IMMA BLOG

Irish Museum of Modern Art


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El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State

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El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State 
with Rossella Biscotti, Maud Gonne, Núria Güell, Alice Milligan, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl
30 July – 18 October 2015

On the approach of the centenary of Ireland’s Easter Rising and the subsequent establishment of the new Republic, IMMA is pleased to announce the exhibition, El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State. This exhibition reflects the artistic and cultural community who gave voice to a new image for the emerging state and a visual language for its politics. It places this local reflection within a broader global consideration of the role of artists in the imagination of emergent states of the early 20th century, and acts as a contemporary exploration of the task of the artist in relation to civil society.

The exhibition brings together a significant body of works from the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, by El Lizzitsky (1890–1941), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century who is shown here for the first time in Ireland. These works, including an important body of his noted ‘Proun’ series, are shown in the context of archive material referencing the work of Irish nationalist poet and writer Alice Milligan (1865–1953), and her collaborator Maud Gonne (1866–1953). The exhibition explores their parallel visions of the activated artist central to the imagining of a new state. A contemporary counterpoint to the historical narrative is provided by newly commissioned and recent works by four artists – Rossella Biscotti, Núria Güell, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl – whose work, in different ways, reflects on the position of the artist within our society now.

The exhibition is curated by Annie Fletcher, Chief Curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Sarah Glennie, Director, IMMA, with Dr Catherine Morris as curatorial advisor.

The participation of the Dutch-based artist Rossella Biscotti is made possible with financial support from the Mondriaan Fund. The participation of Hito Steyerl is supported by the Goethe-Institut Irland. The exhibition is presented with the support of Yeats 2015. This exhibition, which is part of a series of New Art at IMMA, is proudly sponsored by Matheson.

Read more on our website

Talks and Events:

Gallery Discussion | El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State
Thursday 30 July, 11am – 12 noon, Garden Galleries, IMMA

Exhibition Curators, Sarah Glennie, Annie Fletcher, and Catherine Morris (art historian and curator) lead a gallery discussion within the exhibition spaces. Book here

Lecture + Roundtable Discussion
Saturday 17 October, 3.00 – 5.30pm, Lecture Room, IMMA

On the closing weekend of El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State, Catherine Morris presents a lecture on her research into the art historical and cultural contexts of Russia and Ireland, which links together the work and ideas of key revolutionary figures Alice Milligan, Maud Gonne, Jack B. Yeats and El Lissitzky in the early years of the 20th century. This will be followed by a discussion addressing Lissitzky’s enthusiasm for the revolution and the relevance of his ideas for contemporary artists and society, as Ireland approaches the centenary of 1916. Participants include: Rossella Biscotti, Núria Güell, Sarah Pierce, Annie Fletcher, Sarah Glennie and discussion moderator, Mick Wilson (Researcher, Valand Academy, the University of Gothenburg). A closing reception follows this event. Book here

Booking is essential for all talks. For a full programme and free tickets, please visit www.imma.ie


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Artist’s Voice:: Ronan McCrea

Ronan McCrea’s ‘Medium (Corporate Entities)’ was originally commissioned on the occasion of ‘10,000 to 50′, an exhibition celebrating the twentieth anniversary of Business to Arts, which took place at IMMA prior to the 2008 financial crisis. In 2013, ‘Medium (Corporate Entities)’ was purchased for the IMMA Collection. Here, McCrea writes on the history of the project and its latest iteration, currently on show as part of the ‘Fragments’ exhibition until July 26th Continue reading


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Artist’s Voice:: Alan Phelan on ‘Fragments’

As the IMMA Collection show ‘Fragments’ enters its final weeks, artist Alan Phelan reflects on his involvement in the layout of the exhibition. Continue reading


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Video:: Karen Sweeney introduces Karla Black

Karen Sweeney (Exhibitions, IMMA) introduces Karla Black’s dynamic new body of sculptural work currently on show in the gallery spaces of IMMA. 

Karla Black is regarded as one of the pioneering contemporary artists of her generation. A Turner Prize nominee in 2011, she practices a kind of lyrical autonomous sculpture, influenced by psychoanalysis, feminism and its impact on visual art. Black’s work draws from a multiplicity of artistic traditions from expressionist painting, land art, performance, to formalism.  Black questions the rigours of sculptural form and her large-scale sculptures incorporate modest everyday substances, along with very traditional art-making materials to create abstract formations.

The site-specific exhibition at IMMA presents Karla Black’s extraordinary creative output, revealing the artist’s constant challenges to prevailing concepts of sculpture. Her interest in process has led her to expand the possibilities of whichever material she employs; from plaster, polythene, chalk dust and powder to eye-shadow, nail varnish, fake tan or toothpaste. Black chooses her media for their tactile aesthetic appeal: the familiarity of the texture of cellophane or the scent of cosmetics bridges the experience of tangible matter with the intimacy of memory of the subconscious. Black’s working process is intensely physical and this energy is conveyed through works that emphasise her free, experimental working method, combined with the editing, muting and reigning in of careful aesthetic judgement. Each element in her assemblages  interconnects physical, psychological, and theoretical stimuli which are both self-referential and relate to art as a wider-world experience.

Experimenting with ways to float material, form and colour at eye level remains a constant preoccupation in Black’s work, and this preoccupation remains as a thread in the exhibition at IMMA, which presents Black’s extraordinary creative output through a series of new works tailored for the spaces at IMMA.

Karla Black has stated in relation to her current exhibition at IMMA ‘I am preoccupied with trying to find ways to float material, form and colour at eye level. Over the years, I have discovered makeshift sculptural solutions that allow this to happen, while actively avoiding the obvious traditional tropes – painting a canvas and putting it on a wall, placing an object on a plinth or shelf etc. This preoccupation remains as I develop experimentation for the IMMA show’.

Black has said previously of her work: ‘While there are ideas about psychological and emotional developmental processes held within the sculptures I make, the things themselves are actual physical explorations into thinking, feeling, communicating and relating’.

Karla Black at IMMA is open until 26 July.


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Video:: Marguerite O’Molloy introduces ‘Fragments’

Marguerite O’Molloy (Collections, IMMA) introduces the current exhibition: Fragments, which will run until 26 July. Fragments encompasses a wide variety of examples from the IMMA Collection, ranging from the 1950’s through to contemporary works recently acquired for the Collection.

This exhibition borrows its title from Philosopher Walter Benjamin’s comparison of the work of translation to re-assembling fragments of a broken vase – the individual fragments must come together, but need not be like each other. This could also be taken as an allegory for exhibition making, or collecting.

The exhibition includes the first-showing since their acquisition of a number of recent works by Irish artists, including The sky looks down on almost as many things as the ceiling, (2013) a wall based sculpture by Aleana Egan and commissioned works by Ronan McCrea and Alan Phelan. The latter two are lens-based works titled Medium (Corporate Entities) and Include me out of the Partisan Manifesto, which resulted from IMMA’s programme of temporary exhibitions. McCrea’s photographic enquiry into spaces where corporate art collections are hung, took place before the economic collapse.

Caoimhe Kilfeather’s newly acquired lead sculpture Abbreviation, (2011) joins works by Michael Warren, Shirazeh Houshiary, Brian King and Kathy Prendergast selected from the IMMA Collection. These works have an aesthetic and historic affinity with the sculpture and drawing of Gerda Frömel – whose retrospective, will be running concurrently in IMMA’s Garden Galleries.

GILBERT & GEORGE’s large-scale photowork Smoke Rising, (1989), Nigel Rolfe’sDance Slap for Africa, (1983) and will be shown along with other activist works or works with emphasis on performance including a film by Phil Collins and historic works by Marina Abramović.

Fragments will include a number of Subjectivist works by WW II imigrès, the White Stag artists, bequested by the late artist Patrick Scott to IMMA in 2014.  Scott exhibited with the White Stag from 1941 and the group swopped each others paintings.  The donation is particularly rich in key works by Kenneth Hall who was a close friend of Scott.

Now in her 85th year, Camille Souter’s works included in Fragments are among some of her finest works of the 1950s and 60s and show her interest in Miró, Klee, Jackson Pollock and Arte Povera. In 1958 Lucio Fontana bought two of her paintings.

A pioneer of Conceptual Art and author of the renowned Inside the White Cube, Brian O’Doherty / Patrick Ireland’s enduring obsession with themes of language, perception and identity are represented by a selection of his works from the IMMA Collection dating from 1954 onwards and include a major new Rope Drawing which is a recent gift to IMMA by the artist, entitled: The doors to good and evil and the windows to heaven – Christina’s World,  Rope Drawing No # 124,  2015.

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