Tag Archives: Jo Melvin

Exchanges between Sol LeWitt and Jeffrey Isaac in Spoleto, Italy, and New York and Chester, Connecticut US

Sol LeWitt and Jeffrey Isaac were neighbours and friends in New York, USA and also in Spoleto, Umbria, Italy. This display documents Sol LeWitt wall drawing 806# in Isaac’s collection and shows a few of the special collection and library’s holdings of Sol LeWitt books. LeWitt publications displayed are ‘100 Cubes’, ‘Autobiography’, Artforum October 1981, ‘Four Basic Kinds of Lines & Colour’, ‘Lines & Color’, and ‘PhotoGrids’. Also showing are Jeffrey Isaac’s imprint, PIM (Public Illumination Magazine) the smallest magazine of its kind.

Jeffrey Isaac met Sol LeWitt through Printed Matter, the artists bookshop in New York that was founded by LeWitt and Lucy Lippard amongst others. He came into the shop with copies of PIM. LeWitt and Isaac were neighbours in New York and in Spoleto, Italy, where LeWitt lived from the mid 1980s for several years, thereafter returning for 3-6 months each year. Isaac moved to Spoleto in 1986 where he has since lived permanently. The two formed a close friendship and had an on going dialogue. This display brings their publications together – for the first time in London. Coincidentally Isaac studied for a year at Camberwell in 1975-76 in the painting department when he made a series of works spanning across London, notably a series of lines in various sites including the National Gallery and Trafalgar Square.

Jeffrey Isaac will be speaking about his work with Jo Melvin in the Green Room at Chelsea College of Arts, 16 John Islip Street, SW1P 4JU on January 31 2017, at 4.45.

The display is arranged by Jo Melvin, Reader in Fine Art, Archives and Special Collections

 

Life Cycle, Continuous

Pangaea Sculptors’ Centre (PSC) was delighted to host Life Cycle, Continuous on 3 December 2015. This evening of talks and discussion considered the life cycles of artworks, alongside the legacy of their artists, exploring in particular how these things transform, evolve and transition across platforms, people, places and time.

The evening began with a few words from the organisation’s co-directors, Dr Marsha Bradfield, Visiting Scholar at CCW, and Lucy Tomlins. The life cycle of artworks, especially sculpture, is something that has preoccupied PSC since the summer of 2013, when the organisation hosted an artist talk by sculptor Richard Wilson at his Slice of Reality on the Greenwich Peninsula. Here Wilson spoke candidly about the challenges of maintaining the public artwork, a chunk of ship, after the millennial project was decommissioned. Who takes decisions about an artwork’s care after it leaves its artist’s orbit? What responsibility do artists have to how their artworks are stored, shown, conserved or disposed of? Where does the work reside? Does it reside in the work that we look at? Does it reside in the idea of the work?

Jo Melvin presenting at Life Cycle, Continuous. Photo credit: Sinead Bligh

Jo Melvin presenting at Life Cycle, Continuous. Photo credit: Sinead Bligh

These were questions that CCW Reader Dr Jo Melvin engaged in her talk, The conundrums of remaking sculptural practices and their legacies. Melvin has been investigating the interconnections between the archives of artists’, critics, museums, galleries and magazines from the 1960s to the present day since the early 90s. For Life Cycle, Continuous, she considered specific conundrums in connection with re-presenting the work of Naum Gabo, Barry Flanagan and Christine Kozlov. For instance, she referenced the exhibition of Gabo’s Kinetic Construction (Standing Wave) at MOMA in 1968. When the artwork, owned by Tate, proved too fragile to travel, the possibility of whether it might be remade in the US came to the fore. Gabo agreed on the grounds that like Kinetic’s previous iteration, the artwork should be made from materials that were ‘ready to hand’. Crucial here is the artist’s specification. For as Melvin observed, without clear instructions about what conditions must be fulfilled for an artwork to be remade or represented, ambiguity pervades. She went on to discuss the challenges of identifying what and where the artwork is with reference to Barry Flanagan’s practice and his sense that his sculptures were not based on experience of the world but rather, each work is an experience of its making. Further, discussion of Christine Kozlov’s 271 BLANK SHEETS OF PAPER CORRESPONDING TO 271 DAYS OF CONCEPTS REJECTED touched on the thorny of issue of what traces slip away, either because they are perceived as unworthy for posterity or undesirable in some way. And in the case of this particular work by Kozlov, what is most important: concept or materials? Should only the 271 blank sheets the artist selected be shown, however yellow they become with age? Would would any ‘bank sheets’ serve to gesture towards the absence of presence that her artwork explores?

The other two speakers for Life Cycle, Continuous grappled with very different concerns in their talks. Artist Anne Hardy discussed the challenges of re-presenting site specific works like those recently featured in her acclaimed exhibition FIELD at Modern Art Oxford. Artist and senior lecturer Jenny Dunseath Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University discussed her ongoing research into the transmission of knowledge from artists to their assistants, based on her personal experience working in Anthony Caro’s studio.

Life Cycle, Continuous was part of the public programme that accompanied PSC’s 2015 artists-in-residence programme, with the talks talking place culminating exhibition, Which one of these is the non-smoking lifeboat?  This approach to hosting the talks tracks with PSC’s ongoing commitment to making the making of sculpture more visible so as to better appreciate the process of an outcomes production.

Audio documentation of Life Cycle, Continuous will be available on PSC’s website in early 2016.

Top image: Jo Melvin installing heap 3 ’67/68, 1967/68 at Cullinan Richards, London, January 2015

Qui Pourra Screening by Art & Language and Dr Jo Melvin

On Monday 7 December 2015 at 5.30, Art & Language will present a screening of their film Qui Pourra, 2007 in the Banqueting Hall at Chelsea College of Arts. This launch event will be their first as Visiting Professors at UAL. This short film focuses on the studio and the Art & Language’s collaborative dialogic practice. It uses Courbet’s The Artist’s Studio; A real allegory summing up seven years of my artistic and moral life, 1854-55 as its starting point. The screening will be introduced by Jo Melvin and it will be followed by a panel discussion with Michael Baldwin and Mel Ramsden.

Art & Language have said, ‘Qui Pourra takes its name from a remark by Gustave Courbet concerning the crowded political and artistic content of his L’Atelier du Peintre. (“Figure it out who can”). The theme of the studio has recurred from time to time in the work of Art & Language since 1982, and in the guise of the “Index” since the early 1970s. Specific reference to Courbet’s Studio was made in the series of paintings titled Index: the Studio at 3 Wesley Place Painted by Mouth, or …in the Dark. The studio painting is a genre that, according to historical convention, enables the artist to reflect on their times – to say what it is like to be an artist. The genre may propose this, but the studio is also an ideological space, a place of fictions, tropes and lies. Indeed, the studio has long been superseded as a site of production by the institution and the gallery and less.’

When conceptual art, performance, happenings and the so called ‘new art practices’ exposed the cracks of modernism’s exclusivity the activities of Art & Language have provoked reflexive enquiry, practical variety and resilience to easy categorisation. The tactics they employ incorporate performance, sculpture and painting to question genre, language and context brings a humorous ambiguity to the status of the art object, and its critical audience within the parameters of its institutional and historical framework. Their most famous work is Index 01. It was first shown in the groundbreaking Documenta 5 1972. In 1997, Art & Language were nominated for the Turner Prize, Tate in 1986, they had a major retrospective at MoMA PSI, 1999 and most recently Art & Language Uncompleted MACBA, 2014-15.

The name Art & Language was first adopted in 1968, to refer to a collaborative practice that had developed over the previous two years between Michael Baldwin and Terry Atkinson, in association with David Bainbridge and Harold Hurrell. Over the next several years it stood for a collaborative practice with a growing and changing membership associated with the journal Art-Language, first published in May 1969, and subsequently with a second journal The Fox, which was published in New York in 1975-6. Joseph Kosuth was invited to act as American editor of Art-Language in 1969. In the following year Mel Ramsden and Ian Burn merged their separate collaboration with Art & Language. Charles Harrison became editor of Art-Language in 1971. By the mid 1970s some 20 people were associated with the name, divided between England and New York. From 1976, however, the genealogical thread of Art & Language’s artistic work was taken solely into the hands of Baldwin and Ramsden, with the theoretical and critical collaboration of these two with Charles Harrison who died in 2009.

The screening is free and can be booked online.

Action Space Inflatable

On 14 and 15 October CCW Graduate School and Chelsea College of Arts will be hosting Action Space Inflatable. The inflatable is a re-versioning of pneumatic structures built by Action Space in the late 1960s and early ’70s. Over two days members from Action Space, Inter-Action and Artist Placement Group (APG) among others, will explore the relevance of community arts programmes of the ‘70s and ‘80s to contemporary artistic practices. Through workshops, performance, a walking tour, film screenings and discussion, this event will open up questions about art as a democratic tool, educational medium and instigator of social change. The Action Space Inflatable structure has been specially commissioned as part of an experimental film project by filmmaker, Huw Wahl. This two-day event marks the first stage of the UK tour of the inflatable and is presented by CCW Graduate School as part of Chelsea College of Arts’ celebration of ten years of creative activity at Millbank.

On Wednesday 14 October, founding member of Action Space, Ken Turner, will deliver a performative lecture; CCW Research Fellow Mo Throp invites you to participate in the Inter-Action Trust Games Method session, as well as a programme of archival footage from Action Space, Inter-Action Trust and Artist Placement Group (APG) projects will be screened inside the inflatable. The day will close with a panel discussion on Socially engaged practices of the 1970s and their relevance today, chaired by Marsha Bradfield and including Joshua Y’Barbo, James Lander, Barbara Steveni, Mo Throp and Ken Turner.

On Thursday 15 October artist Barbara Steveni, of APG, and Jo Melvin invite you on their Walking Tour from Manresa Road  – site of the original Chelsea School of Art – towards the current Millbank venue. The day concludes with a conversation between Barbara and Brian Chalkley focusing on APG’s ‘Not Knowing’ in relation to Chalkley’s pedagogical methods for teaching on the MA Fine Art course at Chelsea College of Arts. The conversation will be facilitated by Jo Melvin.

Mo Throp spent five years in the 1970’s as a live-work member of Inter-Action, a community arts organisation which became one of the UK’s best known and most influential cultural and social enterprises. Its projects included the Almost Free Theatre in the West End (notable seasons and events included London’s first Black Power, Gay and Women’s theatre seasons), the Dogg’s Troupe – a street theatre group, the Fun Art Bus, the Media Van, a city farm, a publishing unit and one of London’s first Free Schools. ‘My time with this organisation has certainly influenced my pedagogical approach as a teacher of Fine Art students and my relation to art practice and my work with the Subjectivity & Feminisms Research group at Chelsea.

Recently, I came into contact with Huw Wahl who has been researching another such organisation from this period: Action Space. He has re-built a prototype of one of their huge inflatables and proposed to bring it to Chelsea, inviting us to organise a programme of events around the Community Arts movement of the late 1960s. This is therefore a great opportunity to ask how such projects resonate now in relation to the social turn in contemporary practice. Our programme of events addresses the current resurgence of interest in socially engaged artistic practices and hopes to address the challenge to conventional modes of artistic production and consumption under late capitalism.’

Bright Light Issue 2: Thinking the Substrate

Friday 27 March sees the launch of issue 2 of CCW Graduate School’s journal Bright Light. The Bright Light series focuses on the latest debates in the arts and design and provides a way of seeing how practitioners are taking fresh perspectives on key questions facing designers, fine artists, lens-based media practitioners, curators, archivists and critical theorists. The Bright Light series is edited by Dr David Dibosa, CCW Senior Research Fellow and Course Leader of the MA in Curating and Collections at Chelsea, and each issue is guest edited by a member of CCW staff. In each publication themes such as the environment and technology, as well as socially-engaged practices and identity are looked at through the lens of current arts and design practice.

The first issue, Implicit Geographies, launched in summer 2014 and focused on a range of collections; private or public, professional or amateur and looked at the relations between places that objects suggest.

The second issue, Thinking the Substrate, edited by Dr Daniel Sturgis, is dedicated to the idea of the substrate. The publication stemmed from a series of three symposia hosted by CCW Graduate School and held in the Green Room at Chelsea College of Arts. Over the spring term in 2014, Professor Stephen Farthing, Professor Chris Wainwright and Dr Daniel Sturgis invited artists, academics and students from across the University, together with outside guests, to think about what a substrate could be and if the substrate might be an interesting way to speak cross-disciplinarily about practice.

Thinking the Substrate presents some of the discoveries from these symposia. Sturgis, together with Dibosa, asked participants from each of the sessions to either develop their papers or re-present them in a written form; not everyone who contributed to the sessions or discussions were included, which in some sense is a pity, but space was limited and there was also a desire to show divergent approaches. The one thing that everyone who attended the symposia discovered, as the reader does, is what a slippery fish the idea of substrate is. How can it mean very different things to different people – but remarkably within that breadth the substrate somehow still retains a base that links its various interpretations? It is this base that is so intriguing.

Thinking the Substrate features articles by Simon Morley (Dankook University), Neil Cummings (CCW), Adrian Glew (Tate Britain), Richard Layzell (WCA), Daniel Sturgis (CCW), Pia Gottschaller (Courtauld Institute of Art) and Jo Melvin (CCW).

The launch will take place from 5 – 7pm on Friday 27th March at Camberwell Space gallery, Camberwell College of Arts.

Five Issues of Studio International

As editor of Studio International magazine from 1965-75, Peter Townsend oversaw its transformation from a mainstream Britain-centric publication into a vanguard journal chronicling some of the most radical artistic endeavours in the UK and internationally.

In a new exhibition at Raven Row curated by CCW Reader Jo Melvin, the selection of five issues from Townsend’s editorship – April 1966, May 1968, September 1969, July/August 1970 and July/August 1972 – focuses on the role of sculpture, which over this period was a vector for profound change in art: from post-constructivism and kineticism, through the abstract formalism at St Martins School of Art in London, to post-minimalism and conceptualism.

As a socialist, Townsend saw in sculpture a privileged medium to effect social change. The exhibition will revisit the role of sculpture in the definition of public space in a period when it became the flashpoint for political and social contestation. In this context, the pages of Studio International themselves played a role in shaping the debates about the limits and visibility of contemporary art. Included in Five Issues of Studio International are works by Keith Arnatt, Charles Biederman, Daniel Buren, Robyn Denny, Jan Dibbets, John Ernest, Garth Evans, Barry Flanagan, Naum Gabo, Anthony Hill, John Latham, Richard Long, Kenneth Martin, Mary Martin, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Emilio Prini, Gerry Schum, William Tucker, William Turnbull, Nicolas Schöffer, Bernard Schöttlander, Lawrence Weiner and Gillian Wise.

Speaking about her process, Melvin said, ‘Peter Townsend’s preoccupations determined my selection of magazine issues, and my intention is to find a way to materialize the magazine’s discussion of how it presented, as well as affected, sculpture’s influence on the perceptions when it was at the centre of political and social debates. What role did Studio International play in shaping editorial tactics in art magazines? This boiled down question indicates the motivation for my on going engagement in reconsidering the period and how editorial policies can help to determine how we think about art.

In 2008 I curated Tales from Studio International at Tate Britain, showing archival materials. However, in this exhibition, I include the some of the works referred to in the pages of the magazine. It is a unique curatorial approach, and it is interesting to mention that the 1970 issue of Studio International was defined as a “48-page exhibition”, in which six critics invited various artists to exhibit their work in the pages of the magazine. This was an “exhibition in a magazine” and for Raven Row I define my curatorial approach as the opposite a “magazine in an exhibition”. The space of encounter might be the magazine exhibition and it’s interesting to consider how dematerialization affects the sculptural encounter. And how we continue to think about what the sculptural encounter is.

Today, when the borders between critic, writer and artist are blurred, art magazines do not hold the power as they had previously. It would be like believing we can go back to a time when books were made using and re-using velum! Townsend was acutely aware of the time and how new printing technologies for instance off set lithography transformed print possibilities, and publication became a material for artist production. The magazine blurs the boundary between editor/curator/artist/writer, and these terms have been up for grabs since that time. The magazine definitely sets a touchstone for artists’ taking control and I think the current interest in artists’ publications, whether online or hardcopy can be traced to these precedents.’

Five Issues of Studio International runs from Thursday 26 February to Sunday 3 May 2015.

MPhil/PhD Intensive Week

In mid-November CCW Graduate School held its second annual MPhil/PhD Intensive Week, a programme of research workshops. The week focuses on practice and aims to introduce students to the particular expertise and experience of members of CCW’s research staff. The week includes four workshops, each looking at the spaces and domains of research in art and design under the headings of Studio (Mark Fairnington), Viva (Paul Coldwell), Social Space (Marsha Bradfield) and Text and Practice (Jo Melvin).

‘The viva represents the culmination of the years of study towards a research degree and the student’s “appointment with destiny”, whereby the claims and arguments posited in the thesis can be tested,’ said Coldwell. ‘In many ways the viva is such a unique event that no amount of preparation can cover every eventuality, but a clear understanding of the process and the roles of everyone involved certainly helps. By understanding what purpose the viva serves, the student can hopefully enter into the process and enjoy the experience. After all, the whole focus of the viva is on the student’s research, and the opportunity to discuss or even “lock horns” with senior academics in the field should be an experience to savour. The idea of giving a robust defence of the thesis was explored and the manner in which the student should be seen to be taking ownership of the research territory as laid out in their thesis.

While each examination team is different, and of course, that each thesis demands its own particular scrutiny, the appointment of an independent chair, drawn from a pool of experienced examiners within UAL ensures that each viva is conducted within the guidelines and that our university regulations are strictly adhered to.   My workshop set out to explain the preparation for the event, what happens on the day itself and what follows. It also explored various ways in which the visual material could be presented and the importance throughout of seeing the thesis as all the work to be examined- practical and written. I hope the session served to de-mysterfy the viva and answer some of the concerns and fears that students invariably harbour. From my perspective, it was a very engaging and enjoyable session with everyone participating.’

CCW PhD student Elizabeth Manchester discussed her experience in Coldwell’s workshop. ‘In his extremely useful seminar, Paul presented lots of eminently sensible and practical advice about how to approach your viva. He recommended things that should be completely obvious but sadly aren’t – like reading your thesis through several times so that you take ownership of it and can refer back to it in those high pressure moments (instead of kicking yourself afterwards when you realise that you had actually answered the question in depth several pages in, something I can imagine myself doing only too easily). He took us through all the nitty-gritty basics, such as who will be there, what the main aim of the process is, and then showed us pictures of viva set-ups, giving us a range of examples of how previous PhD candidates had dealt with that difficult issue of how to present the practice element of the research. Above all, he emphasised the positive aspects of this event: the fact that it is an opportunity not only for a real encounter with your research, but also for a really in-depth discussion of it, involving an exchange of ideas with academics in your field. Putting your work and ideas centre-stage – what could be more stimulating and exciting?!’

Recordings of the workshops by Bradfield and Coldwell are available on Soundcloud.

What Work Does the Artwork Do?: Criticality and Context

On Thursday 4 December the symposium What Work Does the Artwork Do?: Criticality & Context brings together researchers, members of activist art groups and the general public interested in the place and role of art’s criticality. Instead of asking the definitional question ‘What is Art?’, the symposium provides a space to explore and debate the roles and purposes of artworks –  the work artworks do. Conceived by Reader Jo Melvin and Visiting Professor Chris Smith, the general public was invited to join the debate by contributing to Melvin’s and Smith’s open call for responses on the website, www.artandcriticality.org.

A few days in advance of the symposium, Melvin considers the website responses. ‘A call to contribute to the discussion about the role of art and the work we expect artwork to do would, one might imagine, in this University of the Arts context, create a deluge of respondents. Especially when we think of how frequently we “tweet”, “like”, “blog”, all the time, day in, day out, to our “friends”. Perhaps this is a knee jerk comment, on the hoof, off the cuff, a reaction, like itching a scratch that requires little or no critical reflection. And it is effected by a simple press of the button. Nonetheless, I find it surprising that at the time of writing, only one response has been made and there have been a few tentative questions asking whether, and how, it is possible to contribute.

This situation is worth unpacking. In order to do so I’m going to begin by relating the occasion when I first encountered paintings by Art & Language, at an exhibition at the ICA in the 1980s with a series of works entitled Incidents in a Museum. To see paintings was, for me, a surprise. I had expected to see text and maybe image and text, rather than text obscured by paint on canvases hanging on the wall, in a manner that appeared to me to be somewhat bereft. I was ill at ease and uncertain as to how to respond, disturbed and a little perplexed. Being perplexed, and holding on to the feeling of being perplexed, is in itself a slightly mysterious state of mind, because it is unquantifiable. Over the years, I have frequently come back to this space of uncertainty, of doubt and perplexedness in relation to the art encounter, the art “experience” in the studio and in the gallery, or wherever. Silence is hard to bear, generally in conversations, silences are perceived to be awkward. How we find a way to talk about being perplexed by art, being moved, astonished, enriched and enlivened is the beginning of our exchange with the work itself and by so doing we enter the space of uncertainty where we might end up somewhere different from where we started. This is of course a risky business and it draws out our responsibility, my responsibility, to the work itself and to the people with whom I am in discussion. Consider then, the work of art as an essay that gives voice surely gives rise to an urge to join and contribute and by so doing, stick your heads over the parapet.’

The link to contribute is live, and can be accessed here.

There’s a Ghost in my House

Friday 7 March 2014, 1.00-2.30pm, Tate Britain, Clore Auditorium

This event is the first of two Paint Club events hosted by Tate Britain this spring. It addresses the issue of what kind of working relationship contemporary artists might hope to have with the paintings (both historical and recent) in a ‘Museum’ collection. Does new painting, to gain significance, always have to genuflect to art of the past? Are works of art, once acceded to a Museum collection, insulated from further contention and reinterpretation, just as they may be rescued from the vicariousness of the marketplace?

Artists Andrew Cranston, Dougal McKenzie and Ann-Marie James (a recent graduate from the Wimbledon MA Fine Art course) have been invited to discuss their relationship with particular paintings from the new Tate Britain displays. The event is chaired by Dr Jo Melvin.  Their choices are all works by artists who have known, to a greater or lesser extent, fluctuations in public esteem. You can see the artists’ choices from the Tate displays here (where there are also links to book tickets and send in questions for discussion by the panel)

Paint Club was set up by staff and research students of UAL as a research network, open to anyone with an interest in contemporary painting.  It provides a forum for the discussion of painting, its context within contemporary art practice and its relationship to research, its own history and other forms of art. Paint Club is establishing a network of research students and staff across the UK and worldwide.

The next event following There’s a Ghost in my House will be on Friday 25th April, and will feature writer Barry Schwabsky and artist Clare Woods. For further details click here.