posted 29 Mar 2017
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Public View artists at Bluecoat: Then & Now
Then and Now
As Bluecoat celebrates its 300th anniversary with Public View, an exhibition showcasing over 100 artists who have previously exhibited at the arts centre, Artistic Director Bryan Biggs discusses the work of some of the returning artists.
Public View will be on display at Bluecoat until Sun 23 Apr.
Artist: Tom Wood
This photograph was included in All Zones Off Peak, the artist’s solo show staged at both Bluecoat and Open Eye Gallery in 1998, the culmination of years photographing life on Merseyside’s buses - a sort of Homeric journey through the region. Tom also exhibited at Bluecoat in In a New Light: Merseyside Photographers, 1990; Walk On, curated by Bluecoat for the 2006 Shanghai Biennale; and 3 am: wonder, paranoia and the restless night, 2013.
Tom Wood, Virginia Road, New Brighton, 1984. Photograph. Courtesy of the artist
In Public View, Tom is showing another photograph from the All Zones Off Peak series. It’s a fantastic picture, compositionally and in terms of its subject matter - a crowd struggling, some of them frantically, to get on a bus pulling into the stop at New Brighton.
Artists: Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett
Peter Saville and Malcolm Garrett exhibited record sleeves and posters at Bluecoat in 1981 in Cover Versions, arguably the first ever exhibition of graphics that followed in the wake of punk. It featured seminal designers like Barney Bubbles (Elvis Costello, the Damned) and Chris Morton (Stiff Records), as well as two who’d graduated from Manchester Art College, Malcolm - who created a distinctive look for fellow Mancunians, Buzzcocks - and Peter whose stylish designs were an integral part of the look of Factory Records and of popular Wirral electro outfit Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark.
Included in the exhibition is a later, limited edition print of a poster first shown in Cover Versions, which Peter designed for Factory Records’ first event (hence its number, FAC1). Malcolm Garrett is represented by four original, late-1970s screen printed Buzzcocks posters.
FAC1 Poster, 2003. Copyright the Artist, courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery
Artist: Jeremy Deller
Acid Brass was commissioned by Bluecoat from future Turner-Prize-winning artist Jeremy Deller in 1997, part of live art series Mixing It, which looked at popular music in relation to the coming of the CD, remix culture and the supposed ‘death of vinyl’. Jeremy ingeniously brought two popular music forms – acid house and Northern brass bands – together, working with the Williams Fairey Brass Band, the best in the country, to score, then play, a night of stomping house anthems, including ‘Voodoo Ray’, ‘Let’s Get Brutal’ and ‘Pacific 808’. We presented the work at LIPA, the evening compered by Tony Wilson, who provided a potted history of house.
This print is based on Jeremy’s diagram for Acid Brass, created after this Bluecoat commission was premiered in Liverpool. It sets out the connections between acid house music and brass bands, their shared roots in DIY, predominantly working class culture, and the political context of this period – the rise of ‘Thatcher’s Britain’ - that saw the Miners’ Strike, the decline of old heavy industries particularly in the North of England, illegal raves and house music’s transatlantic origins.
History of the World, 1998. Silkscreen print on Somerset velvet 280gsm. Copyright the Artist, courtesy Paul Stolper Gallery
Artist: Mark Leckey
Mark Leckey exhibited at Bluecoat in 2013 with a beautifully curated show, The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things, which was commissioned as part of the Hayward Touring national programme. Premiering at Bluecoat, it included a dizzying array of art works and museum objects that spoke to each other across time – William Blake’s death mask, an animatronic hand, an ancient religious relic, Richard Hamilton’s computer and Mark Leckey’s own drum machine. He also included a giant inflatable Felix the Cat that later was shown at the Walker Art Gallery in Liverpool.
In the exhibition, Mark has included a video proposal for The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things exhibition, which gives a sense of the creative process and thinking behind the show.
Mark Leckey, Prp4aShw, 2010-2013. Video. Courtesy the artist
Artist: Nina Edge
Nina Edge has exhibited at Bluecoat many times, as well as being commissioned for large scale, participatory performance projects including Sold Down the River. This went from Bluecoat to the Albert Dock in a gloriously celebratory and defiant procession that critiqued the way Merseyside was being abandoned by industries, vilified in the media and written off by central government. Nina’s solo exhibition Virtual Duality in 1994 involved a large installation that featured security fencing and hundreds of old keys that people donated.
For the current exhibition, Nina has revisited her 1994 installation in a vibrant new window vinyl that shows a cascade of keys. This is one of three works in the show that relate to Nina’s ongoing project at her home in Liverpool’s Welsh streets, where she has been campaigning - and winning – the battle to stop demolition of housing stock as part of a ‘renewal’ scheme. The windows of her house have become a site of resistance, articulation of the residents’ campaign, and public art gallery.
Artist: Lin Holland
Lin has exhibited many times at Bluecoat, first in group exhibition, Home Base, in 1987 when the main gallery was dominated by her elegant life sized female figures construcred from newspaper and string. The image here shows the figures awating transport to Cologne, as part of Bluecoat’s first exhibiton exchange with Liverpool’s German twin city, when six local artists presented work there at the BBK Gallery. A youthful Lin and Bryan Biggs, Bluecoat’s gallery director, are in the courtyard with a representative of Fords, Halewood who supplieed the van to transport the exhibition.
For Public View, Lin has remade one of the newspaper figures from her 1987 show, this time standing on two large TVs, on whose screens scrolls a roll call of significant women artists from art history. Positioned in the upstairs gallery, the work is a dramatic centrepiece to the room and a fitting end point to the exhibition, resonating as it does with Bluecoat’s long engagement with women artists as well as with Merseyside-based artists.
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