Visitors entering London’s National Portrait Gallery during the eight months between mid-September 2009 and mid-May 2010 were confronted by five mysterious, wall-mounted objects at the top of the long stair leading to the second-floor galleries. “John Gibbons: Portraits” was part of NPG curator Paul Moorhouse’s “Interventions Series,” a program focusing on “20th-century artists who have developed innovatory approaches to portraiture.” (Other surprises in the series included over-scale bronze heads by Anthony Caro,
as well as contributions by Francis Bacon and Andy Warhol.) As Moorhouse acknowledges, the Irish-born, London-based Gibbons, who since the mid-1980s has steadily declared his presence as one of Britain’s strongest and most original abstract sculptors, might seem an unlikely candidate for a show of portraiture. In fact, his enigmatic constructions, poised on narrow, projecting shelves, initially seemed to have little in common with the unequivocal images of specific individuals for which the National Portrait Gallery is known.
Jane/E/And Still, 2008-09. Stainless steel and copper, 82 x 51.5 c 69.5 cm.