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EXHIBITION

REVIEW

Douglas Allsop: Nine Reflective Editors At the Stiftung für Konkrete Kunst, Reutlingen, near Stuttgart One exhibit at the last Venice Architecture Biennale was a photograph by Kay Fingerle of Mies' Villa Tugendhat: a view from inside the house looking out, where the glazing became a screen on which interior reflections fused with glimpses of the garden to make a dense ambiguous image.

In selecting this and similar photos, the Biennale's curator Kurt Forster doubtless wanted to suggest that such glassgenerated optical effects were of special interest to architects today, which would seem to be so. Toyo Ito, Jean Nouvel and Herzog & de Meuron come to mind, but the list is long - and their interest is not in the 'transparency' that early Modernists valued, but in something subtler, more veiled or fleeting. Others are exploring comparable effects with materials like polycarbonate, as Florian Beigel + ARU do in their Pojagi building in Korea (AJ 05.05.05).

With this in mind, Douglas Allsop's new exhibition is much to the point. His work was last seen here amid the rarefied domesticity of Kettle's Yard in Cambridge. Now, supported by the British Council, it occupies the voluminous upper floor of a former factory in Reutlingen, home of a foundation devoted to Concrete Art.

The Nine Reflective Editors that Allsop is showing are made from sheets of black acrylic. Identical in dimension - 120 x 300 x 0.5cm - they are panoramic landscapes in format. But all the sheets are perforated, revealing parts of the wall on which they hang.

Six have square holes that range systematically from 24 to 1944 in number; the remaining three each have 319 circles that vary in dimension from sheet to sheet. Cutting these out must have been an exacting and laborious process, for Allsop seeks the same impersonal, immaculate finish as Donald Judd did, and depends on skilled fabricators in the same way.

So far, the stress is on measurement, proportion, system and industrial precision.

But, just as with Judd's array of aluminium boxes in the old artillery sheds at Marfa, something happens to transcend the bare, dry description of these pieces once they have been installed.

It's partly because of the quicksilver sensitivity of the acrylic, with its interrupted dark reflections of you, the space, the windows and the world outside, which keep changing with your viewpoint and proximity. In the careful installation by Allsop and the foundation's director, architect Manfred Wandel, the square-holed sheets face each other in pairs on a series of freestanding long walls, so you can place yourself between them and see grid reflected on grid with all the ambiguity of the Kay Fingerle photo.

The images are ghosts - bright apparitions when the sun catches the acrylic, spectral and dim as the day turns overcast.

But from another angle the reflections retreat and the sheets become Op Art patterns on a plasterboard ground.

Because these pieces change so much with your position in the gallery, they bring the whole large L-shaped space into play as you weave around to track their multiple effects. And you start to shuttle between the works and the perimeter of the building to substantiate the source of the refl ections (fill in the gaps) and put them back in context.

Reutlingen is no postcard, and the scenes outside are mundane, but they become vivid compositions as a result.

When I visited, snow on the eaves of a nearby building was etched across one of the screens, along with the paler presence of a few winter leaves still on the trees. How different this panel will be in spring.

But while Allsop's work never looks quite the same twice, given all the variables it records, in another sense it is unchanging. A small group of people halts before one of the screens - more ghosts on the grid who shortly disappear.

I found myself thinking of those obsidian mirrors or polished bronze discs that you see in archaeology museums, centuries old but with scarcely a trace of wear, their users long forgotten.

These dark mirrors endure.

In his book, Constructed Abstract Art in England, Alistair Grieve drew attention to what he called 'a neglected avant garde' (AJ 01.12.05) - artists like Victor Pasmore and Mary Martin who, in the 1950s and '60s, explored materials, perception and space in a continual exchange with architects of the period.

Liberally inflected by Minimalism, Allsop's work extends that tradition, and its rapport with architecture is just as strong.

Acatalogue of the show is available from Gallery Niklas von Bartha (www. vonbartha. com)

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