This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley, Curator of Ikon before becoming Director of Milton Keynes Gallery and then Modern Art Oxford, who died tragically in 2012. Co curated with David Austen and George Shaw and structured loosely on Rex Warner’s 1941 wartime novel The Aerodrome, a book that made a great impression on Stanley, it includes many of the artists he worked with, all of whom held him in great affection and regarded him as one of their own. Jenny Saville, for example, whose first solo show in a British public gallery took place at MAO in the year of his death, describes Stanley as someone who “wasn’t scared of history or of being radical. He was as likely to be enthusing about working with a sculptor in his nineties, [as] raising funds to facilitate a young filmmakers’ vision. His poetic sensibility, combined with a can-do attitude where everything’s possible, is what made him so magnetic and convincing.”
Warner’s The Aerodrome, written during the Second World War, is an allegorical novel whose young hero is faced with the disintegration of certainties about his loved ones and with a choice between the earthy, animalistic life of his home village and the pure, efficient, emotionally detached life of an airman. Its dystopian vision was very influential on writers such as Orwell, Burgess and Ballard. In fact it is full of the imagery we think of now as Ballardian: modern dystopias, bleak man-made landscapes and the psychological effects of technological, social or environmental developments. In light of current affairs world-wide, including the rise of terrorism, listening secret states and drone warfare – symptomatic variously of a serious challenge to the democracy we too often take for granted – a rereading of Warner’s book, as the point of departure for such an exhibition, could not be more timely.
The Aerodrome is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by Ikon and Modern Art Oxford, featuring essays by artists David Austen, George Shaw, Carrie Stanley and Ikon’s Director Jonathan Watkins.
Artists: Phillip Allen / Polly Apfelbaum / David Austen / Karla Black / Simon & Tom Bloor / Boyd & Evans / Marcel Broodthaers / Marcus Coates / Nathan Coley / Phil Collins / John Constable / Michael Craig-Martin / Abraham Cruzvillegas / Shezad Dawood / Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane / dRMM Architects / Alec Finlay / Anya Gallaccio / John Gerrard / Siobhán Hapaska / Roger Hiorns / Lonnie Holley / Thomas Houseago / Langlands & Bell / Elizabeth Magill / Aleksandra Mir / Jean-Luc Moulène / Paul Nash / Hayley Newman / Adrian Paci / Susan Philipsz / Paul Ramírez Jonas / Kristian Ryokan / Michael Sailstorfer / Jenny Saville / George Shaw / Michael Stanley / Linder Sterling / Graham Sutherland / Phoebe Unwin / Wolfgang Weileder / Cathy Wilkes / Stephen Willats / Keith Wilson / Richard Woods / Gilberto Zorio