As one of the few Pop artists to work primarily with sculpture for over forty years, Barker forms a particularly important part of the Pop Art story. His replications of factory-made consumer goods in gleaming metals have been linked to the exotic, the unattainable, the erotic and the romantic and deserved their place on the glamorous centre stage of the art world of the ‘Swinging Sixties’. Today, his art continues to surprise with its immediacy and sense of fun, that had made it so accessible from the start.
Born in 1940, Barker attained sculptural maturity in 1966. His first one-man shows were held at the Robert Fraser Gallery in 1968 and at the Hannover Gallery in 1969. Through to the 1970s Barker’s work continued to be exhibited at high-profile galleries in London, including Anthony d’Offay, and in Europe, with Bruno Bischofberger and the Baukunst Galerie. During the 1980s and 1990s Barker was included in numerous surveys and international exhibitions of Pop Art. In 2002 a catalogue raisonné on his work was published.
Barker’s choice of materials and their finishes was largely determined by his experience of working with leather and chrome at the Vauxhall Car factory during 1960-61. Whereas the leather directly inspired a group of works during a relatively short period 1963-65, the influence of chrome was a lasting one, leading Barker not only to apply chrome finishes but also to work primarily in polished cast metals for the rest of his life.
By replicating functional, mass-produced objects in gleaming metals, Barker has redefined Marcel Duchamp’s concept of the ‘ready-made’. His recreations of the ordinary awaken a sense of amazement at the beauty of the familiar, giving his art a life-enhancing quality.
In questioning the privileged status of art, Barker’s sculpture investigates the fundamentals of the traditional and modernist movements, yet at the same time reveals a passionate commitment to the history of art.
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