What happens when two artists are let loose in a museum store? Jane Simpson and Sarah Staton were invited to select works from the Leeds sculpture collections and curate them into an exhibition at the Henry Moore Institute. As they immersed themselves in catalogues and visited store rooms in the bowels of Leeds City Art Gallery, they were confronted with a particular and sometimes peculiar gene pool of objects, the product of over a hundred years of municipal collecting. They found Richard Deacons jostling on shelves with Mary Martins and Gertrude Hermes, Jean Arps with Neville Bodens, and 19th-century portrait busts, all of which shed an intriguing light on the history of sculpture in Britain, and therefore on their own artistic past. From this diverse group Simpson and Staton made a concentrated selection of works, creating their own microcosm of the larger collection.
The artists chose the pieces for specific and personal reasons, greeting some as old friends and others as distant relatives or curious ancestors, with the linking thread being their own tastes and interests. They set the objects within an environment designed by themselves, woven together with imagery from the Institute archive, to create a sort of family tableau or cabinet of curiosity, in which art works and plinths and walls play an equal role.
kissingcousins takes its title from the Elvis Presley film of 1964 and reflects the artists' interest in the genealogies and family groups in which artists find their place. It will be accompanied by a leaflet and an artists' publication, including interviews with Staton and Simpson.
The exhibition is the result of a joint Fellowship held by Sarah Staton (b.1961) and Jane Simpson (b.1965) at the Henry Moore Institute in 2005-6 and reflects their practices both as artists and as curators. Their own work has often been concerned with the arrangement of objects and they have previously worked together as curators on Daddy Pop at the Anne Faggionato Gallery in London in 2004. Staton has had solo exhibitions in London, Sheffield, Berlin and New York, and has a forthcoming show at Mount Stuart on the Isle of Bute, Scotland, opening in May 2007. Her curated project, Supastore now tours as part of the British Council exhibition Multiplication. She lives and works in Sheffield. Simpson has had solo exhibitions in London, Spain, Sweden and New York, including at the Centro de Arte Contemporaneo in Malaga in 2005. Her monograph Fresh Fresher was published by Other Criteria in 2003.