Monumental Art: exhibitions at Modern art Oxford

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Debora Delmar is a little known Mexican artist but in recognition of 2015 as the ‘year of Mexico in the UK’ she has been invited to stage her first solo exhibition in Britain at Modern Art Oxford. Delmar’s desire for this exhibition is to demonstrate our dependence upon, constant interaction with and bombardment by global corporations: their brand images, slogans and eye-catching advertising.

This is an exhibition of “Aspirational Aesthetics”: orange juice, the image of ‘wellbeing’; the mock Ugg-boots, a status symbol accessible to all; tidy boxed hedges which border the American dream home. The exhibition gave off the impression of trying to overload us with these images, illustrating the explosion of communications technology and the infiltration of branding into every aspect of our lives. It was this ‘explosion’ effect that fell a little short: in the spacious, lofty, light Upper Gallery of Modern Art Oxford the exhibition looks too polite; even fifteen works in the gallery and large vibrant fabric prints hanging from the ceiling failed to imitate the feeling of living under siege from commercial bombardment. The “mass” of material looked like politely arranged mess.

Test Run: Performance in Public is definitely worth paying a visit to. Jeremy Deller, who curated the recent Andy Warhol and William Morris Love is Not Enough show is an artist in his own right too and his best-known work The Battle of Orgreave features in the current group exhibition. It is an hour-long video documenting the re-enactment of violent confrontation between miners and police in 1984. There were two identifiable main lines of enquiry within the exhibition: public engagement as a medium, to which Deller’s video belongs and performance interventions (or the documentation of) which seek to disrupt the unspoken codes of convention in public space, commenting upon their ungrounded authority. Documentation of Gillian Wearing dancing in public shopping malls explores the amusing result of recontexutualising dancing; placing it in a public space where it is received with amusement, bewilderment, ambivalence and indifference by shoppers.

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Several performances have been commissioned in tandem with the gallery works including a walk led by Hamish Fulton on April 26th. For Florence Peake’s Lay me Down, multiple volunteers will interrupt the predominance of vertical structures, tall vertical buildings and upright people in the street by lying down in the centre of town. So if you see something a bit strange going on in Oxford, it might be art. 

Upward Mobility and Test Run: Performance in Public will run until 17th May, Modern Art Oxford, Pembroke Street.