Art / Exhibitions

A woman who created and recorded history

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A fascinating new exhibition in east London shows the work of suffragette and photographer Norah Smyth. The images, mostly taken from 1914 to 1916, record the work of the East London Federation of Suffragettes. They are on loan from the International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam and are displayed together for the first time.

Martin Parr: Return to Manchester

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Almost 50 years ago, the teenage Martin Parr came up north to Manchester Polytechnic where he learnt his trade as a photographer, shooting in black and white. He looked for people, often managing to get close to them. He hung out in the city centre, Piccadilly Gardens, where he found young couples and fans of the Osmonds willing to pose for him. He explored every Yates’ Wine Lodge in the area on weekday dinner times, often rather sad places.

“We needed to write our own history”

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Known as the “Godfather of Black British Photography”, Vanley Burke was born in Jamaica and moved to Birmingham in 1965 at the age of 14. He spoke to Birmingham poet Kurly about his life, his photography, how communities had to respond to racism after immigrating, and his new exhibition at Birmingham Cathedral for Black History Month, Being Built Together.

How were things when you arrived in the UK compared with where you were brought up?

Heads Roll

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In the age of the selfie and endless posts of faces on social media, what can the artistic portrait tell us about how we see ourselves and others?

Sheffield-based artist Paul Morrison, who is well known for his often unsettling pictures of plants and horticultural subjects, looks at a completely different genre of art in Heads Roll, which he has curated.

Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land

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Windrush: Songs in a Strange Land sidesteps reductionistic or didactic discourse, instead offering viewers concrete and politically engaged routes into a complex history. The British Library brings us a commendably detailed account of the history of what has become known as the Windrush Generation. It is an account which acknowledges this history as one defined by oppression, racism and resistance.

London 1938

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“We will from now on lead an unrelenting war of purification...against the last elements which have displaced our Art.” With these words mirroring his views on race, Adolf Hitler opened his exhibition Entartete Kunst or Degenerate Art in Munich in 1937. This was the centrepiece of his campaign against modernism, a movement which he loathed and regarded as undermining the Aryan values central to Nazi ideology.

Truth is in the eye of the editor

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A decade of austerity and political crisis has led to a revival of interest in documentary photography. The cynicism about photography’s ability to expose truths about society, prevalent in the 1980s and 1990s, has waned. In its place is a growing awareness of the power of socially engaged photographic practices.

Inevitably, past examples are looked to as models, and the photography of the depression era of the 1930s is perhaps the most significant.

Double Fantasy — John and Yoko

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Double Fantasy is an exhibition showing the lives of John Lennon and Yoko Ono in their own words, personal photographs, artefacts, music and art. The exhibition focuses on the tumultuous years of the 1960s and early 1970s. There are numerous film screens and two enclosed theatres.

In part the exhibition is a tender display of John and Yoko’s relationship, while charting how their creative talents and fame were used to campaign for peace, civil rights and the ending of oppression.

Age of Terror: Art since 9/11

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This exhibition of artists’ responses to conflict since the terrorist attacks in the US on 11 September 2001 ranges from sculpture to video installations.

It includes well known pieces such as Ai Weiwei’s marble surveillance camera on a plinth, Ivan Navarro’s “inverted columns” effect created with mirrors, as well as the vase Grayson Perry was working on as the terror attacks happened, which he proceeded to embellish with possible figures and comments possibly made by those caught up in the bombing of the twin towers of the World Trade Center.

Another Kind of Life

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Another Kind of Life is a large and ambitious exhibition. There are works by 20 photographers, covering a period from the 1960s to the present.

The people depicted cover a huge range of very different experiences, from the desperate homeless to neo-Nazis in the American wilderness, and many trans people across different societies surviving in the teeth of oppression.

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