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The Speed Art Museum presents exhibition by Willie Doherty: Traces
The Incident, 1993. Cibachrome mounted on aluminum. Courtesy of the artist and Alexander and Bonin, New York.
LOUISVILLE, KY.- The Speed Art Museum presents an exhibition of the photographs and videos of Willie Doherty, one of the most important artists to emerge from Northern Ireland in recent decades. Willie Doherty: Traces will be on view from October 14, 2011 through January 1, 2012. Twice nominated for Tate Britain’s Turner Prize and the representative for Northern Ireland at the 2007 Venice Biennale, Willie Doherty is internationally recognized for his hauntingly beautiful work that seamlessly combines rigorous artistic choices and tough political issues. Although the decades of unrest, conflict and loss that have been the daily life of many people in Northern Ireland form a backdrop for Doherty’s work, it is never limited by location. Instead, the work has a universal profundity and poignancy that increases over time. This exhibition will be the first time that Doherty’s work has been shown in the region. Willie Doherty: Traces is included with Museum general admission.

Dr. Charles L. Venable, Speed Director, remarked that “the Speed is thrilled to be working with Willie Doherty on this important project. Our curator, Suzanne Weaver, has done a wonderful job at distilling some of the artist’s most evocative works into a hauntingly beautiful exhibition. Having the Speed organize Traces is especially meaningful because the Museum is now the owner of the video Buried (2009) that it recently acquired in partnership with Speed Trustee Brook Smith and his wife, Pam.”

Suzanne Weaver, Curator of Contemporary Art, commented, “For three decades, Willie Doherty’s singular waste not, want not aesthetic, a distillation of formal beauty and politics, and adventurous artistic approach has helped viewers form new and resonating perspectives on art, their world, and themselves.”

Two extraordinary single screen video installations – Ghost Story and Buried– and eleven large-scale color landscape cibachromes of the borders between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, made in the 1990s, are presented at the Speed Art Museum. Ghost Story was first shown in 2007, at the 52nd Venice Biennale, and is highly narrative. Seamus McGarvey, cinematographer for the films Atonement and The Hours, served as director of photography. Renowned talent Stephen Rea, actor in the movie The Crying Game, provided the voice-over. As the camera rolls forward, down a seemingly endless path lined with trees, past fences, and concrete walls and debris, his troubled voice tells of “ghosts” he remembers: a crowd of men and women running from and being shot by the military on a bright cold January afternoon; flickering images on the television screen of a partially burned car; and, the details of a photograph – blindfolded men with their hands tightly bound by plastic cable ties. In Buried, which does not have a voice-over, Doherty has returned to the same place in which Ghost Story was made and concentrated on the “purely visual,” says the artist. Banal and menacing images such as abandoned clothing, loops of wire, and the remains of a fire – none of which are staged – are haunting visualizations of the narrator’s recalled memories of Ghost Story.

In a recent conversation, Doherty commented on these works, “Both Ghost Story and Buried are concerned with what is hidden; the unspoken and unresolved. These works deal with the trace, the physical marks and residue that remain, but also what persists and resurfaces. They attempt to account for the way the landscape is inscribed with memories.”

Doherty’s photographs in the Speed exhibition counter idyllic images of the Irish landscapes often promoted in tourist literature such as rolling green hills, grazing sheep, and graceful stonewalls. Menacing and foreboding images of a burned-out car, damaged border crossings, and tire marks veering off into the grass are evidences of violent incidents; possibly torture or death.

About Willie Doherty
Willie Doherty was born in 1959 in Derry, Northern Ireland where he continues to live and work. For three decades, the contested landscape of Northern Ireland has been a predominant theme in the artist’s photographs and videos. The conflict between Protestants and Catholics that began with the partition of Ireland in 1921 and intensified in the 1960s with the bloody riots in Derry and Belfast has had a major impact on Doherty’s exploration of ideas, processes and themes, such as the landscape in his work. Throughout this continuing conflict, which lingered in the 1990s and became known as “The Troubles,” (as a thirteen year-old boy, Doherty witnessed the murder of fourteen unarmed protestors in Derry in 1972 on Bloody Sunday),bombings and other acts of violence were carried out by both the IRA and Protestant paramilitary groups.

Since the early 1990s, Doherty has had solo exhibitions at international museums, including the Städtische Galerie in Lenbachhaus und Kunstbau, Munich, Germany; Hamburger Kunstverein, Hamburg, Germany; Dallas Museum of Art, Dallas, Texas; Fruitmarket Gallery, Edinburgh, U.K.; Prefix Institute of Contemporary Art, Toronto, Canada; and the Renaissance Society, Chicago, Illinois. In 2006, Doherty’s work was the subject of a video survey organized by Laboratorio Arte Alameda in Mexico City, and in 2007 he represented Northern Ireland at the 52nd Venice Biennale. His work has been presented in prestigious international group exhibitions, including Manifest, Murcia, Spain, 2010; 51st Venice Biennale, 2005; 7th Istanbul Biennial, 2003; São Paolo Biennial, Brazil 2002; and Carnegie International, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 1999. He has been awarded the Tate Britain’s Turner Prize in 1994 and 2004, and a DAAD residency, Berlin, 1999.

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