Michelle Stuart at Alison Jacques Gallery



Alison Jacques’ current exhibition features work by American artist Michelle Stuart from 1967-2017. It is running until 28 July and spans 50 years of Stuart’s practice.

Since the 1970’s, Stuart has been a pioneer of non-traditional, often organic materials, creating works which deal with ideas of transformation, time and memory, drawing from the fields of archaeology, anthropology and history. Fascinated with Pre-Columbian cultures, the artist spent time in Mexico in the early 50s. She notably collaborated with Diego Rivera on the Teatro de los Insurgentes mural. Stuart’s prolific career has seen her experiment with site-specific installations often referred to as drawings ‘in the landscape’.

This exhibition follows a major presentation by Michelle Stuart in Viva Arte Viva! curated by Christine Macel at the 57th Venice Biennale (2017) and the acquisition by the Dia Art Foundation, New York of Stuart’s installation of 4 earth scrolls: Sayreville Strata Quartet (1976), which is currently on show at Dia:Beacon. Stuart is also included in Virginia Woolf: An Exhibition Inspired By Her Writings, curated by Laura Smith, formerly on display at Tate St Ives (10 February – 29 April) and currently on display at Pallant House Gallery (26 May – 16 September).

The Nature of Time references Stuart’s 1979 solo exhibition at ICA, London, Paper Works, curated by Sarah Kent, and includes two of the same works: Wind Book (1978) and San Juan Ermita de Chiquimula (1978). These pieces symbolically allude to diaries in the form of bound journals made from earth rubbings but without containing any words. Stuart experiments with smashing, rubbing and imprinting soil and rock into sheets of scroll-like paper. She drew significant inspiration from photographs of the surface of the moon. A rare example of this series, Moon (1969) is included in the exhibition alongside scroll works such as #6 Kingston (1973) and Sayreville Quarry (1976).

In the catalogue for the ICA, London exhibition, Stuart wrote “As the paper becomes worked, to me it feels like skin, the most delicate, soft and warmest of surfaces.” Lesser known bronze works which incorporate natural materials such as leaves and seeds are shown alongside more recent photographic grids. An 88 panel work, In the Beginning: Time and Dark Matter (2017) shows Stuart’s use of analog and digital photography, which has been her primary medium since 2009.

Image:  Wind Book, 1978, Earth and feather from site in Tikal Guatemala, muslin-mounted rag paper, 33 x 25.4 x 3.8 cm, 13 x 10 x 1 1/2 ins, © Michelle Stuart