Barton places Newby in a lineage with Hans Haacke, Nancy Holt, Francis Alÿs, Roni Horn, and the American minimalists. In person, Newby and I discuss another helpful addition: the arte povera movement, an early influence that continues to stream through her practice. The movement was famously aligned with the late critic and superstar curator Germano Celant, who gifted its name, literally translated as ‘poor art.’ Arte povera came into being during the social upheavals of the 1960s where artists began to metabolise into their practices the growing disdain and skepticism toward cultural institutions, governments, and history’s grand narratives. Much of the work made under its banner was characterised by an elemental naivety in materials (earth, water, air, raw metals, stone) and placed an emphasis on the experiential capacity of art, attempting to move away from the growing commercialisation of the cultural sphere. In Arte Povera, Celant’s influential book, his characterisation of the movement’s quintessential artist echoes the same form of idealism found in O’Hara: ‘He has chosen to live within direct experience, no longer the representative – the source of pop artists – he aspires to live, not to see.’ (2)
The gallery is a monument, one that Newby and many artists before her have tried to counter, or at least antagonise. Mami Kataoka, in her judge’s statement for the 2012 Walters Prize, extolled Newby’s winning installation for being ‘the most reserved but radical way of transcending the fixed architectural space for contemporary art, liberating us towards wider universal space.’ This transcendence is as present in YES TOMORROW, if not more pointedly so. Within the space is her long ‘scratch,’ made directly into the gallery’s peculiar rubber floors, patched up with hundreds of miniature ceramic and glass pools; there are her wind chimes, strung from the floor and led right up to the peak of the building, wobbling and signalling your eyes up, emphasising both the capacity of the gallery architecture and, moreover, its usual stagnancy—its ‘dead space’; there are perforated panes of glass, pierced with finger-sized holes that disrupt and expose what sculptor Robert Morris might refer to as the ‘insulated setting’ of the gallery, its theoretical and physical lack of sensuality; and then there is that impossible blue floor, the inescapable anchor of the exhibition, lying proudly on top of that aforementioned page, superseding it in every way possible.