Horror in the Modernist Block review – to the dark side
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham
Creepy minimalist interiors, brutalist tower blocks at night – 20 artists go in all directions exploring architectural modernism and horror, starting with Birmingham…
The idea that modernist architecture brings horrors – that its utopian dreams beget dystopia, that its striving for sunlight breeds nightmares – has been around for decades. There has also been a gathering rediscovery that modern buildings can be beautiful and humane and sometimes lovable, to the point that you can now buy brutalist gift items and brutalist books. Horror in the Modernist Block, an exhibition at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, is a reminder that the dark side has never entirely gone away.
The show takes Birmingham as its starting point, a city made over in the 1960s with big roads and housing projects, and more recently made over again with more commercial versions of modernity. It is the home of Spaghetti Junction, of the colossal Castle Vale council estate, of the comprehensively rebuilt Bullring, of the now demolished inverted concrete ziggurat that was the Central Library, and its glitzier replacement by the Dutch architects Mecanoo.