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Beat Streuli

New Street

21 November 2012 — 3 February 2013

Ikon, in collaboration with EACC Castellón, presents photography, video and digital projections by acclaimed Swiss artist Beat Streuli. A kind of portraiture of urban life, his work contains close-up images of people, often captured unawares as they negotiate city streets. In the midst of abstract city details, their faces, gestures and looks engage us in unremarkable, everyday drama.

Beat Streuli emerged as an artist, internationally, during the 1990s, bringing with him a refreshing new outlook on the world, and this exhibition demonstrates his continuing importance. Streuli’s images of people from all walks of life create an informal street-wise reflection of our lives and times, characterised by cultural diversity: against blurred but distinct backdrops of different built environments we see smart-casual Euro types alongside Arabic women in hijabs, Indian women wrapped in saris, Hispanic teenagers in t-shirts and caps walking past Afro-American girls with braids. Everyone is purposeful, talking into mobile phones, waiting at traffic lights or crossing the street, taking photos, chatting with friends. Whilst the images are of different people in different places, together they reflect a globalised culture with a cosmopolitan mix, especially relevant for Birmingham.

Ikon’s entire first floor is wallpapered by huge images drawn from Streuli’s extensive archive, capturing human moments in cities such as Sydney, Brussels, New York, São Paulo, Guangzhou and Cape Town. The individuals we see make up a pictorial crowd that envelops the viewer. It complements perfectly the slide and video installation which features thousands of snapshots taken in Castellón (Spain) and Birmingham this summer. The rich and varied demographic that Streuli captures points towards a complex globalised future, with resulting questions of who we are and where we go as human beings.

This exhibition is a culmination of Ikon’s ongoing relationship with Beat Streuli, which began with his participation in group shows (2000 and 2001) and subsequent of-site projects (2003, 2010), all of which involved work made by the artist in Birmingham.

A full colour catalogue accompanies the exhibition priced £20. Approximately 700 pages, it illustrates recent work and includes a text by writer and cultural theorist Sadie Plant. In addition Streuli has produced a limited edition print New Street Birmingham 12, priced £200 (signed by the artist, edition of 50).

This exhibition is supported by the Swiss Arts Council Pro Helvetia, the Swiss Cultural Fund in Britain, the Stanley Thomas Johnson Foundation and Mirage Associates.