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Jeremy Deller's first mid-career survey on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia
Jeremy Deller, So Many Ways to Hurt You (The Life and Times of Adrian Street), 2010. Courtesy of the artist. Photography by Dennis Hutchinson.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania is presenting Jeremy Deller: Joy in People, the first mid-career survey of this unpredictable, generative, and vibrant artist. Hugely influential, Jeremy Deller (b. 1966, London; lives London) has helped to rewrite the rules of contemporary art over the past two decades by putting people at the center of his work. Operating as forums for discussion, display, and social interactions of all kinds, this work is disarmingly democratic in its muddling of class and cultural hierarchies. The sheer delight Deller takes in various forms of sub and folk cultures--Goth style, Manchester music, pro wrestling, street parades, and historical reenactment societies--transmits itself with a sense of awe at the creativity and zeal with which people resist mainstream values and patterns of consumption. His work explores compelling social territories, while the artist himself variously assumes the roles of artistic producer, publisher, filmmaker, collaborator, curator, parade organizer, and cultural archivist. Joy in People offers an important opportunity for American viewers to experience the work of one of Britain’s most significant artists.

This exhibition represents a continuation of Deller’s engagement with the United States, which began when he met Andy Warhol in London in 1986. When Warhol suggested that he come to New York, the twenty-year-old Deller jumped on a plane to hang out at the Factory, where he had a revelation about how to proceed as an artist: "you can create your own world, which is what [Warhol] did. It was definitely a moment of clarity. I thought I would try to get by on my wits creatively, whatever that meant." Deller has made repeated visits to America, which he calls “a massively fertile place…I love making work here.” Commissioned by Creative Time and the New Museum, he visited Philadelphia in 2009 as part of the cross-country project, It Is What It Is, in which--together with an Iraqi citizen, a U.S. soldier, and the remains of a car destroyed by a bomb in Baghdadhe toured the country.

Joy in People features almost all of Deller’s major works to date, including installations, photographs, videos, posters, banners, performance works, and sound pieces. These works include a larger-than-life-size reconstruction of Deller’s Open Bedroom (1993), the artist’s first exhibition which was held in his parents’ house when they were away; a two-part installation and presentation of archival material based around Deller’s epic project The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One is an Injury to All) (2004) exploring a violent 1984 confrontation between striking miners and police-an event he re-staged with historical re-enactment societies and actual participants; and Valerie’s Snack Bar (2009), a parade float in the form of a reconstruction of the eponymous Manchester caf, where viewers can enjoy a cup of tea while watching a video of the procession with local groups and organizations that Deller organized to be “a little like living in Britain: annoying, funny, and a bit of a mess.” In addition, the exhibition features a section entitled “My Failures” devoted to the artist’s myriad unrealized projects, including a series of drawings for an Iggy Pop Life Drawing Class (2006-2011).

Much of Deller’s work over the years has explored and elaborated on the social meanings of popular music. Jeremy Deller: Joy in People includes a number of his pioneering collaborative works with fans, such as The Uses of Literacy (1997), an exhibition created by fans of the Manic Street Preachers, which brings together paintings, collages, drawings, books, poetry, and ephemera inspired by the band’s lyrics. The show also presents several music-related videos, such as Acid Brass (1997), for which Deller commissioned a traditional British brass band to play contemporary acid house music. Our Hobby is Depeche Mode (2006) is an archive and video based on the massive fan base--especially ecstatic in Eastern Europe--for the 1980s electro-pop band.

Jeremy Deller will represent Britain at the 2013 Venice Biennale. He studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of Sussex, and in 2004 won the Turner Prize. Monographic exhibitions include: Unconvention (1999, Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff), After the Goldrush (2002, Wattis Institute, San Francisco), Folk Archive with Alan Kane (2004, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Barbican Art Gallery, London), Jeremy Deller (2005, Kunstverein, Munich), From One Revolution to Another (2008, Palais de Tokyo, Paris), It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq (2009, Creative Time and New Museum, New York, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), and Processions (2009, Cornerhouse, Manchester).

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