Irish Museum of Modern Art

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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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In the Silence of the Night:: Live performances at SUMMER RISING 2015

I went to a reading of Etel Adnan’s in the Serpentine last year and I was really taken with her use of language and with her exhibition at IMMA, and so the idea behind the curated series of performances at the IMMA Summer Party came about. In the Silence of the night is a line taken from Etel Adnan’s novel Sitt Marie Rose; the style of writing is a mixture of conversations, news bulletins, monologues, and interviews. The idea was to engage with open forms of expression, through spoken word, live art, sculpture and music. The performances were experimental in design but ultimately were a celebration of live gestures and collaborations.

The performances were staged in the garden terrace, the courtyard and the formal gardens aSummerRising 2015 photography credit Fiona Morgan.293t IMMA, punctuating the evening. The garden terrace was intimate and allowed for the audience to come and go during performances.

The night began with Ruth Proctor; tap dancers interpreting the sound of a Columbian rainstorm that was recorded by the artist. Each tap dancer did a solo interpretation until it reached a crescendo with three dancers on stage. The effect was immediate; drawing people from the gardens and the Great Hall by the amplified sound of the dancers.

Dimitra Xidous’ rhythmic poetry set the stage for the first of the spoken word performances. Her style is performative in delivery and both personal and humorous: the audience responded with loud laughter and applause after every poem.

Next we had Sarah Jones, who wrote a play in response to IMMA Collection Fragments – Jones and a collaborator acting a play referenced the setting and the historical nature of the IMMA/Royal Hospital Kilmainham building, as well as Deborah Brown’s Glass Fibre Form Orange in particular as it currently hangs with the Bird of Paradise flower, and Gordon Lambert’s collection. The descriptive nature of the piece allowed the audience to imagine themselves within the east wing looking at the piece. The audience was engrossed in listening so as not to miss a piece of the story.

SummerRising 2015 photography credit Fiona Morgan.354Ella De Burca stormed the stage with ‘Aphorisms: I Knew That Word Once’. It involved four actors who played historical individuals from the past – Rilke, Wagner, Mann and Beuys. The actors debated about concepts of art and creative freedom. De Burca conducted the debates until they collapsed into chaos as the voices competed to be heard. It was an energetic, humorous performance and the audience responded with the same enthusiasm as it was delivered.


Sally Rooney followed with a reading from her new poems, which talked about love and relationships and the trials and tribulations of traveling with a lover. While quite personal poems they were quite self-deprecating at times. She had a loyal following of listeners as the evening grew colder.

Claire-Louise Bennett read from her new collection of works titled Pond, delivering her musings on everyday existence and visiting Emile Zola’s grave while eating an apple. Her digressions in her stories and sharp wit seemed to charm the audience to go along for the ride.

Meanwhile in the courtyard, Ella De Burca’s inflatable Doric column Utilitarian Object #1 begins its rise, the wind swaying the piece as the air filled the column, onlookers taking photographs or queuing for Indian while the artwork ascended. The plaster stucco piece Utilitarian Object #2 was illuminated by the courtyard lights and was more subdued than its neighboring column.

Darkness enveloped the formal gardens and set the tone for multi-instrumentalist Dorit Chrylser. Her instrument of choice, the theremin, has a haunting effect, amplified by Dorit’s voice and gestures as she moved around the instrument. Her wizardly playing of the theremin’s invisible energy fields and her dynamic performance kept the audience in thrall as the blue sky turned black.

As Dorit’s music faded, Lee Welch’s piece could be seen in the distance as a blue figure illuminated in the garden. The audience gathered by the side of the terrace to watch as the statue, infused by light and fog and seeming to almost levitate from its spot, came alive: an active participant in the evening draped in golden fabric.

The audience activated these visceral encounters, which proved to be both provocative and entertaining. As the performances ended we moved towards the Great Hall to get some warmth and to dance the night away.

Mary Cremin

Curator SUMMER RISING 2015




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Artist’s Voice:: Deborah Brown

A work by Deborah Brown, currently on show in the Fragments exhibition, draws inspiration from a text by W.B. Yeats. The sculpture titled The Gate, (1994) was purchased for the IMMA Collection in 2002.

Below is an excerpt from a handwritten letter dated 24 February 2003 from Brown to IMMA. In it, the artist describes some of the scenarios depicted in the work, which were drawn from the W.B. Yeats tale The Merrow:

“The Gate symbolizes freedom, it is open and the key is in the keyhole. The scenarios inserted at intervals on the grid-like structure have themes dealing with human freedom. The themes were suggested to me by songs in Mahler’s cycle “Des Knaben Wunderhorn” and a legend or folk tale which I read in W.B. Yeats “Irish Fairy and Folk Tales” The Merrow (who was called Coomara).

On the left side of the gate the scenarios are suggested by the songs. The boy is imprisoned in his cell but his thoughts are free. He is sitting within an open grid box. In his thoughts he goes up into the mountains and knocks on the door of his lover. The door is symbolized by an open door frame structure.

On the right side scenarios have been suggested by the Irish legend; The Merrow (Coomara). He makes friends with a fisherman called Jack and invites him down to his house at the bottom of the sea and shows him his room where he keeps the Souls of drowned sailors in his “Soul Cages”. They look like lobster pots. Jack, who is worried by this, invites Coomara to his own house on land, gets him drunk and when Coomara falls asleep Jack goes back down to the seabed again and releases the Souls. My scenarios portray Jack sitting on a rock waiting for Coomara to come and on the seabed with a lobster pot-like cage about to release the Souls.

The legend is worth reading. There is a lot more in it than I have written down.”

Brown’s work can be viewed in the exhibition IMMA Collection: Fragments from 1 May through 26 July 2015.

Image: Deborah Brown, b. 1927, The Gate, 1994, Bronze, 170 x 111 x 75 cm, IMMA Collection, Purchase, 2002. All images © the artist: photography by Denis Mortell. 

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A Celebration of History at IMMA

The Irish Museum of Modern Art is extremely fortunate to be housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, one of the finest 17th-century buildings in Ireland. Most notably, the RHK was open as a retirement home and infirmary for nearly 250 years for generations of military veterans who lived and died here. However the history of the Kilmainham site also includes ancient burial grounds, early Christian monuments, a Viking settlement and a medieval monastery.

North Range view of Courtyard

While our focus may be on modern and contemporary art, we are constantly drawing inspiration from our historic surroundings. This Sunday 14 June, on the concluding day of SUMMER RISING: The IMMA Festival, we are focusing on the exploration and celebration of the heritage of the RHK. Continue reading


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