At The Lighthouse, 11 Mitchell Lane, Glasgow, until 16 January
'The Shape of Colour: Red' at Glasgow's Lighthouse struggles to create a coherent synthesis from the many rich associations the colour throws up, writes Eleanor Young.
The exhibition shows the extent to which 'red' has permeated the language. Phrases which have become cliches are scattered around the exhibition on information posts (in red of course). But gathering together such expressions - 'red alert', 'seeing red' and so on - does not explain the colour's potent symbolism.
The most telling object is Issey Miyake's 'Plastic Body'. The moulded, empty shell of the top of a woman's torso in a deep, bright red has an erotic power. The fetishistic quality, the plastic's inflexibility and the red's hardness are subverted when worn, and the wearer given a new nakedness and vulnerability by the armour.
The use of red by the political establishment, from red carpets for royalty to military uniforms is shown. As the colour of protest, it is less well dealt with (despite an obsession with Mao's Little Red Book). Red has become synonymous with communism in the popular imagination, but the exhibition - staged in the home of Red Clydeside - hardly gives this a mention.
Exploited in fashion due to its very vibrancy, red has been used to express power. The red-braced, shoulder-padded 1980s version of power dressing is now discredited, leaving the colour to return to its humble place within the rainbow. This however, is not explored. The nod at the influence of the red aids ribbon fails to acknowledge that many colours have been appropriated to publicise and symbolise different causes.
The specimens of flooring and walling in the montage of geometrically cut red materials show that, outside a meaningful context, red is simply a pigment. Understanding a colour begins with the variety of its applications. This exhibition offers that beginning.