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Sarah Sze


At the ica, The Mall, London SW1 until 24 May

Visitors to the ica who want an antidote to the slickness of the Future Systems show (aj 16.4.98) should head upstairs to the first-floor gallery, writes Andrew Mead. Sarah Sze's world is rather different to the pink- and-yellow paradise below; it is also closer to home. Think of that cupboard under the stairs packed with accumulated clutter, those drawers close to overflowing. Sze opens the floodgates.

Her installation mainly comprises tiny things that you could slip into your pocket - sweets, pills, cotton buds, those little cartons of milk that come with your coffee - but, en masse, they take over the room. Like a stream which, becoming a river, takes the route of least resistance, so Sze's proliferating bits-and-pieces follow architectural fault-lines and features: escaping across the floor from a 'cupboard' recessed in one wall, most migrate upwards to colonise the cornice and the ceiling; some exit through an open window and perch on a ledge overlooking Carlton House Terrace. The viewer is torn between trying to catalogue all these components or simply succumbing to their excess.

It's hard not to think of other, very different, London ceilings - of Sir James Thornhill, Robert Adam. Sze supplies a late twentieth-century alternative.

There is the sense of a struggle to keep anarchy at bay with intermittent gestures towards order: the multi-coloured items sometimes form lines or clusters or patterns - a repetition of modular elements that recalls Pop and Mimimalist procedures in the 1960s. But a viral energy predominates. This is what a chic emptied interior may repress.

In a shrewd catalogue essay, John Slyce offers an architectural reading of Sze's work, bringing Gehry, Koolhaas and Matta-Clark into his discussion. The catalogue includes photographs of several earlier installations by Sze which suggest that, only in her late twenties, she may already be falling into formula. This ica show (her first in the uk) should nonetheless be seen: funny but dark as well, it fosters disquiet about what we collect and consume.

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