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Exhibition explores new forms of knowledge that artists offer society
Karla Black, AN IMPATIENT CODE, 2009.

OXFORD.- Mystics and Rationalists is the third exhibition in KALEIDOSCOPE, Modern Art Oxford’s year-long 50th anniversary programme and opened to the public on 11 June. KALEIDOSCOPE restages moments of the gallery's past by bringing art works from the history of the gallery's acclaimed exhibition programme into a series of evolving thematic displays, which include new commissions and work by a new generation of artists. Drawing on Sol LeWitt's assertion that "conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions which logic cannot reach”, the show explores new forms of knowledge that artists offer society. Working with drawing and sculpture, video and animation, the artists included provide unorthodox insights into the world, ranging across intuitive, spiritual, linguistic and psychological, as well as logical approaches. Featuring Karla Black, Daniel Buren, Dorothy Cross, Ibrahim El-Salahi, Dan Graham, Sol LeWitt, Yoko Ono and Amy Sillman.

The exhibition’s centrepiece is Eye of Shark, by distinguished Irish artist Dorothy Cross (b.1956). This dramatic series of sculptures is made up of twelve cast iron baths and a shark’s eye, embedded in the gallery wall. Cross's works repurpose found materials such as piles of driftwood, animal skins and bones, to create arresting works which connect the living with the inanimate.

The walls of the Upper Gallery have been lined with a series of simple hand-drawn grids by Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), arguably one of the most important conceptual artists of the 20th century. LeWitt’s exhibition in Oxford took place in 1973; these drawings, made using red and black crayons, follow a distinctive geometric pattern with only minor variations between each.

Scottish artist Karla Black (b.1972) exhibited at Modern Art Oxford in 2009 and two works return: Named and Gated, a swathe of transparent polythene, knotted and hung in an arc over a staircase; and An Impatient Code, a stiff curve of sugar paper. Black makes evocative site specific sculptures, always responding to the spaces through form, material and scale. This is being shown alongside 13 Possible Futures for a Painting (2014), a major installation by American artist Amy Sillman (b.1955). In this work, Sillman has printed out individual stages of a digital animation on copier paper so that each frame is presented as a unique painting.

The show sees the return a series of drawings by leading Sudanese artist, Ibrahim El-Salahi (b.1930). Hailed for the incorporation of African, Western, Islamic, and Arabic language traditions in his work, El-Salahi first exhibited at Modern Art Oxford in 2004. Here he brings back Oxford Trees, abstracted representations of nature, reflecting his interest in geometry and his engagement with the British landscape.

French artist Daniel Buren’s installation was first created for Intervention II, his second exhibition at the gallery in 2007 (his first took place in 1973). Here, Buren (b.1938) recreates Coloured Shadows, a series of multi-coloured windowpanes made from squares of framed coloured cellophane. Some hang in the centre of the gallery, others are fitted to cover the windows, transforming the space into a kaleidoscopic chamber.

Installed in the gallery are two films by renowned American artist Dan Graham (b.1942). In Past / Future Split Attention, Graham instructed two performers to speak at the same time, the conversation quickly becoming incomprehensible. This performance took place at Oxford in 1978 during Graham’s exhibition at the gallery. In his second film, Performer Audience Mirror, the artist sits in front of and facing a mirror, describing the audience before him as well as his own appearance. In these works, Graham illustrates the slippage of meaning when language is used to describe the world around us.

Celebrated Japanese artist Yoko Ono (b.1933) makes her third appearance in Modern Art Oxford’s anniversary year with Painting for Burial, one of her instruction pieces from 1961. A simple typewritten instruction which visitors can take away with them, the work invites the participant to create and bury their own painting.

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