Explore It’s Me To The World, Celebrating 50 Years Of Modern Art Oxford

My footsteps make the mark. My legs carry me across the country. It’s like a way of measuring the world. I love that connection to my own body. It’s me to the world.

Modern Art Oxford is currently presenting its fourth exhibition ‘It’s Me to the World’, the show is the latest iteration of KALEIDOSCOPE, a celebration of 50 years as an internationally acclaimed gallery, and features works by Marina Abramović, Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq, Dorothy Cross, Richard Long, Agnes Martin, Otobong Nkanga, Yoko Ono, Hannah Rickards, and Richard Long.

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Richard Long, Walking a Labyrinth, 1971. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World , Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.

The title of this latest exhibition by Modern Art Oxford is in fact taken from a text by Long: ‘My footsteps make the mark. My legs carry me across the country. It’s like a way of measuring the world. I love that connection to my own body. It’s me to the world.’ Here the viewer may connect to the white cube space of the gallery with their own body, and explore the artist’s work; a refreshing piece in an environment notorious for its ‘do not touch’ ethos.

Looming over Long’s labyrinthine installation is a new site-specific drawing by London-based artist Mohammed Qasim Ashfaq. The artist’s current work is a vast black circle of dense charcoal drawn directly on to the gallery wall reflecting light and resembling a large steel disc. The artist’s works draw on the traditions of Islamic art and 20th century western modernism, in this case blurring the distinctions between, drawing, sculpture, and installation, with a minimal efficiency.

Among other works the central gallery houses a floor-based sculptural work titled ‘Tsumeb Fragments’ by Nigerian artist Otobong Nkanga, a series of low tabletops containing mineral fragments and photographs of equatorial scrublands. The artist creates works that reflect the decimation of the natural world by ‘colonial powers’, mining and the dissemination of natural resources. The mineral fragments are taken from the environment and re-contextualized within the white cube of the gallery space becoming ‘art’. These minerals become ‘Repurposed’ artifacts of the destruction of a treasured environment.

Marina Abramović presents a number of works from her 1995 exhibition at the gallery. This includes the work ‘Cleaning The Mirror I’, consisting of a stack of video monitors each displaying a section of a skeleton being scrubbed clean by the artist. This performative video work is a signifier of the viewer’s relationship with their own mortality. There is a slow transposition of material and grime, as the skeleton slowly becomes bone-white, and a grey film begins to form on the artist’s hands. We face the temporality of our existence, as the artist has previously stated: death is the final mirror that we face.

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Dorothy Cross, Buoy, 2014. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World , Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.
Among the works by Dorothy Cross is ‘Buoy’, 2014, a Blue Shark skin, empty and dried, balanced on a painter’s easel, the underside of the shark has been gilded in precious white gold, below which a thin slab of translucent alabaster sits like an expectant artist’s canvas, awaiting some act of creativity, to re-instill some form of energy or life. The shark has been a recurring leitmotif in Cross’s practice for a decade, and here the artist’s work is cleverly re-contextualized and juxtaposed with Abramović’s own reflections on the body and mortality. The passing of time is indeed a major curatorial factor in this exhibition.
KALEIDOSCOPE has been a year long series of interlinking exhibitions reflecting on some of the great moments in Modern Art Oxford’s history – with varying success, but ‘It’s Me to the World’ is a worthy reflection of the gallery’s relationship with some of the world’s most prominent artists of the previous and current century, as it reflects on the body, as the temporal journey of the viewer is mirrored by that of the gallery’s own journey through time.
Paul Black, Art Journalist
September 2016
Featured image – Dorothy Cross, Scales, 2014. KALEIDOSCOPE: It’s Me To The World , Modern Art Oxford. Photo P A Black © 2016.

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