JOHN PIPER / MARY REID KELLEY
AND PATRICK KELLEY: WE ARE GHOSTS
Thursday 16 November 2017 | 11–14pm
Exhibition: 17 November 2017 – 18 March 2018
Albert Dock, Liverpool Waterfront, Liverpool L3 4BB
curated by Darren Pih, with Tamar Hemmes, Assistant Curator,
17 November 2017 – 18 March 2018
press preview 16 November 2017
Supported by the John Piper Exhibition Supporters Group and Liverpool City Council
Tate Liverpool presents a major exhibition exploring the work of the great British artist John Piper (1903–1992). Displaying more than 40 works, including paintings and collages, it offers a new perspective on his powerfully sensitive depictions of his native land and cityscapes. The exhibition emphasises his relationship with major international artists, revealing Piper’s pivotal influence on modern art in Britain from the 1930s onwards.
Working across an extraordinarily diverse range of artistic and cultural fields throughout his career, Piper is renowned for his stained-glass window designs, including his centrepiece commission for the Liverpool Metropolitan Cathedral. The exhibition marks the 50th anniversary of its consecration in 2017.
Piper held profound affection for his native landscape, expressed from the beginning of his career in works quintessentially British in their subject matter and aesthetic. After becoming acquainted with Paris-based artists including Jean Arp and Georges Braque in the early 1930s, his distinctive style evolved from representational art to embrace abstraction. The exhibition brings together paintings, collages and reliefs that chart this transition. Works such as Beach with Starfish c.1933–4 present the familiar English seaside reimagined by the artist as a cubist-influenced paper collage.
Reflecting his role as champion of international abstract art in Britain, promoted through his role in the 7 & 5 Society and contributions to the pioneering abstract art review Axis edited by his wife Myfanwy, the exhibition features a small selection of works by major artists such as Alexander Calder (1898–1976) and Jean Hélion (1904–1987) alongside those by Piper.
Yet the exhibition also traces Piper’s deep understanding of and sensitivity to early native art forms including medieval stained glass windows and Anglo-Saxon stone carving. The exhibition breaks new ground by displaying examples of these works, including archaeological carving, and bringing them into dialogue with European modernism, demonstrating how these were connected and innovated in the work of John Piper.
Piper is renowned for his landscape and architectural compositions, his practice extending into travel writing, printmaking, fabric design, theatre sets and collaborations with choreographers and poets including Benjamin Britten and John Betjeman. He was a major contributor to the artistic landscape of 20th-century Britain and left a profound imprint on British cultural life.
John Piper is curated by Darren Pih, Exhibitions and Displays Curator with Tamar Hemmes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. It will be shown in parallel with Surrealism in Egypt: Art and Liberty 1938 – 1948.
Tate Liverpool presents the first museum solo exhibition in the UK of Mary Reid Kelley (b.1979, USA) and Patrick Kelley (b.1969, USA). Known for their stylised black-and-white videos, they present a new commission for the gallery, In The Body of The Sturgeon, as well as the 2016 work, This Is Offal. Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley collaborate to create video works that combine painting, performance and poetry to tell surreal stories inspired by history and mythology. Played by the artists acting multiple roles, their characters speak in poetic verse filled with wordplay and puns to tell stories that imagine unrecorded histories.
In several vignettes, In The Body of The Sturgeon envisions a peculiar time and space: an American submarine at the very end of the Second World War. Sailors on the (fictional) USS Sturgeon grapple with claustrophobic boredom, distill bootleg alcohol and entertain each other with ad-hoc burlesque performances. Historical significance intrudes on this confined world in the form of President Harry Truman’s announcement of the bombing of Hiroshima. Mary Reid Kelley’s script for In The Body of The Sturgeon is a sustained act of mosaic wordplay, an ancient form of verse collage called a cento. Every word of In The Body of The Sturgeon is appropriated directly from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s 1855 epic poem The Song of Hiawatha. This often-ridiculed fantasy pastiche about Native Americans in a pre-industrialized idyll serves as the sole textual source for a narrative about the industrialised, machine-centric environment of the submarine.
Originally commissioned as a performance for BMW Tate Live, the video work This Is Offal 2016 is inspired by Thomas Hood’s 1844 poem The Bridge of Sighs, in which a male narrator laments and speculates over the body of a young woman who has committed suicide by jumping off a bridge into the Thames. In This Is Offal, the speaking role belongs to the young woman herself – it is narrated by her corpse’s body parts and internal organs. From the vantage point of the dissecting table, the body and organs argue with each other as to who was ultimately responsible for the woman’s death, revealing the impossibility of a rational, scientific explanation for this tragic and complex event.
The exhibition will also include a series of life-size, light-box portraits of the videos’ characters. Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick
Kelley: We Are Ghosts will be accompanied by a publication featuring the scripts of the videos alongside new writing on each of the new works by the exhibition’s curators.
Mary Reid Kelley is a 2016 MacArthur fellow and received the Baloise Art Award at Art Basel 2016. She and Patrick Kelley live and work in upstate New York. Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley: We Are Ghosts is curated by Lauren Barnes, Assistant Curator, Tate Liverpool. The new video, In The Body of The Sturgeon, is co-produced with The Baltimore Museum of Art and The Center for Advanced Media Studies at the Johns Hopkins University. We Are Ghosts will be presented at The Baltimore Museum of Art from 4 April – 15 July 2018. Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley has been programmed in parallel with John Piper and Surrealism in Egypt: Art et Liberté 1938–1948.
Images (t-b): John Piper, Beach with Starfish c.1933-4. © The Piper Estate.
Mary Reid Kelley and Patrick Kelley, Guady Night 2017.
Courtesy of the artists and Pilar Corrias Gallery.