Art Alongside / 22 March – 9 April 2011 / Wexford Arts Centre
Children Get Choosy with IMMA opens to the public at Wexford Arts Centre on Wednesday 23 January 2011. An initiative of the Arts Department of Wexford County Council, Art Alongside is a visual arts programme based in primary schools throughout County Wexford. The six schools involved in the 2010 / 2011 project are Barntown National School, St. Patrick’s N.S, Craanford, Scoil Naomh Aine, Rathgarogue, Cushinstown National School, Kildavin National School and Courtnacuddy National School.
This year’s Art Alongside continued its hugely successful partnership between Wexford County Council, the Arts Council of Ireland, the National Programme of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Wexford Arts Centre and primary level schools.
For the current project, children from County Wexford primary schools were shown high quality reproductions of artwork from the Irish Museum of Modern Art’s Collection. Guided by project artists Mary Claire O’Brien and Helen Robbins, the children involved were facilitated in looking carefully at each of these reproductions and made their choice of work to be included in their exhibition in Wexford Arts Centre. Following this period of research, the classroom art projects were devised, based on the student’s understanding of and responses to their chosen piece of work. The children worked extensively in a variety of different media including painting, drawing, photography, textiles and weaving, clay, construction and papier mache.
Art Alongside provides an exciting opportunity for participating classes to become familiar with the IMMA collection, and in a meaningful way the children explore a piece of contemporary art of their choice.
The selection of work from each of the schools will be shown in this countywide exhibition at Wexford Arts Centre, alongside the work of the project artists, and works selected by the children from IMMA’s collection including Landmarks of Industrial Britain by Canadian artist Carl Zimmerman, Study for Arcadia by Gary Coyle and Untitled by Louise Bourgeois.
Carl Zimmerman evokes eighteenth-century Enlightenment debates about power and the sublime in his photoworks of enormously scaled public buildings only to mischeviously deconstruct them. The sepia tones of Mausoleum, Birmingham, England and the imperial authority of the building have all the hallmarks of the real thing. The photograph is real but the architecture it portrays is artificial, shot from a meticulously created maquette by the artist and digitally enhanced to place it in a setting as convincing as Piranesi's megalomaniacal prison drawings. Totalitarian aspirations, as embodied in public buildings, are mocked as the viewer is sucked into the fiction, only to find that they have been deceived and the authority of image and ideology is undermined. The classical simplicity of the composition and the high production values assert an aesthetic authority in its place.
Gary Coyle returns to subject matter he has previously explored, namely crime scenes. What continues to interest Coyle in these images is the problematic claim on reality. The field provides excellent examples of a world anticipated by Jean Baudrillard in which these images of reality are themselves simulations. Their authenticity is a special effect. They are hyper real rather than really real, as the distinction between reality and image has become effaced. As Baudrillard puts it “we live everywhere in an aesthetic hallucination of the real”. Somehow these images are unable to express what lies within them. They seem to make more sense in the realm of art than in the domain of the real. For, to quote Gerhard Richter, “Photography has no reality, it is almost 100 % picture; and painting always has reality”. Interspersed among these images of sex and death are drawings based on images culled from the contemporary mediascape, of lifestyle and celebrity magazines, tabloids and holiday brochures.
Trained as a painter, Louise Bourgeois began to work in sculpture in New York in 1938 after her marriage to the art historian Robert Goldwater. In the late 1940s and early 1950s, she virtually abandoned painting and began to create a series of totemic figures in wood whose verticality evokes the human form. The artist reinterpreted these early works and some of the most arresting of Bourgeois’ later works are a series of extraordinary upright and front-facing fabric heads, one of which can be seen in the exhibition. Sewn with a crudeness that belies their structural sophistication, they are nevertheless uncannily lifelike – open mouths appear moist from exhalation and their eyes apparently focus directly on the viewer or seem to deliberately glance away. These are difficult works to confront; a difficulty compounded by the mute and resistant glass cases which encase them.
IMMA’s National Programme is designed to create access opportunities to the visual arts in a variety of situations and locations in Ireland. Using the Collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art and exhibitions generated by the Museum, the National Programme facilitates the creation of exhibitions and other projects for display in a range of venues around the country. The National Programme establishes the Museum as inclusive, accessible and national, de-centralising the Collection, and making it available to communities in their own localities, on their own terms, in venues with which the audience is comfortable and familiar.
Exhibition continues until 9 April 2011. Admission is Free.