Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) Off-Site
1 Orchard Street
The Old Selfridges Hotel
September 13 - October 20
For the exhibition “A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s to Now,” various artists, musicians, and designers who contributed to London’s creative scene in the 1980s have curated over fifty vitrines that each embody the diverse picture of the DIY aesthetic of the era’s punk movement. The mode of the show’s display, though archival in form yet rebellious in content, allows its visitors to wander freely from one case to another, echoing this period’s dazzling network of influential people, whose place of encounter were often only clubs. The displayed objects range from films and documentary photographs to cutting-edge designs for clothes and accessories. In Latrine at Large, 2013, for example, DJ and artist Jeffrey Hinton includes a selection from his ongoing series “Alien Child Nests”—silhouettes cut out from transparencies and donned with wigs made of synthetic hair.
The incorporation of salvaged materials is seen elsewhere throughout the exhibition. Artist Nicola Tyson here exhibits photographs of the members of the craft collective the House of Beauty and Culture (1986–89). In his photographs, the collective is shown “mudlarking” on the shores of the Thames River in search of artifacts that would later sometimes be recycled in their own disciplinary projects. A synthesis of scavenging and craft is most evident, however, in designer Max Lamb’s vitrine, which juxtaposes the textures and materials of found objects with his discreet palm-size abstract sculptures.
Also included in the show are magazines and the independent catalogues that were crucial in defining the London scene in the early nineties, such as the inaugural issue of Frieze from 1991. These issues shed light on the beginnings of such phenomena as the YBAs, which embraced the progressive commodification of art in the years that followed. Part of the renowned Studio Voltaire, artists Phyllida Barlow, Spartacus Chetwynd, Elizabeth Price, and Jo Spence, among others, are represented by various untitled anthropomorphic artworks, which only further encourage the viewer’s exploration into this fertile territory between art and design laid out before them.