The latest incarnation of Lucy Sparrow’s felt installations saw the Suffolk-based artist recreate a fully stocked drugstore selling everything from luxury perfume to hemorrhoid cream at Lyndsey Ingram Gallery in London. Bourdon Street Chemist was the artist’s seventh major exhibition where all the items have been rendered out of felt and it followed on from her similarly exhaustive reimagining of a Soho sex shop in 2015 and a New York bodega in 2018 (covered).
Some items that grace the shelves, like shampoo and Band-Aids, are so common place that they’re just part of our everyday lives. While other items, such as pregnancy tests and prescription painkillers, trigger memories and immediately take us back to a specific time in our lives. The 15,000 products have all been hand made by the artist and her assistants over a two year period in the decommissioned ambulance station in Suffolk which serves as her studio. During the show’s extended gestation period, the subject matter has proven particularly prescient with the arrival of COVID-19 and drugstores providing an increasingly important source of medical advice while doctor’s surgeries are inaccessible. There is a keen eye for detail both in respect to the individual items which faithfully recreate the typography and color schemes of readily identifiable brand items and the ancillary features which are often found in London’s drugstores such as a TV screen broadcasting infomercials and a well-thumbed copy of a gossip magazine for those waiting to speak to the pharmacist.
While unashamedly playful, the British artist’s work fits squarely within the tradition of Claes Oldenburg’s soft sculptures and feeds into the on going re-evaluation of what materials, forms and subject matter constitute art. The exhibition was part installation, with visitors stepping into the immersive art space and inhaling the medicinal smell of TCP, and part performance art, with Sparrow herself donning a white coat and serving customers behind the counter for the duration of the show’s three week run.
Photo credit: feralthings.