The Modern Institute

The Modern Institute

Mark Handforth

The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow, 16/07—20/08/2004




Miami based artist Mark Handforth utilizes the everyday within his work, exploring the possibility that a single object can exist simultaneously on sculptural, functional, and social levels. Resonating with both the materials and practices of minimalism and the sensibilities of street subcultures and roadside americana, Handforth plays representation against abstraction to create work which is in equal parts suburban alienation and modernist transcendence.

Handforth pairs handmade sculpture with appropriated everyday objects to disrupt the familiar; fluorescent lights, new age candles and disused parking meters are incorperated to create a space which becomes almost one of conviviality, suggesting a constant state of flux rather than a body of stationary objects. The sculptures collude and cross reference, alluding to an entropic social structure, perhaps inspired by Handforths Miami base. Hence Handforth’s sculptures, although leaning towards the romantic can never quite leave reality behind- Handforth finds sculpture that already exists amidst the cultural wreckage.


Drenched in layers of multi-coloured wax, a tree stump titled ‘Volcano’ has become a  small shrine within the gallery, referencing earlier works such as ‘vespa’ 200, a vespa scooter covered in burning candles and ‘Vespa Fountain’ 2001, a scooter outfitted with nozzles emitting a film of water from the seat, the headlamps left on to create rainbows in the surrounding air.

Situated in the center of the gallery, ‘Left’ is an oversized street sign, Oldenburg in scale, this and other works such as ‘Lampost’ 2003, (a  45 foot long streetlight bent in two places and refitted with red lamps), seem to be referencing a new kind of relationship to spectacular gallery space, which has replaced the engagement with the viewers body. In ‘Fire’, Handforth has used humble neon strip lights and coloured gels to radiant effect, combined with the reflective surface of the sign, we are reminded of the transitory urban glow of Vegas and Miami, yet the references to the latent secular spirituality of Dan Flavin’s neon sculptures complicate our reading of the work. Although physically referencing minimalist objects, Handforth’s aesthetics are laden with sociological content ‘bringing Flavin’s ephemeral transcendence back to earth’.


Born in Hong Kong in 1969, Handforth grew up in London and lives in Miami. He attended the Staatliche Hochschule fur Bildende Kunste, Stadelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany and the Slade School of Fine Art, London.

This is Mark Handforth’s first solo exhibition in the UK. His work has previously been exhibited at amongst others, the Whitney Biennial Exhibition, New York (2004), Le Consortium, Dijon (2003-04), La Biennale d’art Contemporain de Lyon, Lyon (2003), Public Art Fund, New York (2003), UCLA Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2002), Gavin Brown’s enterprise, New York (2000, 2002) and the Galleria Franco Noero, Turin, Italy (2002). Upcoming shows include a solo exhibition at Roma Roma Roma, Rome, Italy  which opens September 30th 2004.