Mark Neville is a world renowned artist who works at the intersection of art and documentary. His socially focused projects incorporate photography, film and book publishing and are often based upon new research by expert sociologists. The artist is interested in exploring the social function of art, working closely with communities facing difficult circumstances and investigating how films and photographs can effect change in the real world.
In 2012 Neville was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for a commission by New York Times Magazine in which he documented the stark contrasts inherent in London society and subcultures. He subsequently lived amongst divergent communities in the industrial heartland of the US, creating work under commission by the Andy Warhol Museum.
In his first exhibition, London/Pittsburgh, at the Alan Cristea Gallery, Neville exhibits thirteen works from these two significant projects, side-by-side for the first time. The pairing of Here is London (2012) and Braddock/Sewickley (2012) contrasts British and American society, further emphasises social disparities, and yet reveals behavioral characteristics which are shared regardless of economic circumstance, cultural factors or geographic location.
In both series the artist confronts viewers with uncomfortable truths about imbalances that still exist in both countries. The artist’s concerns about division of wealth and racial segregation reverberate throughout Braddock/Sewickley. Sewickley is a community originally made prosperous by the steel industry, where the wealthy and almost exclusively white population socialise at exclusive country clubs, revering antiquated ideas of British high society. By contrast, neighbouring Braddock is a town with a mostly black community that has fallen on hard times with the collapse of the steel industry and where the crack cocaine epidemic of the early eighties is still having an affect.
The race divide in Pittsburgh, is startling in comparison to Neville’s images of the cosmopolitan British capital but Here Is London reflects how the divisive effects of class and money have changed little in the UK over the past forty years. Images of traders at the London Metal Exchange and dancing crowds at the society nightclub Boujis are exhibited alongside photographs of activist groups like Occupy London and life at community centres in Tottenham.
The seemingly timeless nature of these economic and social forces is echoed through Neville’s choice of lighting and film stock. He purposefully echoes the style of the photographers who documented the boom and bust of the seventies and eighties.
“I had viewed both London and Pittsburgh through a prism mixed with Charles Dickens and Norman Rockwell. Sometimes the bringing together of two bodies of work made in different locations can generate new insights and reflections upon social divisions in each.” - Mark Neville
From 2 to 19 December 2014 Mark Neville’s exhibition Art as Social Document will be displayed at the London School of Economics. This will be followed by a Panel Discussion at LSE, which will use the themes explored in London/ Pittsburgh as a platform for a wider discussion about inequality within society.
Until 25 September 2014, Neville is exhibiting a new body of work at the Imperial War Museum, focusing on the two months he spent as an official war artist with 16 Air Assault Brigade in Helmand Province, Afghanistan in 2011. His films and photographs question our presence in Afghanistan not just now, but throughout history.