A Moment of Grace is the second exhibition in Kaleidoscope, a year long programme of unfolding exhibitions at Modern Art Oxford in 2016. During the year, iconic works from the past return to the gallery alongside new commissions by internationally acclaimed and emerging artists of the current generation.
Reflecting contemporary concerns about the environment and unsustainable consumption, the exhibition charts the evolution of artists using materials to critique political and cultural systems, through to artists working today with new materials to comment on global and local conditions.
Featuring works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kevin Beasley, John Latham, Jac Leirner, David Maljkovic, Gustav Metzger, Gareth Nyandoro, Yoko Ono and Guan Xiao, and Open Music Archive, A Moment of Grace opens on 16 April and runs until 22 May.
The show takes its inspiration from an observation by German artist Gustav Metzger (b.1926) that “every step in nature is a moment of grace”. Metzger was the founder of the Auto-Destructive art movement in the 1960s, which aimed to undermine the commodity status of artistic production through the self-destruction of the art object. His celebrated work, Liquid Crystal Environment(1965), returns to the gallery having been shown as part of his retrospective exhibition at Modern Art Oxford in 1998. Audiences visiting the show will be immersed in a psychedelic environment created by light projected through glass slides filled with heat-sensitive liquid crystals.
The exhibition also includes a series of ‘skoob’ works (‘books’ spelled backwards) by British artist John Latham (1921-2006), included in Metzger’s 1966 Destruction in Artsymposium, which controversially included the public burning of books. This exhibition includes a number of Latham’s ‘skoob' paintings exhibited in his Art after Physics retrospective at Modern Art Oxford in 1991.
Another artist who participated in the Destruction in Artsymposium is Japanese artist, Yoko Ono (b.1933) whose Painting to Hammer A Nail (1961) was recreated for her 1997 retrospective at Modern Art Oxford.
Inviting audiences to contribute to the work by hammering nails into the canvas, the work undermines the privileged role of the artist in the creation of an artwork and thereby, the uniqueness on which art’s financial value is founded.
Brazilian artist Jac Leirner (b.1961) creates monumental installations from recycled inexpensive objects in order to question the preciousness of art. For this exhibition, she returns to Oxford to install her 1991 wall work All Together Now, comprised of 36 panels, each made up of multiple flyers found in the UK.
Beijing-based multi-media artist Guan Xiao (b.1983) appropriates visual imagery she finds online to create sculptural works that have a distinct and unique aesthetic, employing the Internet’s non-hierarchical flattening of different source materials.
For this moment, this moment is yours...is a sound installation by American artist Kevin Beasley (b.1985) for which he gathered over 4000 cassette tapes, from a number of sources and eras, splicing them across 52 reels. Each time the work is exhibited, a new element is introduced to the work, with a new live recording made onsite during the exhibition and added to the tape.
Croatian artist David Maljkovic (b.1973) draws on materials from his own archive in four sculptures called New Reproductions, which treat the layered nature of contemporary visual media like an archaeology of collaged archival images.
The large-scale paintings of Zimbabwean artist Gareth Nyandoro (b.1982) depict the marketplaces of his native Harare and incorporate objects such as paper wrappings, food containers and empty bottles, used and discarded in everyday life.
Drawing on art historical and literary sources, Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b.1983)makes large-scale figurative compositions combining drawing, painting and collage on paper. Using the visual language and inherited traditions of classical academic western painting, she creates multi-layered works that reflect transcultural identity, employing family photos,magazines and images from the Internet.
The exhibition will also feature a new audio work by Open Music Archive, for which the artists have mined the gallery's archive of taped events and live recordings. The resulting piece captures and collages together the sounds made by audience sat Modern Art Oxford over the past50years, playing them back to today’s visitors to the gallery.