Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

From left: (All works by Richard Forster)
Sandman, blue repeating pattern, 2018
Notes on Architecture: Leftover spaces, 2018
Courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor gallery.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

From left: (All works by Richard Forster)
Notes on Architecture: Labyrinth @ Chartres Cathedral, 2017
Notes on Architecture: Wittgensteins’ hut, 2018
Notes on Architecture: Better Days nightclub, NYC, 2018
Annabel Butterfly red/green, 2018
All images courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor gallery.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

From left: (All works by Richard Forster)
Notes on Architecture: Venice, Las Vegas, 2016
Cloudy skies, earth-y constellations: Darlington walk, December 21, 2014, 2016
Notes on Architecture: Matta-Clarks’ Jacobs’ Ladder, Kassel 1977, 2016
Notes on Architecture: Levittown, 2017
All images courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor gallery.

From left: (All works by Richard Forster)
Notes on Architecture: Jean Harlow in Griffith Park, 2017
Gisela x 2, Gunter Rossler fashion photographer, 2017
All images courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor gallery.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

From left: (All works by Richard Forster)
West Brother Island graphite seams, 2017
Untitled (coloured flowers), 2017
All images courtesy the artist and Timothy Taylor gallery.

Installation view of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture at The FLAG Art Foundation, 2019. Photography by Steven Probert.

Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture

June 6 - August 16, 2019
Press Release PDF

The FLAG Art Foundation is pleased to present the U.S. debut of Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture on view June 6-August 16, 2019, on its 10th floor. Notes on Architecture expands upon the British artist’s recurring themes of social change, nostalgia, and a fear of the future, with inspiration drawn from the increasingly congested and confused geopolitical climate of Brexit Britain—a nation divided along old political lines and economic fissures.

Richard Forster’s thirty-five new photocopy-realistic[1] drawings, which originated as an artist book, stem from the artist’s stream of consciousness and idiosyncratic visual vocabulary. Created between 2016-2018 and collectively titled Notes on Architecture, the works in the exhibition feature subject-matters including: preplanned suburban housing developments; ostalgia[2] of the former German Democratic Republic; Hollywood starlet Jean Harlow in Griffith Park; Erich Mendelsohn-designed buildings on fire; Louis Sullivan decoration in Chicago; neon lights in Las Vegas; the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral; an iconic sign outside the now-defunct Better Days nightclub in New York City; and Tatlin’s Tower wheeled through the streets of St. Petersburg as agitprop[3]. This sequence of drawings culminates with variations of the 1894 silent film Annabelle Butterfly Dance[4] imagined alongside a Ron Hardy set from the Music Box, a Chicago house music club.

Forster’s small-scale drawings first appear as trompe l’oeil newspapers, aged black and white photographs, books, and archival footage in grisaille and muted colors—some so densely detailed they nearly slip into abstraction. Upon closer inspection, the artist’s preternatural facility with graphite, ink, acrylic, and watercolor becomes visible. In his recent work, Forster has introduced literal collage elements, as well as an increased use of gouache and watercolor on found surfaces to create tonal shifts and more diverse textures. “The use of book covers in a linear sequence involving a narrative of pictures but few words,” Forster states, “is an attempt not only to involve found color and texture, but a nod to the book form in its’ entirety. The introduction of gouache /watercolor allows me the dual faculty of being truthful to some original source matter already in color and untruthful to existing black and white source matter where color becomes additive, imaginative and symbolic.”

Presented in a chronological sequence Forster’s interest in contrasting different political eras, ideas of what the future could have been, and architecture’s role in shaping that once hopeful future. Forster’s associative and expansive visual approach aligns more closely with Georges Bataille’s use of architecture as metaphor, for which “(…)Architecture represents a religion that it brings alive, a political power that it manifests, an event that I commemorate, etc. Architecture, before any other qualifications, is identical to the space of representation; it always represents something other than itself from the moment that it becomes distinguished from mere building.”[5]

This is the first comprehensive presentation of a new body of Forster’s work in the U.S. since the artist’s 2012 solo exhibition at FLAG, following his participation in Drawn from Photography, The Drawing Center, New York, NY, in 2011.

Richard Forster: Notes on Architecture will travel to Timothy Taylor, London, from November 15-December 20, 2019. A fully illustrated catalogue produced by the artist will accompany the exhibition.

Join the conversation online and follow FLAG’s Instagram (@flagartfoundation) and Twitter (@FLAGartNYC) and use the #RichardForster hashtag when posting.


Richard Forster
(b. 1970, Saltburn-by-the Sea, England) is an artist living and working in northern England. Recent solo exhibitions include Levittown, De la Warr Pavilion, United Kingdom (2016); Modern, Whitworth Gallery, Manchester, United Kingdom, (2015); Fast and Slow Time, Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, Middlesbrough, United Kingdom (2011), which traveled to The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY (2012); among others. Forster’s works has been included in numerous group exhibitions, including Drawn Together Again, The FLAG Art Foundation, New York, NY (2019); Resistance and Persistence, Ingleby Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland (2015); personal, political, mysterious, Lora Reynolds Gallery, Austin, TX (2013); Drawn from Photography, The Drawing Center, New York, NY (2011); among others. His work is part of the permanent collections of include the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and Tate Gallery, London.

Footnotes: 
[1] “The ‘Photocopy-Realistic’ Drawings of Richard Foster,” Artsy, June 2, 2014.
[2] In German culture, Ostalgie is nostalgia for aspects of life in Communist East Germany. It is a portmanteau of the German words Ost (east) and Nostalgie (nostalgia). Its anglicized equivalent, ostatalgia (rhyming with “nostalgia”), is also sometimes used.
[3] Agitprop, abbreviated from Russian agitatsiya propaganda (agitation propaganda), political strategy in which the techniques of agitation and propaganda are used to influence and mobilize public opinion.
[4] Annabelle Butterfly Dance is an 1894 silent film produced the Edison Manufacturing Company, directed by William Kennedy Dickson, and starring Annabelle Moore. In the short film, Annabelle performs one of her popular dances while wearing a diaphanous butterfly costume.
[5] Hollier, Denis. Against Architecture: The Writings of Georges Bataille. Translated by Betsy Wing, MIT Press, 1992.