Buckingham is an American artist, who upcycles metal objects and structures that he has found scattered across the Californian dessert, littering industrial areas and spoiling run-down towns. The exhibition demonstrates how the artist has taken something completely useless from somewhere desolate and hopeless and injected life into it again.
His latest finds have included 55-gallon barrels, wheelbarrows, tool boxes, road signs, tractor parts, car doors, and gas cans. Buckingham carts all these dusty relics to his metal workshop in Los Angeles, where they are muscled into works of art and large typographical signs. The only aspect of them he leaves intact is their colours.
Buckingham’s latest work is reminiscent of pop art yet the use of the decaying and abandoned metal gives it a realist edge. At the current exhibition in Fitzrovia, you can see his ‘Phil Spector ¾’ gun which also incorporates wording “Keep the gate locked at all times”. The wording reminds you that, although this may seem like a colourful and interesting article, it has a more serious edge; it is a gun.
The guns in the exhibition are based on actual weapons used by notorious criminals and assassins such as ‘Phil Spector’, or guns used in film and television such as ‘Butch Cassidy’. Buckingham raises a challenging debate on the use and ownership of arms and presents the gun as a seductive yet menacing symbol.
Buckingham’s previous career as a professional writer infiltrates his work with the use of text and language as a powerful mode of communication. Buckingham wants the viewer to react and interact with his work. Imbued with irony, humour and provocation the works in this exhibition offer a dialogue and insight into the artist’s influences and inspirations.
The exhibition uses excerpts from movies, song lyrics such as Lou Reed’s ‘Walk on the Wild Side’, referencing contemporary pop culture and adding to the fun feel of the exhibition. However, as you study the wording, you can see that the quotes used tackle prejudice and discrimination in modern society with references such as ‘Hey, where the white women at?’ from, the film, Blazing Saddles.
The walls reveal Buckingham’s empathy with the “outsiders” or the persecuted minorities of society. The use of media, film, music and advertising powerfully conveys the global reach of prejudice.
The title of the exhibition refers to the artist’s previous substance abuse but also alludes to his new addiction, making artworks. It is as though the works are a comment on himself, picking up things that are damaged and spoilt and making them significant again.
His works are a comment on language and society in contemporary culture and, an insurance that our epoch will endure and remain. This exhibit is stunning and intriguing at the same time. Look beyond the surface and you see emotion and injustice. Although, made entirely of manipulated metal, it is a very human exhibition.
David Buckingham — Under the Influence. Scream, 27-28 Eastcastle Street, London, W1W 8DH until 29 March 2014.