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b. 1949, United Kingdom

Richard Deacon Biography

Richard Deacon is one of Britain's foremost abstract sculptors. Born in 1949 in Bangor, Wales, Deacon lived in Sri Lanka for a time when he was young and later studied at Saint Martin's School of Art, Royal College of Art and Chelsea School of Art in London. While a student, he made performance-based work. However, he soon felt compelled to parse the relationship between the metaphysical and literal through sculptural forms. Deacon is often associated with New British Sculpture, a term that refers to a disparate group of young sculptors exhibiting in London in the early 1980s—such as Antony Gormley, Anish Kapoor and Alison Wilding—who were loosely grouped together for their use of traditional materials, assemblages of urban matter and embracing of kitsch. Deacon had his first solo show in 1978 and gained international prominence in the early 1980s. By 1987, he was the fourth winner of the esteemed Turner Prize.

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Deacon draws inspiration for his freestanding sculptures from the curiosities of everyday life. Inside his south London studio is an extensive collection of objects that the artist finds interesting, ranging from rope and childhood toys from Sri Lanka to rocks, crystals and physics books, and a wide array of toy animals organised into categories: farm or domestic, and wild. The equally motley materials in Deacon's works include glass, laminated wood, leather, cloth and ceramics. In fact, he habitually changes materials in order to challenge himself, resulting in a highly varied production over the past four decades. Responding to such range in an essay written for the catalogue Richard Deacon: On The Other Side, writer Dieter Schwarz stated that 'Deacon's sculptures can be recognised . . . by the fact that they are not immediately recognisable.' His more lyrical sculptures often bear winding organic lines—as seen in For Those Who Have Ears #2 (1983), Struck Dumb (1988) and After (1998)—while others like the ceramic and steel Fold (2012) and metal Two by Two (2010) are geometric and rigid in form. Yet they almost always bear proof of their highly engineered construction; Deacon regularly refers to himself as a fabricator rather than a sculptor, and emphasises his work's built qualities by leaving visible evidence such as screws and fittings on the works' surfaces.

Accompanying sculptures that range in size from the domestic to enormous public monuments, the 'highly associative' titles of Deacon's works often stem from his longstanding interest in poetic language. For example, the thoughtfully titled series 'Art For Other People', initiated in 1982, consists of over 50 bizarre and mostly small-scale sculptures made in different materials including clay, glass and net. Stemming from the artist's interest in the idea that art should be owned and enjoyed by anyone, the series was, as Deacon says, 'intended to be non-contextually determined, so that you could take them anywhere [and] they could function anywhere'. Similarly, the series of drawings 'It's Orpheus When There's Singing' from the late 1970s was inspired by Rainer Maria Rilke's Sonnets to Orpheus and revealed Deacon's early interest in abstract curves.

Deacon is also famous for testing the limits and possibilities of his ordinary materials. After (1998) is a looping, tubular, snake-like wooden sculpture that seems to defy its own rigidity, while large-scale sculptures such as Restless (2005), Out of Order (2003) and Slippery When Wet (2004) are made of ash wood that Deacon and his long-term collaborator and fellow artist Matthew Perry steamed for three hours until bendable into curlicues and spirals. The partnership between Perry and Deacon has been a particularly meaningful one, and throughout his career, Deacon has acknowledged the many other hands that help create his work, from steel fabricators to Glasgow shipbuilders, saying that as much as 75% of his output could be considered collaboration. 'Essentially,' he has said, 'I realised it really doesn't matter who actually puts the screw in.'

In 2007, Deacon represented Wales at the Venice Biennale alongside Merlin James and Heather and Ivan Morison in an exhibition titled And So It Goes, held in an old brewery. Deacon responded to the ramshackle architecture of the space by producing several site-specific, wall-mounted works made of wood, ceramics and steel. In 2014, a major exhibition at Tate Britain surveyed Deacon's career; about 40 works illustrating 40 years of Deacon's output were on view. In the same year, a collection of Deacon's texts written between 1970 and 2012 on art, television, film and public projects were published in the book Richard Deacon: So, And, If, But: Writings 1970–2012.

Richard Deacon lives in London and divides his time between Paris, London and Cologne.

Elliat Albrecht | Ocula | 2018

Richard Deacon Featured Artworks

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abc by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard Deaconabc, 2018Painted and lacquered steel
150 x 104 x 29 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
I Remember #5 by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconI Remember #5, 2018Wood and stainless steel
182 x 137 x 206 cm
Lisson Gallery Contact Gallery
Cinema F by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconCinema F, 2019Blockprint
123 x 163 cm
Paragon Contact Gallery
Unknown Custom by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconUnknown Custom, 2018Stainless steel
243.5 x 135 x 203 cm
Beijing Commune Contact Gallery
New Alphabet DEF by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconNew Alphabet DEF, 2018Stainless steel and paint
200 x 286 x 47 cm
Beijing Commune Contact Gallery
Flash, Bang, Wallop 9 by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconFlash, Bang, Wallop 9, 2018Glazed ceramic
9.1 x 11.9 x 8 cm
Galerie Thomas Schulte Contact Gallery
Bletchley by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconBletchley, 2017Inkjet print dry-mounted onto aluminium
60 x 79.1 cm
Marian Goodman Gallery Contact Gallery
Orange & Yellow Division by Richard Deacon contemporary artwork
Richard DeaconOrange & Yellow Division, 2012Woodblock on kozo paper, collaged on Saunders 300 cold pressed paper
110 x 120 cm
STPI - Creative Workshop & Gallery Contact Gallery

Richard Deacon Recent Exhibitions

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Contemporary art exhibition, Group Exhibition, STPI Prints (Deacon, Lim, Sala, Tiravanija) at Galerie Marian Goodman, Paris
Closed
24 January–14 March 2020 Group Exhibition STPI Prints (Deacon, Lim, Sala, Tiravanija) Galerie Marian Goodman, ParisParis
Contemporary art exhibition, Richard Deacon, Deep State at Lisson Gallery, London
Closed
20 November 2019–29 February 2020 Richard Deacon Deep State Lisson Gallery, Lisson St, LondonLisson Street, London
Contemporary art exhibition, Richard Deacon, Family at Galerie Thomas Schulte, Berlin
Closed
6 July–31 August 2019 Richard Deacon Family Galerie Thomas Schulte, BerlinBerlin

Richard Deacon Represented By

Beijing Commune contemporary art gallery in Beijing, China Beijing Commune Beijing
Lisson Gallery contemporary art gallery in Lisson Street, London, United Kingdom Lisson Gallery East Hampton, London, New York, Shanghai
Marian Goodman Gallery contemporary art gallery in New York, USA Marian Goodman Gallery New York, Paris, London
Paragon contemporary art gallery in London, United Kingdom Paragon London

Richard Deacon In Related Press

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Richard Deacon Related Press Richard Deacon 11 June 2018, Aesthetica

Known for creating open structures of various sizes, Richard Deacon (b. 1949) is interested in communicating through a diverse range of materials. A leading British sculptor, Deacon won the Turner Prize in 1987. His work was on display at Tate Britain in a large chronological survey featuring around 40 individual pieces from the artist's long...

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Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramović lead major new exhibition Everything At Once at Store Studios Related Press Ai Weiwei, Anish Kapoor and Marina Abramović lead major new exhibition Everything At Once at Store Studios 8 September 2017, The Vinyl Factory

This October, Store Studios will host Everything At Once, an extensive off-site exhibition featuring 24 artists currently shown at Lisson Gallery in celebration of its 50th anniversary.

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Richard Deacon embraces failure in Antwerp with stellar results Related Press Richard Deacon embraces failure in Antwerp with stellar results 26 May 2017, Wallpaper*

Richard Deacon's first outdoor sculpture show, which opens this weekend in Antwerp, is long overdue. It's been 30 years since the artist, one of the leading British sculptors of his generation, won the Turner Prize. But the circumstances of this show are somewhat novel, since it has its origins in a bold admission of failure.

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Richard Deacon embraces failure in Antwerp with stellar results Related Press Richard Deacon embraces failure in Antwerp with stellar results 26 May 2017, Wallpaper*

Richard Deacon's first outdoor sculpture show, which opens this weekend in Antwerp, is long overdue. It's been 30 years since the artist, one of the leading British sculptors of his generation, won the Turner Prize. But the circumstances of this show are somewhat novel, since it has its origins in a bold admission of failure. In 1993 the...

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