Despite the influence artists had on one another, and collective responses that were made by the surrounding world, this exhibition highlights the solitude – graceful, thought-through, strategic and compassionate individuality of each exhibiting artist and the corresponding decade they represent for the past 50 years, 1970s – 2010s.
Nancy Spero, in her activist spirit, responded to the growing political and social instability of the 1970s, from the demise of the US financial system to the Middle East’s oil crisis. Notable for her pioneering engagement with these issues, especially feminist art, a different form of language was created whereby artworks began to raise awareness. As her work was visually raw, drawing imagery from current and historical events, a wider response mechanism started feeding onto the artistic expression with a ripple affect carrying outward both the message and consequent action amongst audiences who were intrigued enough to react on the interaction they had with the artwork.
With the demise of the USSR, and in turn unstable, yet hopeful, satellite states in the forefront, the 1980s carried the notion of individualism further. Technological advancements began to take shape with the launch of the Internet, and a decentralised governing system started becoming a possibility and to some degree, a reality. Elizabeth Murray captures this optimistic attitude of the decade with her bravely shaped and playfully coloured canvas works. A disoriented fantastical universe within which a somewhat structured and contained snapshot of a domestic scene is displayed, resembling order within a very disorderly world. And thus the liberal self-expressionism thrived into the 1990s – with cable TV, Internet and developing sub-cultures, the youth of the time was handed a control of their own future.
With a social obsession to develop and grow the individual-self, a certain void became apparent within the communal realms. In the meantime, cuts in social spending in the UK underpinned by a property crash at the beginning of the decade, saw the mood of the country dip. The nostalgia and that state of nothingness is captured by UK artist Rachel Whiteread’s sculptures which translate negative space into solid form. Without making a direct correlation between the political and economic welfare of the UK at the time when her most prominent works were produced, the portrayed message of her practice casting familiar objects refers to the change in a space one can refer to as ‘home’.
A sense of social responsibility started growing with the international fight against terrorism. Meanwhile, continuing rapid developments in technology paved way to reinforce global communications network. Representing the new millennium, media art pioneer Rebecca Allen’s piece is symbolic of her development spanning across three decades, pushing the boundaries of creative expression while utilising cutting-edge technology, which steadily influenced the way artists created work, responded and interacted with the audience and vice-versa. Making a reference to the varying interactive, performance based bodies of work in both the digital and the physical realm opens the dialogue for the future of this medium and its widespread embrace.
Parallel to the creative reflection of the technological advancements, the social impact of hacking and concept of privacy in the 2010s, has once again dipped the engaged international community into a state of uncertainty and anxiety. With her new body of work ‘Screen Portraits’, Charlotte Colbert creates sculptures made of screens and moving images depicting close ups of her subjects – those that have a personal story to share, or a social or political comment to make. Treading the fine line of language being used at once as a source of communication bringing communities together and alienating them from each other, Colbert’s representation of the 2010s brings the duality of our current time to the forefront.
‘toute seule’ plunges into the world of political and social change over the past five decades, yet leaves a sense of hopefulness that mistakes will be learned from this creative history and a brighter and better future lies ahead.