Jesse Darling Won the Turner Prize. But Does He Still Want to Be an Artist?

A few years ago, the English artist Jesse Darling was standing in the vegetable aisle of a grocery store when he had a kind of epiphany. Staring at plastic-wrapped produce, he suddenly felt an acute awareness of the path the items had taken to get there: from cultivation to processing, to packaging and shipment, and then to their place on the shelves.

“I just stood there transfixed on the spot,” he recalled in a video posted last year. “I had this overwhelming sense of how fragile and precarious and preposterous it was: utterly in excess of requirement and in excess of possibility.”

Darling hopes to provoke such revelations among viewers of his works, which include sculptures and installations of manipulated found objects. He wants to expose the “fairy tale” of “the nation-state, the apparatus of capitalism, the structure of modernity, and race and gender,” he said in a recent interview — like “when someone is wearing an invisibility cloak and someone throws paint or talcum powder on it and it suddenly comes into view.”

Last year, this approach won Darling the Turner Prize, the prestigious British award for contemporary art whose past winners include such heavyweights as Steve McQueen and Anish Kapoor. The win was met with unusually widespread praise: An article in The Guardian called Darling’s work “full of personality, vulnerability, weird detours and alarming collisions.”

Darling had been scheduled to open his first U.S. exhibition since his Turner Prize victory at Chapter NY in Lower Manhattan on July 11. He said that he did not want to talk about the gallery show and that he would make most of the works at the last minute. This 11th-hour approach “was a high-risk strategy, but it’s the only way of doing things for me,” he added. (On Tuesday, a Chapter NY spokeswoman said the exhibition had been postponed and would most likely take place in 2025.)

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