Keith Coventry first rose to prominence in the early 1990s, and showed throughout the decade alongside such figures as Michael Landy, Gillian Wearing, Mark Wallinger and Rachel Whitread. Since then he has continued to work with painting, sculpture and printmaking, most often referencing icons of 20th Century art, architecture and society, all the while managing to occupy a position in relation to Modernist idealism which defies simple categorisation.
Coventry typically works in a series and it is characteristic of his highly conceptual practice that he will explore a theme through the use of multiple media. Coventry in a sense creates an intellectual framework for each project which he then proceeds to explore systematically, working out his ideas in oils, bronze, etching and photogravure techniques until his argument is made to his own satisfaction.
The ‘Crack City’ body of work had it’s inception with a series of five Malevich-inspired white abstract paintings, which relate to the well-known ‘Estate’ painting series with which Coventry made his name in the 1990s. Like the ‘Estate’ paintings the square form in these abstracts are the footprint of a group of tower blocks in London, popularly known as ‘Crack City’ because of their social problems and history of drug use. The artist has determined that these works will remain in his own collection and are not for sale; however he has very generously offered them to the Collection on long loan, so that they can be shown alongside the larger groups of works which followed.
The paintings, prints and bronzes, in referencing Georgio Morandi’s metaphysical still lives of the 1920s and 30s bring the 21st Century subject matter of Coventry’s works into intriguing counterpoint with this earlier age. Coventry’s work makes no claim to any form of social commentary, which might suggest parallels with Hogarth and his gin drinkers. Nor does the intense focus on abject, home made crack pipes offer any suggestion of a 1960s inspired opening of the Doors of Perception – rather it seems to connect far more closely with Morandi’s notions of the portrayal of the mysterious life of objects. Coventry’s acute observation of the paraphernalia of crack addiction, along with his sublimely beautiful image of three women smoking crack in one of the large photogravure prints, sets up a framework in which all of these ideas, and more, are held in delicate equilibrium. There is an observational commentary here, but not one which is easily defined: bringing into proximity the coolly rationalistic modernist architecture of the post war years, and the spiritually infused work of Malevich and Morandi from before the Second World War, Coventry undermines what have become ossified notions of each as mutually exclusive, and in so doing illustrates the complexity of the ideas which underpin a contemporary understanding of the human condition.
- Artwork Details: Framed size: 89.8 x 125 x 4.4cm
- Edition: 2 of 20 + APs
- Material description: photolithograph
- Credit line: Gift of the artist through Haunch of Venison, London © the artist
- Medium: Print
- Accession number: ACC29/2008