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A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s

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A decade of artworks from the 1990s is new Ikon exhibition
Contemporary art during the 1990s is the theme of a new exhibition to be shown at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham city centre. Entitled 'A Very Special Place: Ikon in the 1990s', the exhibition is to take place at the gallery in Brindleyplace from June 18 to August 30. The exhibition will feature 40 artists from the gallery's 1990s programme, comprising work by those who featured at Ikon's previous venue on John Bright Street from 1990 until 1997, and at Ikon's current premises in Brindleyplace until 1999. With Elizabeth Macgregor as the gallery's director, Ikon's outlook was increasingly international with a particular emphasis on the Americas and Australia. Ikon's programme during the decade of the '90s also featured a number of local artists associated with diaspora communities, including Permindar Kaur, Keith Piper and Donald Rodney.

Adam Chodzko, Ikon Gallery
Adan Chodzko's work, Nightvision, featured in the Ikon exhibition


The start of the decade saw Ikon organise Transcontinental, an exhibition curated by the late Guy Brett, featuring nine contemporary artists from Latin America. Other thematic group exhibitions followed, focusing on current affairs and issues that brought racial and sexual politics to the fore. Mothers (1990), curated by Angela Kingston, considered representations of parenting and the female body by artists including Felicity Allen; two related exhibitions Clean and Dirty (1994) offered perspectives on notions of purity, with reference to HIV/AIDS; and Self Evident (1995), showcased photography by Black artists including Birmingham-born Maxine Walker (whose exhibition UNTITLED runs concurrently at mac Birmingham, 24 May - 5 September 2021). Keith Piper was one of the founding members of the Blk Art Group, an association of Black British art students from the Midlands, that continued to show at Ikon following the group's major exhibition, The Pan-African Connection.

Mark Wallinger, Ikon Gallery
Mark Wallinger's 1993 creation, A Real Work of Art


Ikon's eclectic programme included Antony Gormley's popular exhibition Field for the British Isles (1995), a floor-based installation of 40,000 small clay figures. Ikon's presentation of Maquette for 'Iron Man' (1991) is timely in advance of the full-size sculpture being reinstalled in Victoria Square, prior to the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Installation works include Falling (1995) by Permindar Kaur, who had her first solo show at Ikon. Audiences are also encouraged to visit Shelagh Wakely's Rug for CBSO Centre, in situ at the centre on Berkley Street. During the 1990s Ikon continued to champion photography, film and video. Fragments (1990) is a deeply personal work by Vong Phaophanit, an artist from Laos, involving a slide projection of his family photographs presented over a wall filled with electric fans. By contrast, Graham Gussin's series of black and white photographs titled Surrendering 1, 2 and 3 (1994 - 5), show the artist's solo figure standing with hands raised in multiple landscapes.

Graham Gussin, Ikon Gallery
Graham Gussin in his Surrendering 1,2, 3 series


Entry to Ikon Gallery is free but people must book by visiting www.ikon-gallery.org
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Why? Exhibition of works marks a decade of Ikon Gallery in the 1990s
When: June 18 to August 30, 2021
Phone: 0121 248 0708
Where: Ikon Gallery, 1 Oozells Square, Brindleyplace, Birmingham B1 2HS
Cost: Free
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