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El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State
With the work of Rossella Biscotti, Maud Gonne, Núria Güell, Alice Milligan, Sarah Pierce & Hito Steyerl
30 July – 18 October
As the centenary of Ireland’s Easter Rising approaches, IMMA presents ‘El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State’. The exhibition reflects on the vibrant artistic and cultural community who gave voice to a new image for the emerging state and a visual language for its politics. This exhibition places this local reflection within a broader global consideration of the role of artists in the imagination of emergent states of the early 20th century and a contemporary reflection on the task of the artist in relation to civil society.
The exhibition brings together a significant body of works from the Van Abbemuseum Eindhoven by the Russian avant-garde artist El Lizzitsky (1890–1941), one of the most influential artists of the 20th century, who is shown here for the first time in Ireland. El Lizzitsky was an enthusiastic supporter of the Russian Revolution, for him the construction of the Soviet Union meant the opportunity to break away from traditional constraints. He used it to develop visions of a collective aesthetic of the new world, which he then embodied in his artworks.
These important El Lissitzky works, including a significant body of his noted 'Proun' series, are shown in the context of archive material referencing the work Irish nationalist poet and writer Alice Milligan (1865–1953), and her collaborator Maud Gonne (1866–1953).The exhibition explores their parallel visions of the activated artist central to the imagining of a new state. El Lissitzky and Milligan both envisaged their creative practices as tools for social and political change, although realizing this through very different aesthetic languages and strategies. What becomes clear is the conviction and active participation in the task at hand: the artist as an active in the formation of the new world order.
A contemporary counterpoint to the historical narrative is provided by the work of four artists – Rossella Biscotti, Núria Güell, Sarah Pierce and Hito Steyerl – whose work, in different ways, reflects on the position of the artist within our society now, challenging our position as individuals within the mechanics of the state and questioning the role of art in reflecting a cohesive experience of civil society.
‘El Lissitzky: The Artist and the State’ brings to Ireland for the first time an extraordinary body of El Lissitzky works generously lent to IMMA by the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands, shown alongside archival material related to Alice Milligan and Maud Gonne’s theatrical tableaux, and newly commissioned and recent works by Rossella Biscotti (b.1978 Italy), Núria Güell (b.1981 Spain), Sarah Pierce (b.1968 USA) and Hito Steyerl (b.1966 Germany).
The exhibition is curated by Annie Fletcher, chief curator, Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, and Sarah Glennie, director, IMMA with Dr Catherine Morris as curatorial adviser.
The participation of the Dutch-based artist Rossella Biscotti is made possible with financial support from the Mondriaan Fund.
Supported by Yeats 2015
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Royal Hospital Kilmainham
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