Raven Row, London

Stephen Willats
Control - Work 1962-1969

This is the first survey of work by Stephen Willats from the sixties. Willats (born and lives in London) was introduced to art as a teenage gallery assistant in 1958 and by 1962 was producing advanced artwork. He embraced the transdiscipli­n­arity of the time, juggling the roles of social scientist, engineer, designer and artist, and developed an art about social interaction, using models derived from cybernetics, the hybrid post-war science of communication.

As well as the clothing and furniture made in 1965 when he briefly described himself as a ‘conceptual designer’, Willats’ earliest sculptural series of ‘Manual Variables’ is haptic and interactive. These will be shown alongside early issues of Control, the still-operating magazine he founded in the same period. Its title is a provocation, invoking the cybernetic idea that people can take control of their environments, thereby deflecting the controls of a dominant hierarchy.

In 1968 Willats made an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art Oxford in which he presented constructions involving movement and light – some wall-mounted, others large-scale environments – that were informed by his interest in contemporary theories: about probability and prediction, behavioural science, subliminal advertising, and colour in relation to motivation and learning. The display of these at Raven Row will be based on the darkened maze in which they were installed at Oxford, where they were proposed as experimental stimuli for ‘states of consciousness’.

Willats’ works on paper from this period elegantly combine cybernetic modelling, architectural graphics and constructivist geometries, and are consistent with his practice of today. However, he abandoned his dynamic constructions at the end of the sixties in pursuit of an art of social interaction beyond gallery and art object, for which he became well-known. This exhibition reconvenes this earlier work for the first time.

With texts by Antony Hudek, Emily Pethick, Christabel Stewart and Andrew Wilson.

 

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STEPHEN WILLATS - CONTROL - WORK 1962-1969
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Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys
Fine Arts


Fine Arts
continues Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys’s playful and dystopic approach to depicting the human condition. The artist duo became watercolorists for the project, harping back to an early amateur pictorial tradition while basing their picture making on a range of quotidian and historical images culled from the Internet. Deadpan images of the banal and the fanciful accompany the grievous and the tragic, without comment. Nostalgia and innocence are dimly stirred and questioned. Although the genre of the watercolorist, and its association with pastoral and colonialist scenes, may be considered outdated, the contemporary mode of sourcing the images implies that these pictures might not be matters of the past. This book brings together the collection of over ninety watercolors in a glossy format reminiscent of a picture book or auction house catalogue.

Copublished with CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; MoMA PS1, New York; and Raven Row, London, on the occasion of the eponymous traveling exhibition in 2015.

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Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys - Fine Arts
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Běla KolářováBěla Kolářová

Běla Kolářová


Raven Row presents the first posthumous retrospective of the work of Czech artist Běla Kolářová (1923–2010). The show is both the first solo exhibition of the artist in the UK and the first major survey of her work outside the Czech Republic.

From her trademark ‘artificial negatives’, ‘light drawings’ and ‘derealised portraits’ to her assemblages and collages, Běla Kolářová pioneered an art based on intimate objects often associated with domesticity and the feminine. The works on display will span Kolářová’s career to include documentary photographs from the late fifties, camera-less experiments, ‘arranged photographs’ of objects and hair and assemblages from the sixties, as well as make-up drawings and assemblages from the seventies and eighties.

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Běla Kolářová - Raven Row
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