Park McArthur is making her UK debut with a newly-opened exhibition at London's Chisenhale Gallery. Titled Poly, the show is an archetypal McArthur assemblage. Using non-traditional materials including high-density polyurethane foam, a super-absorbent polymer powder used to create sheets of paper, a collection of ready-made objects (both her own possessions and single-use items such as condoms) and various other forms of prophylactic, the artist builds a display comprised of sculpture and text.
And what a show it is. "Poly" is political, with a small 'p', and personal, with a capital 'P'. It's bodily, and McArthur does problematise the concept of the materiality of the body. But it's done in a way that isn't disparaging, nor does it force the point with more impact than the work can handle. The foam sculptures – large, black monoliths that stand in a corner of the gallery – absorb sound from within the room. The sheets of paper have been made from the same absorbent material as you'd find in nappies, sanitary towels, and incontinence pads. Throughout the show they will dehydrate, becoming husks of their original self.
This is an intelligent show, and it looks good too. McArthur has worked well to compartmentalise the space but keep it an open environment. It's a minimalist display, but one that gives itself room to speak – or, physically absorb and expel, expand and contract, as the material case may be. It reminds us of a great quotation in contemporary art from the German artist Dieter Ruckhaberle in the 60s: “What's left to do for artists of a nation that wages a criminal war... other than to make Minimal Art?” If you strip things away to their bare artifice or flesh, then you'll find that there is nowhere to hide.
Park McArthur: Poly is at Chisenhale Gallery until 3 April.