shoulders. Their nearly human bodies, his expression of guarded contemplation and her awe hold both a strange beauty and a primitive honesty.

Dollar Sign (2001) presents the familiar symbol in a bright display of shimmering white lights. The artwork functions as a beacon of consumer culture yet remains vague, as it refuses to be either an overt celebration or condemnation of what the symbol represents. Though the dollar sign is broadly representative in our society, stripped of its everyday context and strung in lights, the symbol itself embodies only a flashy presentation. In the gaudy aesthetic of a Las Vegas casino, Forever (2001) stretches nearly 20 feet in brightly colored neon lights that spell out "Forever." Ironically flickering on and off before the viewer, this piece holds both the abstract concept for and the trademark of excess in fleeting focus.

Real Life is Rubbish (2002) consists of two separate piles of general household rubbish onto which a light is projected, creating a shadow self-portrait of Noble and Webster. Though resting with backs to each other and shoulders hunched, the axe and hammer in their hands indicate that there is work to be done. The contrast between the intricate rubbish assemblage of the foreground and the silent contemplative shadow builders of the background reminds us that artwork always involves a physical transformation, from rubbish to real life and back again.

Dirty White Trash (with Gulls) (1998) is composed of six months' worth of the artists' discarded trash—the same time it took the artists to create the piece. A slide projector lights the sculptural mass to cast a perfect shadow—a double self-portrait—of the artists enjoying a glass of wine and a cigarette.


  • Tim Noble and Sue Webster
    $ (2001)

    204 ice white turbo reflector caps, lamp holders, daisy washers, lacquered brass, electronic sequencer
    (3 channel shimmer effect)
    72 x 48 x 10 in.
    Collection Mark Fletcher and Tobias Meyer, New York

  • Tim Noble and Sue Webster

    Real Life Is Rubbish (2002)

    Mixed media
    Variable dimensions
    Courtesy of David Teiger

 

Tim Noble and Sue Webster is organized by P.S.1 Chief Curator Klaus Biesenbach.

Tim Noble and Sue Webster is made possible by Deitch Projects, New York; Modern Art, London; and William and Maria Bell. Additional support was also provided by P.S.1 Board of Directors.