‘It’s Me to the World’ is Modern Art Oxford’s fourth exhibition and iteration of KALEIDOSCOPE, a celebration of 50 years as an internationally acclaimed gallery. The exhibition features works by Marina Abramović, Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Dorothy Cross, Richard Long, Agnes Martin, Otobong Nkanga, Yoko Ono, Hannah Rickards, and Richard Long.
Upon entering the gallery the viewer is first met with the sight of Richard Long’s installation ‘Walking a Labyrinth’, this interactive work is a vast rectilinear ‘floor drawing’, a maze made from white clay applied to the gallery floor. In fact the title of this latest celebration of 50 years of the gallery in Oxford is taken from a text by Long: ‘My footsteps make the mark. My legs carry me across the country. It’s like a way of measuring the world. I love that connection to my own body. It’s me to the world.’ The piece was first created for Modern Art Oxford back in 1971, and the viewer is invited to walk this maze as a recreation of that initial installation, creating a relationship between viewer’s own body, and the white cube of the gallery, linking to the natural environment via the artist’s use of materials.
Image: Marina Abramović, ‘Cleaning The Mirror I’, 1995. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.
Within the same gallery space floating above Long’s labyrinthine maze is a new site-specific drawing by artist Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq – a large black disc of charcoal drawn directly on to the gallery wall. The piece reflects light and blurs the distinctions between, drawing, sculpture, and installation, a stark minimalism that becomes an abstract ‘sun’ overlooking Long’s maze, like a dark version of Olafur Eliasson’s dazzling sun in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall.
Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga presents a floor-based sculptural work titled ‘Tsumeb Fragments’. The artist creates works as signifiers of the destruction of the natural world by ‘colonial powers’, via a series of tabletops containing mineral fragments and photographs of equatorial scrublands.The minerals are representative of the original environment now re-contextualized within the white cube of the gallery space becoming ‘art’, and forming a dialectic concerning ‘value’.
Image: Dorothy Cross, Buoy, 2014. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.
Marina Abramović makes the viewer somewhat uneasy – surprisingly not due to her memoir – but with the work ‘Cleaning The Mirror I’, consisting of a stack of video monitors each displaying a section of a skeleton being scrubbed clean by the artist. This video work is performative in nature, and the video shows the slow transposition of grime, as the skeleton is scrubbed clean and white, and a film of dirt begins to form on the artist’s hands. The viewer is met ‘mirror-like’ by there own mortality and the transposition between life and death.
The primary work on display by Dorothy Cross is ‘Buoy’, 2014, previously shown in the gallery’s KALEIDOSCOPE show ‘Mystics And Rationalists’. The work consists of a empty shark skin, balanced on a painter’s easel, the underside of which has been gilded in precious white gold, below which a thin slab of translucent alabaster sits like an expectant canvas, awaiting the artist’s hand. The artist’s work is re-contextualized with Abramović’s own reflections on the temporal nature of physicality, human and geological time spans.
‘It’s Me to the World’ is part of the gallery’s series of KALEIDOSCOPE shows, a year long series of interlinking exhibitions. The preoccupation of many artists works displayed from the history of the gallery has – almost inevitably – been the body, but often as a reflection of the temporal over that of identity. A fitting curatorial choice reflecting the nature of longevity, which includes 50 years of the gallery itself.
Words: Paul Black. Photos: P A Black © 2016
Lead image: Richard Long, Walking a Labyrinth, 1971. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World, Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016
KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me to the World – Modern Art Oxford – until 16 October 2016