Bits and bobs and not much else

The Royal Academy | Two stars

BILL Woodrow was part of the group of British sculptors that dominated the art scene before the YBAs ran riot in the nineties, but he never reached the stratospheric heights of some of his contemporaries. Three decades after their heyday, Tony Cragg, Anish Kapoor, Richard Deacon and Anthony Gormley are household names. The same can’t be said of Woodrow. One 1986 Turner Prize nomination is the closest he got to the collective consciousness – wandering around this exhibition, it’s easy to see why.

It’s not so much that there are flashes of brilliance; it’s more a case of huge, unfulfilled promise. The early works are wonderfully inventive, his deconstruction and cross-sectioning of discarded objects displaying an endearing curiosity. Printers, televisions and hoovers all receive autopsies, their internal parts laid out meticulously in order of size from large shards of screen to tiny, ant-sized bolts.

After that it’s disappointing. Where the early works display precision, the later ones are cumbersome and lurid. It’s stubbornly – perhaps honourably – unfashionable, but there isn’t enough in the way of ideas to make up for the kitsch execution.