In ‘Body Politic,’ Antony Gormley Traverses the Human-Built Landscape

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“Resting Place” (2023). Installation view of ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey. Exhibition photos by Theo Christelis. All images © Antony Gormley, courtesy of White Cube, shared with permission

Since the 1960s, British artist Antony Gormley has used the language of sculpture to examine relationships between human beings, nature, and the cosmos. If you’ve driven the A1 or taken a train past Gateshead in the U.K., you’ll have likely seen the “Angel of the North,” a public work made of weathered COR-TEN steel installed on a hilltop in 1998 that depicts a figure holding out arms that look like riveted wings. One of his most recognizable projects, the work was met with controversy at the time but has since become a beloved landmark.

For decades, Gormley has featured the human form in his work, often using his own body as a starting point for large-scale installations in which abstracted figures wander through outdoor spaces or convene in enigmatic arrangements. In Body Politic at White Cube in Bermondsey, London, the artist investigates our relationship with industrial environments and the tension between migratory impulses and the need for refuge.

In “Test, Bind” a single figure inhabits the center of one gallery, extending long, iron latticework to each wall and the ceiling, simultaneously supported by and supporting its surroundings. And in another room, 244 modular figures made from fired clay sprawl across the floor in “Resting Place,” evoking a gridded urban landscape. As visitors wander through the maze of prone and splayed bodies, the work summons a tense uncertainty. Some appear relaxed while others express discomfort or pain, stirring associations with the risks migrants and refugees take to escape conflict, along with a lack of resources and the effects of the climate crisis.


Installation view of  ‘Retreat’ series in ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey

In a series titled Retreat, blocky concrete pieces, which Gormley refers to as “intimate bunkers for one,” form a single-file line through the corridor of the gallery and into the courtyard. Cast to the scale of the artist’s body, each figure compresses and contorts into different postures, with a small opening at the mouth that reveals a human-shaped void inside. “The only place where we can find true freedom is within the infinite darkness of the body available to us once the body is still,” Gormley says. “These works both evoke and embody the space that we all enter the moment we close our eyes.”

Throughout Body Politic, Gormley wrestles with ideas of interiority and external influences, vacillating between human introspection and the inevitability of outside forces. If you’re in London, you can visit the exhibition at White Cube through January 28. A solo show of his work will also open at White Cube New York this spring.

Gormley also has a solo presentation at the Musée Rodin in Paris titled Critical Mass, which remains on view through March 3. Find more on the artist’s website.


“TEST: BRACE” (2021), cast iron, 175.6 x 48.2 x 75.7 centimeters. Photo by Stephen White & Co.

“Test, Bind” (2023). Installation view of ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey

Installation view of ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey

“Stand” (2023). Installation view of ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey

“Retreat: Tuck” (2022), concrete, 81 x 61.5 x 108 centimeters. Photo by Stephen White & Co.

Installation view of “Resting Place” (2023) in ‘Body Politic’ at White Cube Bermondsey

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