This is my review of the Kaleidoscope show at the Modern Art Oxford gallery.
For 50 years, the Modern Art gallery has housed a vast collection of contemporary art from several prominent and young artists. Now, the gallery is holding a year-long celebration of the greatest and most memorable moments in its history, and the history of art in Oxford. One of the exhibitions is called The Invisible Present. This exhibition features the work of artists who explore time in unconventional ways. The work being shown is by several well-known visual artists, such as Douglas Gordon, Pierre Huyghe, Yoko Ono, and Elizabeth Price. At the moment, it is still being set up, but this offers a unique opportunity for the visitors, as they get to see how an exhibition is prepared and set up, as well as see visual artists setting up the spaces for their artwork. A great opportunity for on-lookers and young artists.
The entrance was decorated with over 50, different promotional posters, each one made by an artist who was just starting out. One of the posters was made by Yoko Ono, widow of John Lennon. Each poster is an evolution of the visual look of the gallery, changing over the years from its initial look to its current. The visuals of the posters change with each year, reflecting the changing appearance (and evolution) of the gallery.
Most of the exhibitions were still under construction, and not a lot of artwork was up on display. The upstairs gallery had a few paintings and pieces on display, from artists who have exhibited their work in the gallery in the past, next to several new commissions. It was spread about evenly enough, with at least 5 paintings/murals displayed or hung up on a wall. The art on display was rich and diverse, showing a wide range of methods and techniques. There were also a few installations shown, most noticeably an interactive piece, made by Yoko Ono. It is a block of wood, painted white and has over a dozen nails jutting out. Visitors are allowed to take a nail and hammer it anywhere on the block. This ties into the history aspect of the show, as the nails symbolize the number of visitors who have come to the gallery over the years.
My favorite pieces of art were by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a Nigerian visual artist, who uses a variety of materials and styles in her portfolio of work, including painting, collage, pastel, charcoal, color pencils and paper transferring. Her art reflects her background and personal life, using old photographs and incorporating them into her paintings and murals. This brings a visual narrative and storytelling to her paintings, so the viewer isn’t just watching a piece of art, they are watching a story.
Another noticeable display in the gallery was by Jac Leirner. She once had a studio inside the gallery, where she continued to develop her art style. Ultimately, she made the centerpiece of her 1991 exhibition, All together now. Leirner collected over a hundred different leaflets around Oxford, to produce a large-scale grid spanning across the wall. This grid reminds me of my own work, as I have been reusing old receipts, food packaging and cereal boxes to create new pieces of art. We both use objects of consumerism to produce new forms of art, displaying a willingness to experiment and produce artwork that makes the viewer question the artistic value of the everyday objects they see around themselves.
Despite the limited number of paintings and installations shown, the show is developing well, and the art is engaging and striking. Oxford’s art scene has never truly been appreciated before, but now, Modern Art Oxford is finally making the preparations to ensure that everyone will see why visual art is so influential to the city and why modern Art Oxford has lasted for so many years.