The first major presentation following her death in 2009. Spero rejected the dominant post-war movements of formalist Abstraction and Pop Art in the 1950s, developing a more ephemeral way of working that used paper and collage, gouache and printmaking - a process she described as allowing for 'all manner of processions, conflicts, interruptions and disruptions'. Contemporary the project of Marcus Coates: in 'The Trip' he is questioning the role of the artist in relation to a range of social issues or problems.
The Serpentine Gallery presents an exhibition of the celebrated American artist Nancy Spero, the first major presentation following her death in autumn 2009.
Artist and activist Nancy Spero (1926–2009) was a leading pioneer of feminist art. During her 50-year career, she created a vibrant visual language constructed from the histories and mythologies of past and present cultures.
Trained in the figurative tradition, Spero was greatly influenced not only by the enduring dialogue with her husband Leon Golub, but also by artists including Jean Dubuffet and by the objects and artefacts she discovered in ethnographic museums. Spero rejected the dominant post-war movements of formalist Abstraction and Pop Art in the 1950s, developing a more ephemeral way of working that used paper and collage, gouache and printmaking – a process she described as allowing for ‘all manner of processions, conflicts, interruptions and disruptions’.
Spero created an identity through the acts of borrowing and disguise. In early work, texts as well as images were enlisted from a wide range of sources to express alienation, disempowerment and physical pain. Directly quoting the writing of poet and playwright Antonin Artaud, Spero voiced her anger at being exiled as a female artist to the peripheries of the art world. Spero’s often radical work made strong statements against war, male dominance and abuses of power, presenting compelling arguments for tolerance and a non-hierarchical society. Yet her work was never simplistically utopian. ‘Utopia, like heaven,’ she once remarked, ‘is kind of boring.’
Over her lifetime, Spero’s practice grew increasingly collaborative, reflecting both her involvement in the politics of the Women’s Movement as well as the progressive physical difficulties she faced as a sufferer of chronic arthritis. During her life she remained politically active and was a founding member of the first women’s cooperative gallery, A.I.R. (Artists in Residence), in New York.
In her late work, Spero drew upon a broad range of visual sources – from Etruscan frescos to fashion magazines – to create a figurative lexicon representing women from pre-history to the present. Her work, she stated, ‘speculates on a sense of possibility and comments upon immediate events, political, sexual and otherwise’. Richly layered and vibrantly cinematic, epic works such as Azur, 2003, are celebratory tours de force reflecting Spero’s political engagement and dynamic imagination.
Nancy Spero has been initiated by the Centre Pompidou, Paris, (presented from 13 October 2010 to 10 January 2011), and adapted for the Serpentine Gallery.
The Serpentine Gallery, in collaboration with St. John’s Hospice, London, launches a major new project by UK-based artist Marcus Coates. The film is produced as part of the Serpentine’s ongoing Skills Exchange project and is the result of a long-term residency by Coates at the hospice.
Coates began the project by asking hospice outpatients to suggest ways that vicarious action could enrich their experiences and offered to enact unfulfilled dreams on their behalf. Suggestions ranged from the creation of an exhibition of photography, to a parachute free-fall, to a trip to the Amazon. The last of these requests, made by the late Alex H., was realised by the artist in 2010.
Coates was given precise instructions for the trip. He was asked to travel to an isolated village in the Amazon jungle and to ask the indigenous people a set of prearranged questions. The project was an exchange, Coates offered a way of expanding Alex H’s imaginative world beyond the hospice and in return Alex H. offered Coates a challenge to see the world for someone else.
The Trip presents audio recordings of the conversations between outpatient and artist firstly as they plan the journey and then as they share the memories following Coates’ return.
While Coates’ work is well known for questioning the role of the artist in relation to a range of social issues or problems – often in conjunction with official governmental organisations – in The Trip he develops this central concern through exchanges between individuals, bringing a level of sensitivity and intimacy to the resulting presentation.
On the occasion of the first presentation of The Trip by Marcus Coates, the Serpentine Gallery is delighted to present a limited edition print by the artist. This edition is a documentary photograph, taken on Coates’ trip to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador on behalf of Alex H.
Presented in collaboration with St. John’s Hospice.
Janna Graham, Projects Curator +44 (0)20 7298 1535 email@example.com
Image: Nancy Spero Female Bomb, 1966 Gouache and ink on paper 86.4 x 68.6 cm
Collection of Barbara Lee, Cambridge, MA, USA
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Tom Coupe, 020 7298 1544, firstname.lastname@example.org
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