In “Ornamental Breakdown,” Bernie Reid’s first institutional exhibition in the United Kingdom, the Edinburgh-based artist has taken the stencils developed throughout his three-decade career and cut them up to create new compositions. The artist finds inspiration in the futurist Fortuno Depero, whose aesthetic has been a constant point of return when building the abstracted modernist bodies that populate Reid’s practice. Untitled (Rug), 2021, and The Red Puffer, 2023, are both spray-painted on slip-resistant flooring bolted directly to the walls with screws and washers. This unusual choice of materials recalls Depero’s infamous Depero Futurista publication, which was bound in the same way.
By reusing and sampling his existing silhouettes, Reid has managed to celebrate a new cast of characters filled with dynamism and glamour. In Bust with Black Black Hair, 2023, an angular blocked hairline gives way to a slick blob of loose hair, in a meshing of flatness and roundness favored by the artist. In Figure in Leotard, 2023, perfect goblet-shaped breasts stand atop a right-angled belly while three wisps of curls trail behind. Each modular form acknowledges the balancing act our bodies perform when we are in motion, our limbs at times defying the gravity that keeps us pressed to the Earth. Light breathes out of the works, enhancing the surreal attributes of Reid’s subjects. The gaps, contours, and bold colors bring with them a disjointed joy, like the kind experienced at the end of a hedonistic night out. Reid’s work is marked by its immediacy as well as its momentum. One gets the sense that these characters have been pinned down only fleetingly and could, at any minute, resume skipping around the walls.