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Keith Coventry

City Racing

Apr 28 – May 25, 2023
Exhibition Details:

Keith Coventry
City Racing
Apr 28 – May 25, 2023


5 Hanover Square


Press Release


(opens in a new window) @pacegallery

Above: Keith Coventry, Landscape Junk 1, 2023 © Keith Coventry

Pace Gallery is pleased to announce Keith Coventry: City Racing.

Taking over two galleries in Pace’s Hanover Square space, Coventry brings together several of his most celebrated bodies of work, as well as a new series he has been ruminating on for nearly three decades. Titled after the renowned South London gallery Coventry co-led from 1988-1998, this presentation marks a significant moment in the artist’s career as he works towards the opening of his new gallery in a renovated church in Shropshire, UK, which is set to open in summer 2023 under the City Racing name.

Taking inspiration from the urban environment of contemporary London, Coventry’s practice is preoccupied by the gritty reality of city life. Working in a diverse array of mediums and subject matters, Coventry’s work sheds light on the often overlooked or unquestioned aspects of daily life. Through a simultaneously witty and serious modernist visual language, Coventry dissects notions of capitalism, addiction, and social housing.

Coventry’s incisive view of society is articulated through his signature balancing of opposites: serious and humorous, lauded and dismissed, familiar and obscured. He explains, “Even in the most impoverished places, you can bring about the ennobling of something ignoble.” Split across two levels, the ground floor gallery will hold a newly completed sculpture, Community Party Table (2023). Coventry has cast in bronze the remnant components of three tables that had been installed by Woolwich local council along the river. Intended as a community project, they have been vandalised leaving only the immovable metal legs onto which empty alcohol bottles are inserted, recalling the language of Duchamp’s infamous readymade, Bottle Rack (1914).

On the surrounding walls, Coventry will present a suite of new Junk paintings, which have been a mainstay of his practice since 2002. In these works, he combines a hard-edge approach to abstraction – in the vein of artists such as Theo van Doesburg or Kazimir Malevich – with a lively, painterly cross-hatched technique that creates a highly textured surface. What initially appears entirely non-representational, is in fact a closely cropped segment of the ubiquitous McDonald’s ‘M’. Coventry uses the language of mass corporate globalisation to engage with the capitalist structures prevalent in daily life. Measuring nearly three meters in length, these monumental Junk paintings take, for the first time, a horizontal orientation that recalls billboard advertising.

City Racing will also include a new body of wall-based bronze reliefs cast from rubbings Coventry made from vandalised buildings the day after the 1995 Brixton riots. Akin to the modernist forms in his paintings, these seemingly abstract works are deeply rooted in the representation of contemporary society. Coventry identifies the buildings in simple block letters – BODY SHOP, SEVEN ELEVEN, DOGSTAR – at once placing these locations within familiar vernacular and shocking the viewer with the reality of human impact. Likewise, in Two Forms (Divided Circle) (2011), Coventry captures the aftermath of the theft of a Barbara Hepworth sculpture by metal thieves in Dulwich Park, South London. Viewers are acutely aware that there is something missing, something nefarious has occurred. In his signature objective voice, Coventry’s bronze cast provokes questions around the reverence and value attributed to works of art.

The lower ground floor gallery will present a major bronze sculpture titled Monument (2023) in which Coventry has magnified a pigeon spike to more than three meters in height. In a similar manner to Community Party Table, Coventry casts in bronze the aspects of society that so often go unseen. By aggrandising this commonplace device Coventry confronts viewers with the often unnoticed, violent architectural interventions that pervade cities.

A recurring theme of Coventry’s practice is an interest in the messaging delivered to the public via major corporations or governments. His Community Sign series – shown in its entirety for the first time in this exhibition – was made in response to Coventry’s residency at Shanghai University. The signs, written in Chinese and English, were present throughout the campus, proclaiming guidance on individual behaviour. Cast in ceramic – a nod to the ancient Chinese practice – and glazed in Chinese Red, these artworks are preoccupied with the imposition of ideology. The faded red pigment and fractured characters speak to the historical tidemarks of communism.


Installation Views


Featured works

Keith Coventry, Landscape Junk 2, 2023, oil on linen, Perspex and wood, framed, 150 cm × 275 cm (59-1/16" × 9' 1/4")
Keith Coventry, Community Party Table, 2023, Bronze, in three parts, each 52 cm × 49 cm × 49 cm (20-1/2" × 19-5/16" × 19-5/16") overall, TBD
Keith Coventry, Dogstar Pub, 2023, Bronze, 4" × 5" (10.2 cm × 12.7 cm)
Keith Coventry, Monument, 2023, Bronze, Base - 12 cm × 270 cm × 50.5 cm (4-3/4" × 8' 10-5/16" × 19-7/8") Four spikes - each - 320 cm × 20 cm × 20 cm (10' 6" × 7-7/8" × 7-7/8")

About the Artist

Keith Coventry’s paintings and sculptures filter everyday subject matter—the British Monarchy, fast food, addiction, and public housing, among others—through the lens of modernist idealism, bringing the movements of twentieth-century art and their tendencies in dialogue with contemporary political, cultural, and social issues. He was featured in the seminal exhibition Sensation at the Royal Academy of Arts, London, in 1997 and was a co-founder and curator of City Racing, an influential not-for-profit gallery in Kennington, South London from 1988-98.
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