Combining political and social concerns with conceptualism, both artists find inspiration in history and the arts and letters. Atkinson sees the artist as a powerful agent for change, and his Northern Ireland series, previously banned, is currently on view at the Tate Gallery. Antin explores constructions of identity, and her archetypal recurrent characters are icons in the canon of contemporary art.
CONRAD ATKINSON: On exhibit are several series: Shopping Carts, which conflates high and low culture and featuring William Shakespeare’s Shopping Trolley honoring his 400th anniversary year; Aesthetics Can be a Pretty Ugly Business incorporating antique paint pallets; and a floor piece of ruby slippers, using the Wizard of Oz as a metaphor for anti-immigration policies. Documentary-based works from Atkinson’s first exhibition at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts, Material – 6 Works (1979), referring to Northern Ireland Troubles, industrial disease, and hunger in the Third World, will also be on view.
Lawrence Rinder, director of the Berkeley Museum, has written: It is the forging together of conceptualism and activism to art practice that distinguishes Atkinson’s work and makes it such an important contribution to 20th century art history. Public collections include the Tate Gallery, the National Portrait Gallery, the British Museum, and the Museum of Modern Art. Atkinson was Distinguished Visiting Professor/Artist in Residence at the Courtauld Institute, London University; Honorary Fellow at Cumbria University; and Visiting Professor, Carnegie Mellon University. He is currently Professor Emeritus at University of California at Davis and divides his time between England and the United States. Atkinson received a lifetime achievement award in the UK in 2015.
ELEANOR ANTIN: Some of Antin’s best-known works were done with hand painted paper dolls and puppets in the classic little girl manner of creating worlds she can inhabit at will. The ambiguities of the passive unchanging paper faces with the insistent human, melodramatic, Bronx-accented voice are not unlike a threatening storm that only occasionally explodes but nobody gets wet. Featured in this show is Antin’s newest paper doll installation The Theatre of the Absurd (2016) with the paper doll cast acting out the current political circus, along with several of her most well-known classic video installations, The Adventures of a Nurse (1976) and The Nurse and the Hijackers (1977). Never before exhibited photographs and drawings extend the paper doll analogy.