The artist’s studio explored at the Whitechapel Gallery


The Whitechapel Gallery presents a survey of 100 years of the studio through artists and image makers from around the world.

Whether it’s an abandoned factory, an attic or a kitchen table, it’s the artist’s studio where the great art of our time is conceived and created. In this multimedia exhibition, the vast possibilities and meaning of these melting pots of creativity take center stage and new stories of art around the modern studio emerge through striking juxtapositions of under-recognized artists with famous figures. of Western art history.

A Century of the Artist’s Studio follows three years of research by Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick

The exhibition brings together over 100 works by over 80 artists and collectives from Africa, Australasia, South Asia, China, Europe, Japan, the Middle East, North America and from South. They range from modern icons such as Francis Bacon, Louise Bourgeois, Pablo Picasso, Egon Schiele and Andy Warhol to contemporary figures such as Walead Beshty, Lisa Brice and Kerry James Marshall.

The exhibition includes paintings, sculptures, installations and films depicting the studio as a work of art and features documentation of artists’ studios by world-renowned photographers and filmmakers. A series of “studio corners” also recreate the actual environments where great art was produced.

A Century of the Artist’s Studio follows three years of research by Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick, in collaboration with a curatorial committee comprising Dawn Ades, Richard Dyer and Hammad Nasar. As a frontispiece to the exhibition, the monumental sculpture Cell IX (1999) by Louise Bourgeois (1911-2010) imagines the studio as a prison and a portal. The exhibition then unfolds along two central themes: The Public Studio – Artists Together, examines how artists have embraced the studio as a factory, exhibition space, arena, collective workspace or classroom; and The Private Studio – Artists Alone, explores how the studio can be a home, a refuge, a laboratory or a site of political resistance.

In The Public Studio – Artists Together, visitors come face to face with Kerry James Marshall (b. 1955, USA) Untitled (Painter) (2008), who invites viewers to reflect on the evolution of the studio modern and artists as subjects of works. of art. A black artist stands tall, meeting her viewer’s gaze with unflinching candor, raising an oversized artist’s palette before her. Also on display are studio portraits by Shadi Ghadirian (b. 1974, Iran) of young Iranian women in the 1990s and female portraits by Mequitta Ahuja (b. 1976, United States) and Lisa Brice (b. 1968, Africa from South). These are displayed alongside works by or depicting modern masters, including Pablo Picasso’s (1881-1973) studio tribute from 1955 to Henri Matisse (1869-1954) and photographs by Andy Warhol (1928-1987) in his infamous Silver Factory in New York.

The exquisite hand-woven tapestries of the Arpilleras workshops reveal how the workshop can be a haven of protection for artists who wish to tackle current political issues and provide a collective workspace to share resources and work side by side. next to. Stemming from a grassroots movement of women who united in response to Pinochet’s punitive regime in 1970s Chile, this collective used embroidery to document the stories of victims of the dictatorship anonymously.

The studio as a visible public stage for many artists is explored, such as through Drawing Lesson 47 (Interview for New York Studio School), 2010, in which visitors will see William Kentridge (b. 1955, South Africa) interview in a film that is both comedic and self-deprecating. Also on display is the caged installation, La Perla Negra (The Black Pearl), by performance artist Nikhil Chopra (b. 1972, India), who speaks of the live art space as his studio. . Commissioned for the Havana Biennial (2015), Chopra imprisoned himself in a cage in central Havana for 60 hours, making drawings of what he could see through the bars, demarcating the studio as a prison or a cell in which Chopra pondered history and the future. from Cuba. This is shown alongside the series Naked Photos – Life Model Goes Mad (1996) by Tracey Emin (b. 1963, UK), which records a painting performance she gave at Galleri Andreas Brändström, Stockholm . Playing the role of both artist and model of life, which is often naked, Emin was seen by visitors through small peepholes as she worked in a purpose-built studio space in a candid and public performance politically charged.

Connecting the two main sections is an exploration of the secret life of the studio and what happens when the artist is not physically there. On display is the piece Real Time (1996) by Darren Almond (b. 1971, UK), a wall projection of the artist’s empty London studio with a table, chair, fan and digital clock in the Wall. Every sixty seconds, the numbers flip, causing an unexpected crash. In Studio Interior (Red Stool, Studio) (1945), by Wilhelmina Barns-Graham (1912-2004), a bright corner of her new studio is depicted with a blank canvas ready to be painted, marking the start of a new chapter of her career on the path to becoming a pioneer of British abstract art. Finally, photorealistic miniature paintings by Andrew Grassie (b. 1966, UK) of fictional empty artist studios from 2017, for which he designed his own studio, are shown alongside images of the school of art by Paul Winstanley (born in 1954, United Kingdom). series, for which the artist visited empty studios of art students during the summer holidays. As government budget cuts continue to dramatically alter the educational landscape and the presence of the arts within it, Winstanley’s series pays homage to art schools and the creative potential these spaces represent.

Visitors will explore The Private Studio – Artists Apart in the first floor galleries. They encounter a series of informal photographs of artists in their studios across India and Pakistan by Manisha Gera Baswani (b. 1967, India). Part of a 17-year archival project, the portraits in Baswani’s Artist through the Lens series are an intimate record of a network and community of artists. Visitors then discover the first work in the exhibition, Egon Schiele’s office (1890-1918) in the 1916 Mühling POW camp, which depicts an empty storeroom opposite his war camp office – his studio at the time – highlighting how an artist’s private studio space can be anywhere. Also on display is a series of photographs by Paul Mpagi Sepuya (b. 1982, USA) from 2020, which explore the function of the studio, with tripods in the shot and clever staging of mirrors reflecting images and bodies from surreal angles.

The studio as a retreat from the outside world is also questioned, as was the case for Josef Sudek (1896-1976), forced to take refuge in his studio during the occupation of Prague by the Nazis in 1944. From this period, The Windows from the My Studio series captures the unexpected beauty of everyday life, from the condensation on her studio windows to her lunch choices. Similarly, Canadian artist Maud Lewis (1903-1970) painted every surface of her home – a small fisherman’s cabin – with boat paint. On display are painted objects from the house, both his house and his studio.

The Gallery’s Zilkha Auditorium presents a series of films made by artists in and from their studios, including Peter Fischli & David Weiss’ seminal film (b. 1952, Switzerland; b. 1946-2012), Der Lauf der Dinge (The Way Things Go) (1987). The relationship between cause and effect is explored through staged volatile reactions triggered between everyday objects in a slapstick and empowering way.

Broader aspects of global studio practices are explored through five thematic demos, demonstrating how artists are transforming or creating studio spaces to teach and give back to their communities. These will include the Guest Artists Space Foundation of Yinka Shonibare (b. 1962, UK), the non-profit exhibition space of Michael Armitage (b. 1984, Kenya), Nairobi Contemporary Art Institute in Kenya, the Bandjoun Art Station in Cameroon, initiated by Barthélémy Toguo (b. 1967, Cameroon) and Germain Noubi in 2013, to work with young local artists and Kehinde Wiley’s multidisciplinary artist-in-residence program (b. 1977, USA), Black Rock Senegal, for international artists to create new works through collaboration in Dakar.

Other demonstration topics include “The studio as a studio”, ranging from Atelier 17, Paris/New York, an art school and studio that played a central role in teaching and promotion of engraving in the 20th century, at the Mansudae Art Studio in North Korea, the largest studio in the world, whose production consists mainly of monumental sculptures of authoritarian rulers. The supporting role of Studio Associations is also explored, from ACME, London, to the Triangle Network, a global network of artists and visual arts organisations, which includes Gasworks, London, and The Bag Factory, Johannesburg.

Taking iconic portraits of artists in their studios are the great art photographers of modern times: Bruce Bernard, Leonardo Bezzola, Rene Burri, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Denise Columb, Nat Finkelstein, Gisèle Freund, John Hedgecoe, Lucien Hervé, Franz Hubmann, Mathias Johansson, Perry Ogden, Gordon Parks, Stephen Shore, Varvara Stepanova, Cy Twombly and Sabine Weiss.

A Century of the Artist’s Studio follows the history of the Whitechapel Gallery by presenting large-scale thematic exhibitions such as Faces in the Crowd: Picturing Modern Life from Manet to Today (2005) and Adventures of the Black Square: Abstract Art and Society (2015), who have been instrumental in developing much needed new research and insights around these art historical themes.

To coincide with A Century of the Artist’s Studio, associated exhibitions, commissions and special events are planned, including:

Top photo: Kerry James Marshall, Untitled (Painter), 2008, Acrylic on PVC panel in artist’s frame, 73 x 62.9 cm. Collection of Charlotte and Herbert S. Wagner III. ©Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist, David Zwirner London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York. Photo: Steve Briggs

A Century of Artist’s Studio 1920 – 2020 February 24 – June 5, 2022

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