Print the Legend: The Myth of the West
Adam Chodzko, Peter Granser, Douglas Gordon, Isaac Julien, Mike Nelson, Cornelia Parker, Simon Patterson, Salla Tykkä and Gillian Wearing
Curated by Patricia Bickers
1 March – 4 May 2008
The Fruitmarket Gallery’s major spring exhibition is a group show which presents a selection of northern European sculpture, photography, installation and film in the context of the western and its role in the creation of the myth of the American West.
Curated by art historian, lecturer, writer and the editor of Art Monthly Patricia Bickers, the exhibition has its origins in her long-standing fascination for westerns takes its title from the final scene of the film The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance:‘Sir, this is the West. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend’. Arguing that the western is a key component in the construction of the myth of the American West, and that this myth is as politically and culturally relevant now as it has ever been, Bickers uses the western as a lens through which to look at work by Adam Chodzko, Peter Granser, Douglas Gordon, Isaac Julien, Mike Nelson, Cornelia Parker, Simon Patterson, Salla Tykkä and Gillian Wearing.
Print the Legend offers an opportunity to see some great works of art in a new context. Some, such as Adam Chodzko’s Better Scenery (two photographs of signs, one in London describing a site in Arizona and the other in Arizona describing a site in London), play on the idea of the American West as a semi-fictional construct. Others, such as Salla Tykkä’s film Lasso, emphasise the enthralling power of this construct – the central image of Tykkä’s film is that of a young man spinning a lasso inside his house in suburban Finland. Both Peter Granser and Gillian Wearing deal with the modern compulsion to dress up as cowboys, while Isaac Julien’s complex three-screen film installation The Road to Mazatlán looks at longing and desire and the homoerotic potential of the western.
Three ambitious installations in the exhibition directly reference particular westerns. A wall drawing by Simon Patterson takes its structure from the shootout in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Douglas Gordon’s Five Year Drive-By (The Searchers) is a projection of the film The Searchers, slowed down so that the running of the movie matches the five-year fictional duration of the action, the frame changing at a rate of approximately one every 23 minutes. Faithful to the spirit of the drive-in (or drive-by) movie, this work is projected in the site opposite the Gallery. It runs continuously throughout the exhibition, the image coming up as the sun goes down. The Fruitmarket Gallery are particularly pleased to have commissioned Mike Nelson to make a new work, inspired by the climax of Clint Eastwood’s High Plains Drifter. Echoing the film, Nelson has painted a part of the Gallery not normally open to the public an unforgiving and hellish red. Thus enticing the audience into the unknown and completely immersing them in the artwork/fiction.
Print the Legend is part of an ongoing series of group exhibitions at The Fruitmarket Gallery, in which artists, academics, art historians and writers working outside the Gallery’s structure are invited to bring their expertise into the programme. Like all the exhibitions in this series (which includes David Hopkins’s popular Dada’s Boys of 2006), Print the Legend is unashamedly ideas-driven, and begins with Patricia Bickers’s position as a long-term western fan. Nonetheless, it ultimately cedes the floor to artists, providing a new context in which we can begin thinking about the work, but allowing the art itself, endlessly inventive, the final say.