March 6, 2015 - Tate Liverpool - Surreal Landscapes
March 6, 2015

Surreal Landscapes

In order of appearance: (1) György Kepes, Hand, c.1939–40. (2) Leonora Carrington, Chapeau rouge, c. 1955. (3) Cathy Wilkes, Untitled (Possil, At Last) (detail), 2013.*

​Leonora Carrington / Cathy Wilkes / György Kepes
Surreal Landscapes
6 March–31 May 2015

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Tate Liverpool’s spring 2015 season knits together the works of three artists ostensibly separated by geography, chronology and chosen medium. As well as various concerns in their practice, Leonora Carrington (1917–2011) and Cathy Wilkes (b. 1966) occupy opposite sides of the fourth-floor gallery space, and the pair are complemented by the experimental photography of artist, designer and educator György Kepes (1906–2001). Together the trio form the Surreal Landscapes season, characterised by transfiguration of domestic objects and settings, a concern with assemblage and an interest in other dimensions.   

Born and raised in Lancashire, by 1942 Leonora Carrington had settled in Mexico City, where she was surrounded by a creative émigré community. Frequently defined by her biography—rebellion against the conventions of her wealthy upbringing, her relationship with surrealist artist Max Ernst, a mental breakdown, and her subsequent departure for Mexico—this exhibition refocuses attention on Carrington’s rich and multifaceted practice and the construction of a “personal geography” in her work. Spanning Carrington’s career to reveal a singular artistic voice, the exhibition includes examples of the artist’s painting, drawing, print, sculpture and tapestries; short stories, poems, costume and set design, as well as photographs in which Carrington turned model. Her ability to cross disciplinary boundaries makes her practice particularly inspiring for contemporary artists today. Appearing for the first time outside of Mexico, a feature of the exhibition is The Magical World of the Mayas, a monumental mural which has resided in the Museo Nacional de Antropología in Mexico City since it was commissioned in 1964. 

Joining Leonora Carrington is the largest and most comprehensive display of work to date by Turner Prize-nominated artist Cathy Wilkes. This exhibition brings together recent installations with works from up to a decade earlier to produce a new arrangement. Rethinking the conventions of a survey show, Wilkes has selected elements from installations produced in different periods into a temporary single total work of art. Occupying an architectural framework devised by the artist, the overall exhibition design takes on the installation and combinatory procedures that make Wilkes’s practice so mysteriously distinctive. A deep understanding of spatial relationships and the senses of presence and absence emanating from objects underpin Wilkes’s highly considered and subtle works. Visitors to the exhibition may find themselves in the role of an actor negotiating a theatrical set, or an archaeologist excavating fragments, attempting to decipher a civilisation, its mythology and social and economic structures. This exhibition is a collaboration with Lentos Kunstmuseum Linz and Museum Abteiberg, Mönchengladbach, where it will tour later this year. 

Fascinated with light as an object of study and driven by a belief in combining the vocabularies of art and science to reach a universal visual lexicon, Hungarian-born György Kepes’s “camera-less” photograms juxtapose bodily, geometric, industrial, typographic and organic forms. The results, poised between drawing and photography foreground the potential of abstraction in photography. Kepes’s influence and legacy is significant. Having criss-crossed Europe (from Budapest, he would travel to Berlin and then London) he arrived in the United States in 1937 to run the Colour and Light department of the New Bauhaus in Chicago. In 1947 he founded a programme for visual design at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), transforming how students approached the visual landscape. Twenty years later Kepes fulfilled his vision to build a community dedicated to creative collaboration between artists and scientists by launching the Centre for Advanced Visual Studies (CAVS), again at MIT. This exhibition, the first solo presentation of Kepes in the UK, presents for the first time an important suite of 81 photographic works, made during his time in Chicago. It is accompanied at Liverpool John Moores University by the exhibition György Kepes: The New Landscape, curated by John R. Blakinger (Stanford University) at The Exhibition Research Centre, Liverpool School of Art & Design, 15 April to 19 June 2015 (opening: Tuesday 14 April, 5–8pm).    


*In order of appearance: (1) György Kepes, Hand, c.1939–40. Photograph, gelatin silver print on paper, 352 x 282 mm. © estate of György Kepes. Image courtesy Wilson Centre for Photography. (2) Leonora Carrington, Chapeau rouge, c. 1955. Gouache and ink on paper, 247.7 x 158.8 mm. © Estate of Leonora Carrington / ARS, NY and DACS, London 2015. Nicholas Pishvanov. Courtesy Weinstein Gallery, San Francisco. (3) Cathy Wilkes, Untitled (Possil, At Last) (detail), 2013. Mixed media, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and The Modern Institute/Toby Webster Ltd, Glasgow. Photo: Cristiano Corte.

Surreal Landscapes at Tate Liverpool
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