In 1965, the Walker Art Center presented the work of 13 young British artists in the exhibition London: The New Scene. In recent years, international art magazines have been attempting to come to grips with the explosion of work from the British art scene. The Walker is the first major museum to mount a sweeping review of this provocative work with "Brilliant!" New Art from London, organized by Chief Curator Richard Flood. Heralded by The Independent on Sunday as the highlight of the 1995 art season, the exhibition features 22 young artists internationally acknowledged as among the most exciting working today. "Brilliant!" New Art from London will be on view October 22, 1995-January 7, 1996.
Related events planned in conjunction with the exhibition include a Brit-themed preview party; an opening-day panel discussion addressing the role of art education in the current British art scene; a British avant-garde film and video series; an evening of British performance art; and a class exploring the work of young London artists. An important part of "Brilliant!" New Art from London will be the offsite presentation of Michael Landy's mixed-media installation Scrapheap Services at The Soap Factory, Minneapolis, in collaboration with No Name Exhibitions. (A complete listing of related events follows.)
The artists chosen for the exhibition have become increasingly visible over the past six years in self-promoted, renegade exhibitions and publications that have cropped up throughout London. Their aesthetically diverse and provocative artworks are united by a shared interest in ephemeral materials, unconventional presentation, and an anti-authoritarian stance that lends their objects a youthful, aggressive vitality.
Ranging in age from 22 to 35, most of the artists are graduates of a handful of London art schools (notably Goldsmiths' College and the Slade School of Fine Art), which have provided a fertile ground for the development of emerging artists in the late 1980s and early 1990s. At the end of the 1980s, faced with a flattened art market and a sense that the aesthetic options open to them were extremely limited, these artists adopted an entrepreneurial attitude of collective self-promotion evident in such exhibitions as Freeze (1988), organized by then-Goldsmiths' student Damien Hirst and held in a rundown warehouse on the Surrey Docks of East London. A seminal event in this history, Freeze demonstrated the independence, self-reliance, and intense professionalism of these young students.
"Brilliant!" New Art from London will be comprised of approximately 100 works of widely diverse and hybrid media, including painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, video, photography, and CD-ROM by Henry Bond, Glenn Brown, Dinos Chapman, Jake Chapman, Adam Chodzko, Mat Collishaw, Tracey Emin, Angus Fairhurst, Anya Gallaccio, Liam Gillick, Damien Hirst, Gary Hume, Michael Landy, Abigail Lane, Sarah Lucas, Chris Ofili, Steven Pippin, Alessandro Raho, Georgina Starr, Sam Taylor-Wood, Gillian Wearing, and Rachel Whiteread.
Sculpture and Installation
Rachel Whiteread and Damien Hirst both share a relationship to Minimalism, but twist it back toward the social. Whiteread has come to prominence for her castings of the negative space of rooms, bathtubs, beds, and even a house. Her Untitled (Room) (1993), a cast of the interior of a room, recently earned her the much coveted Turner Prize. Also on view will be Hirst's The Acquired Inability to Escape, Inverted (1993), a large vitrine with an office desk, chair, and ashtray suspended from its ceiling. Providing a commentary on class structures in England, the business world is here invoked as a site of surveillance, exclusion, and suffocating conformity.
Dinos and Jake Chapman, who will be creating a new sculpture for the exhibition, are a remarkable team who have used non-traditional sculptural materials such as toy models and mannequins to recreate, for example, Goya's "Disasters of War" series. Their sculptures are startling, provocative, and disturbing in their realistic, yet obviously contrived figurations. Abigail Lane shares a similar affection for the representational sculpture form in Stone Dog (1995), a life-sized casting of a Jack Russell terrier, attentively waiting for its master in a frozen concrete pose.
"Brilliant!" New Art from London will also feature a number of installations. Michael Landy addresses the issue of humanity as refuse in Scrapheap Services (1995), employing a wide range of materials that includes a corps of mannequin sanitation workers, trash bins, a trash compactor, advertising signage, and heaps of tiny disposable people. Sam Taylor-Wood's video installation Killing Time (1994), a four-track video projection, presents the viewer with wall-sized images of four ordinary people waiting to lip-sync their parts in an opera. Georgina Starr gives us a glimpse into our investment in memory with her installation The Nine Collections of the Seventh Museum (1994). The CD-ROM workstation and photographs composing this imaginary museum document her stay in a rooming house in which each personal experience was translated into an object or video which was then classified and cross-referenced according to a personal organizing logic.
Anya Gallaccio is an installation artist who works with organic materials ranging from chocolate to cut flowers. She has been commissioned to create a site-specific installation in a window looking out from the galleries to the museum lobby. Throughout the run of the exhibition, the flowers will naturally and gradually decompose, becoming a visual memento mori that comments on the transience of art, life, and beauty.
Photography and Video
Photography and video also play a central role in "Brilliant!" New Art from London. On view will be the photographic series Documents (1991-1994) by Henry Bond and Liam Gillick, a collaborative photo-text installation archived in a filing cabinet with a card catalog to be used by the public in a library-like situation.
Gillian Wearing's photographic series Signs that say what you want them to say, not signs that say what someone else wants you to say (1994) provides us with a graphic index of the voice of the London public by inviting her subjects to write messages on a large piece of paper before being photographed. Wearing will also be represented by her videotape Dancing in Peckham (1994), which depicts the artist dancing to a silent soundtrack in the middle of a shopping mall in London.
This interactive solicitation of subjects through the newspapers was also a technique employed by Adam Chodzko for his piece The God Look-a-Like Contest (1992-1993). People who thought they looked like God were asked through an advertisement to submit images of themselves.
If these photographers question the content of photography, Steven Pippin's work constitutes an assault on the medium itself, as the artist often goes to Herculean extremes to convert washing machines, toilets, and even gallery spaces into pinhole cameras. The Walker has commissioned Pippin to transform the back of a moving van into a pinhole camera which he will use to photograph the museum's lobby. The photograph will in turn be installed from the ceiling of the Walker's lobby.
Mat Collishaw's installation I'm Talking Love (1992) consists of a series of slides, projected in slow motion, of film stills leading to the rape scene in the film The Accused. The work provides a disturbing commentary on the politics of seduction and a unique indictment of masculine sexual mastery from the perspective of a male artist.
Sarah Lucas provides a biting critique of men's representation of women in photocollages such as We Score Every Night (1992), a wall-sized xerographic enlargement of a woman represented in the tabloid press. Lucas' street-smart persona, prevalent in her self-portraits, will be apparent in her 1993 casting of her work boots, Concrete Boots, and in a self-portrait photographic mobile being constructed specifically for the exhibition. Tracey Emin, who collaborated with Lucas in starting an artist-stocked shop in East London, will be constructing a new installation in which a camping tent will be filled with personal items (drawings, letters, souvenirs), all of which pertain to her romantic adventures and misadventures.
Angus Fairhurst will be contributing an installation depicting the plight of a disenfranchised gorilla caught up in a series of existential dilemmas. The Walker is also commissioning Fairhurst to produce two single-channel videos for the exhibition, using this work for short narrative animations that will be shown adjacent to the drawings.
The entrance to the exhibition will be dominated by a video projection of Gary Hume's one-minute video Me as King Cnute (1993), in which the artist sits in a bathtub filled to overflowing wearing a Burger King crown and re-telling the legend of King Cnute as a metaphor for artistic hubris.
The painters included in the exhibition are united by their continued questioning of the traditional medium. Glenn Brown flatly reinterprets the angst-ridden male heads that appear in the paintings of Frank Auerbach and Karl Appel. Gary Hume's paintings also question the formal limits of figuration with their heavily overpainted surfaces, evolved from self-portraits in which the artist's presence is built up into schematized totems. Chris Ofili's paintings are highly aesthetic in the extreme while also commenting on the nature of the medium and his own place within the Anglo-African diaspora. Yet, his canvases also contain strategically placed pieces of elephant dung, which constitute a visual heresy worthy of Dada and indicate the ambiguity of his position as a painter of both English and African descent.
Alessandro Raho's portraits more explicitly remain within the figurative tradition, invoking and repudiating the work of David Hockney and Alex Katz in their uninflected banality. Abigail Lane presents the viewer with a commentary on painterliness with her giant red ink pad, the surface of which evokes the expressivity of the brushstroke while calling that type of representation into question through its reproductive nature. Bloody Wallpaper (1995) displays the inkpad on wallpaper with red silkscreened prints of a police photograph of a generic murder scene, demonstrating Lane's interest in the traces of humanity that are the subject of criminology.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Walker Art Center will publish a tabloid-format catalogue including essays by noted British art critics Stuart Morgan and Neville Wakefield as well as by Walker Art Center staff persons Richard Flood and Douglas Fogle. The 80-page catalogue will also contain excerpts from interviews with each of the artists conducted in London by Fogle and Marcelo Spinelli, a graduate student in curatorial studies at the Royal College of Art. ($14.95)
Major support for "Brilliant!" New Art from London has been provided by Beck's Beer. Generous support has also been provided by The British Council, the Lannan Foundation, The Henry Moore Foundation, Penny and Mike Winton, Mr. and Mrs. Robert J. Bransten, and Martha and Bruce Atwater. Related programs and artists-in-residence activities are supported by Northwest Airlines, Inc., Twin Cities Reader, and Bolger Printing, Inc. Opening-night events are supported by Ceridian Corporation, Saks Fifth Avenue, and MPLS.ST.PAUL Magazine.
Major support for Walker Art Center programs is provided by the Minnesota State Arts Board through an appropriation by the Minnesota State Legislature, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Lila Wallace-Reader's Digest Fund, The Bush Foundation, The McKnight Foundation, Target Stores, Dayton's, and Mervyn's by the Dayton Hudson Foundation, the Northwest Area Foundation, the General Mills Foundation, the Institute of Museum Services, Burnet Realty, the American Express Minnesota Philanthropic Program, the Honeywell Foundation, Northwest Airlines, Inc., The Regis Foundation, The St. Paul Companies, Inc., the 3M Foundation, and the members of the Walker Art Center.
"Brilliant!" New Art from London
Punk and Circumstance
"Brilliant!" Preview Party
Saturday, October 21, 9 pm-midnight
$20 ($10 Walker members) Purchase a $45 Walker membership and receive two free tickets.
Partygoers at this special Brit-themed exhibition preview will be met at the entrance by costumed royal palace guards and British bobbies. Special attractions include dancing to Jungle Music, Britain's latest dance music craze; a British makeover room where participants can go mod, punk, or bouffant; darts; a "Your Face in the Tabloids" photo booth; and a Brit Lookalike Contest. The evening features cocktails, hors d'oeuvres, and trolley rides to The Soap Factory to see the exhibition's off-site installation.
Opening-Day Panel Discussion
My Brilliant Education
Sunday, October 22, 3 pm
Artist-educator Michael Craig-Martin hosts a panel discussion addressing the role of art education in the current British art scene. Craig-Martin has been an important influence on the generation both as an artist and as a teacher at Goldsmiths' College, London, the alma mater of many of the artists represented in the exhibition. Joining him will be Jake Chapman, Chris Ofili, Georgina Starr, and Sam Taylor-Wood.
"Brilliant!" At the Soap Factory
Michael Landy's Scrapheap Services
Using mannequins, digitized signs, and a 13-foot tree shredder, Landy's mixed-media installation depicts a fictional waste-disposal company that recylcles people instead of cardboard. It provides a moving commentary on the expendability of human potential in our current economic and social climate.
Scrapheap Services can be viewed at The Soap Factory (located near Saint Anthony Main at 110 Fifth Avenue SE, a block north of the Stone Arch Bridge at the corner of Fifth Avenue and Second Street SE) Tuesday through Sunday from 12 noon-6 pm beginning October 24. Concurrent with Scrapheap Services, No Name Exhibitions presents The Collective Agenda, a series of exhibitions by Twin Cities-based installation artists. For the ongoing schedule of artists and dates, call 623-9176.
Art and Provocation
Thursdays, October 26-November 16, 6-8 pm
$73 ($66) Register by October 19 by calling the Walker box office at 375-7622.
This class explores the work and milieu of a group of London-based artists - young, radical, self-promoting, theatrical, and street oriented - whose art draws on and challenges a range of visual conventions and artistic expectations. The course will examine works by such artists as Glenn Brown, Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas, and Gillian Wearing as it places works from the exhibition into social and cultural context, analyzes British subcultural roots in fashion, print, music, and imagery, and considers similar attempts being made elsewhere, particularly by Twin Cities artists. Instructor: Diane Mullin, doctoral candidate in art history, Washington University, St. Louis.
THE THIRD ICA BIENNIAL OF INDEPENDENT FILM AND VIDEO
What You See Is What You Get
This series of British avant-garde media from this past year's Biennial of Independent Film & Video was mounted by the Institute of Contemporary Art in London. Selected by the innovative British television producer John Wyver, the programs survey a field of practice that has been dramatically altered since the days of a truly independent, adversarial avant-garde. As Wyver notes, "In this media world it is perhaps ever harder for the independent tradition to follow Ezra Pound's injunction and 'make it new.'" Moreover the old avant-garde has completely vanished, though according to Wyver, "its progeny lives on in the structures and screens of television." His selections reflect not only this new economic reality, but also a growing belief in the potential for the future of electronic technologies to spawn "a new independent image culture."
Special program assistance has been provided by Wendy Lidell of International Film Circuit, New York. All programs take place in the Walker Auditorium. Tickets are $5 ($4). Some programs have mature content. Viewer discretion is advised.
Alive and Kicking
Wednesday, November 8, 7 pm
The opening program focuses on the body and issues of sexuality, and includes short animation such as Kayla Parker's melancholy Night Sounding and Stuart Hilton's David Hockney-inspired collage Save Me as well as comic shorts by Christopher Harrison and Sean Roe. The selection builds to the final two works: Isaac Julien's stylish depiction of black male sexuality in the The Attendant and John Maybury's dense electronic phantasmagorical Remembrance of Things Fast. Program length approximately 84 minutes.
Friday, November 10, 7 pm
Centered on ideas of technology and representation, this program combines striking uses of the medium such as Tim Macmillan's astonishingly beautiful Homage to Edgerton, selections from the BBC-commissioned Poems on the Box series of innovative "film-bites" devoted to poetry, Inge Lise Hansen's animated Talking to a Stone with interrogations of narrativity in Steve Hawley's paradoxical A Proposition Is a Picture, Chris Petit's probing of the aesthetic and moral qualities of security cameras in his Surveillance, and concluding with David Larcher's latest work, videżvoid (The Trailer), described by Wyver as "a kind of digital poetry . . . which marries cosmology and cultural theory with (perhaps) a dystopian view of the future of image-making." Program length approximately 87 minutes.
Wednesday, November 15, 7 pm
Approaching questions of autobiography and identity, the final program ranges across a broad spectrum of independent practices from the quasi-amateur camcorder diaries commissioned for the BBC's Video Nation series, experimental uses of found footage and dramatization in Pier Wilkie's multifarious portrait of her immigrant father in A Concise History of How Wilkie Discovered England, and the idiosyncratic working-class drama of Andrew Kötting's Smart Alek to Phil Mulloy's savage yet witty animated allegory The Sound of Music. Program length approximately 74 minutes.
Two by Pratibha Parmar
Wednesday, November 29, 7 pm $5 ($4)
British video- and filmmaker Pratibha Parmar is featured in this evening's program with two of her latest works. In The Colour of Britain (1994, Britain, 58 minutes), black and Asian British artists from various disciplines speak candidly about the evolving definition of British art. Interviews include sculptor Anish Kapoor, choreographer Shobana Jayasingh and Jatinder Verma of the Tara Arts Theatre Company. Memsahib Rita (1994, Britain, 20 minutes), Parmar's first attempt at narrative fiction, weaves magical realism, film noir, and thriller into the story of a young woman living in the East End of London who, at the anniversary of her mother's death, struggles to find a balance between her father's nostalgic grief and her own sense of loss. Parmar is an internationally award-winning filmmaker and social critic based in London. She was a Walker artist-in-residence in January 1994 when she introduced her collaborative film with Alice Walker entitled Warrior Marks for the Women in the Director's Chair series.
Second Sunday Tour
Why Did They Do That? Unconventional Presentations in the Galleries
Sunday, November 12, 2 pm
Free with gallery admission. Meet in the lobby.
A look at contemporary artists who cross traditional boundaries between media to create innovative, interdisciplinary artistic projects. Examine the social, economic, political, and artistic context for the creation of this diverse work. The tour will take place in the "Brilliant!" New Art from London and permanent collection galleries.
Thursday and Saturday, February 22 and 24, 8 pm
The Institute of Contemporary Art from London will curate an evening of emerging performance artists from England. The showcase format of the evening will be similar to that of the P.S. 122 Field Trips which have appeared semi-annually at the Walker.