Barnaby Barford, The Apple Tree, 2019, 80 Apples_ Oil paint on bone china Tree_ Painted mild steel, PU pipe, H300 x L300 x D300 cm, Image courtesy of David Gill Gallery.jpg


19th - 22nd September

David Gill Gallery presents The Apple Tree, a large-scale, interactive installation by Barnaby Barford, with a time-lapse film and works on paper, all from the artist’s new body of work, MORE MORE MORE (2019). The booth also features two significant pieces of architectural design, Zaha Hadid’s Dune Shelves (2007), and Daniel Libeskind’s Elemental Split Unit chair (2018), the latter exhibited for the first time outside the UK.

‘It is remarkable how closely the history of the apple tree is connected with that of man,’ Henry David Thoreau.

Measuring 10ft x 10ft, with a trunk of gnarled, twisted steel that explodes into a canopy of looped, plastic branches, like an airborne scribble, The Apple Tree resembles a child’s drawing and is hung with 80 bone china apples. ‘Activated’ when an apple is bought and snapped off the branch at its stalk, the installation inveigles the apple-picker in a re-enactment of the fall of mankind.

In mythology and religious symbolism, the apple contains all the dilemmas and dualities of the human condition, epitomised by Adam and Eve’s original ‘more’ moment in the Garden of Eden. The super-fruit of art history is innocence and experience, sin and redemption, death and resurrection, youth and decay, love and sexuality. These tropes are repeated in secular stories from William Tell to Snow White, and Barford has placed the apple at the heart of his practice, the perfect vehicle for his long-term examination of the politics of happiness and our incessant need for more.

Created specifically for Chicago Expo, this is Barford’s second ‘crop’ of apples and he intends to make one every year over two decades, in response to his current preoccupations and the socio-political issues of the time. As with the inaugural crop, each Chicago apple is unique, hand-finished in oil-paint; a small, tactile work of art. But in contrast to the seductive, Disneyesque quality of the first set of apples, these are wild: freckled, marked and striped with green, yellow, red, and rust. Straight off the homestead, they are the fruits of Pioneer folklore, steeped in the history of the Midwest.

Settlers planted orchards to claim land and domesticate the frontier, usually from seeds brought up the Ohio river by ‘barefoot wanderer,’ Johnny Appleseed. These apples were used to make cider because trees grown from the pip produce mostly sour fruit. Apples, like humans, are heterozygous, carrying genes that create offspring with widely varying parental characteristics; to control the variety, each tree must be ‘grafted.’ Not until Prohibition, which saw the apple rebranded as sweet and edible with the ‘Apple a Day’ campaign, was grafting used on an industrial scale.

Barford’s apples also carry a message, each one covered in repetitions of a single word: truth, glory, individuality, equality, populism, greatness, immigrants, dreams, celebrity, diversity, discovery, lies. Reminiscent of Medieval trees of virtues and vices, decorative diagrams that depicted a moral framework, The Apple Tree can be read as a satirical social commentary. When we pre-fix the words with ‘more,’ they are infused with an ominous insistence: our expectations are poignant, ironic, funny and troubling.

Barford’s time-lapse film, shot over two and a half months, with a duration of around an hour, features an apple scarified with the word ‘more.’ In due course, the fruit begins to rot but the decay is imperceptible; after 15 minutes, the change is startling. As the flesh around the letters darkens, the fruit puckers and collapses until the word is illegible and we are left with a sense of loss and inevitability. Filmed in black and white, the work has the delicacy of a pencil drawing. Works on paper include a single fruit, floating in black charcoal on white paper, its intensity achieved by layers of drawing and rubbing out: our endless desires short-lived but leaving indelible traces in their wake.



David Gill’s signature elision of art, architecture and design is embodied here in his inclusion of furniture by two architects with whom he has enjoyed years of collaboration. Gill’s 30-year friendship with the late Zaha Hadid led to his 2007 commission of the Dune Formation. An extraordinary group of organic ensembles of unique furniture elements that challenge traditional Cartesian geometries by blending verticals and horizontals into three-dimensional surfaces, the Formation was exhibited at the 2007 Venice Art Biennale. Gill has brought a segment of this vast work to Chicago Expo - the Dune Shelves. Daniel Libeskind’s interpretation of the interior landscape is equally powerful, expressed here in his Split Unit Chair, 2018, commissioned by the gallery and exhibited for the first time outside the UK.

‘In a way, the products we have in our homes are metaphysical because they reveal who we are. Even something banal, like a cheap coat hanger, speaks to our acceptance of the ordinary, to our willing repetition of things we have already experienced, time and again. I believe every new product should liberate a person from the habitual, and in so doing, help them to see the world anew.’ Daniel Libeskind, Edge of Order, 2018.

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