Tate St Ives
16 May – 27 September 2009
Bringing together seven historic and contemporary figures working throughout the last eighty years in both fine and applied art and including key artists associated with the St Ives colony and the development of Modernism during the twentieth century, this exhibition sets up various conversations around art, design and most particularly the development and influence of the avant-garde and its subsequent assimilation into mainstream culture.
A selection of over twenty works by Alfred Wallis focus almost entirely on the maritime paintings for which he is most famous, some of which have not returned to St Ives since they left the artist’s home here over fifty years ago. These sit aside some of Barbara Hepworth’s late, often overlooked, studio works and, for the first time, a selection of Lucie Rie pots, curated by Emmanuel Cooper Editor of Ceramics Review and visiting lecturer at the Royal College of Art, is on display in the gallery.
Tate St Ives positions these three artists alongside four important established and emerging international artists: Lawrence Weiner, Carol Bove, Bojan Šarčević and Katy Moran. Weiner, one of the most acclaimed American artists working today, displays ten wall texts which have not been shown in over twenty years and are now part of the ARTIST ROOMS collection of international contemporary art gifted by Anthony d’Offay. Bove, renowned for her shelf-pieces, presents new works specially created for the gallery’s curved showcase originally designed for the display of Leach pottery. Moran used her Tate St Ives residency at Porthmeor Studio no.5, where both Ben Nicholson and Patrick Heron previously worked, to produce new paintings for the show, whilst Šarčević presents two new film installations, shown here for the first time in the UK.
A number of connections and conversations arise between these seven autonomous but complementary one-room displays. A sense of the materiality of the art works themselves recurs; Wallis paintings for instance, made on scraps of driftwood and cardboard, can be viewed in a new light when juxtaposed with Šarčevićs and Bove’s works which directly explore the material qualities of various objects and assemblages, as well as Weiner’s strongly sculptural text works and the physicality of both Rie’s pots and Moran’s paintings. Furthermore, the displays explore the way in which a significant body of contemporary practice is actively re-engaging with the legacies of radical Modernism, critically revisiting the period in terms of both style and ideology. This is epitomised in the selection of Hepworth’s sculptures; focussing her late career, it considers how she revisited her signature forms in studio-based works from 1951-73. Drawing on archive photographs and reviews, this display of Hepworth’s work further explores the very particular way they were arranged and marketed by the artist and galleries to meet the tastes and ideals of the modern collector.
Taken together, the exhibitions advance the idea that it is the work’s relationship with the world now that is important, whilst recognising the fundamental links with art of the past, the present and the future. Important questions are raised directly and indirectly regarding the dialogues, relationships and dynamics that occur between artists and across generations. Vitally, the exhibition allows for the exploration of contemporary international practice whilst examining the St Ives modernists in new and enlightening contexts. In this way these very different artists and displays both inform and animate each other.