Critics’ Picks

Alice Maher, Mnemosyne, 2002, stainless steel, copper piping, condensing unit, corian, refrigeration gas, 72 x 41 x 34 1/2".


Alice Maher

Irish Museum of Modern Art
Royal Hospital Military Road Kilmainham
October 6 - February 3

In Alice Maher’s new two-screen digital film, Cassandra’s Necklace, 2012, a young woman roams a series of caverns. She seems simultaneously separate from these surroundings, and yet also strangely part of them: Her silver dress highlights the glitter in the rock formations, and in one scene she appears wearing a necklace of glistening animal tongues. In Greek mythology, Cassandra was cursed to speak the truth but never be believed. Commissioned by the Irish Museum of Modern Art for Maher’s midcareer retrospective, the film encapsulates many of the artist’s concerns: the dual nature of beauty (if visceral flesh can be simultaneously repellent and attractive); the meeting of myth and physical reality; and the nature of psychological memes as explored through material objects.

Elsewhere in this stunning exhibition, Mnemosyne, 2002, constantly re-creates itself: a bed of ice formed upon a cooling structure that draws and freezes moisture from the air. Mnemosyne was the mother of the nine Muses, and thus the glistening sculpture becomes a metaphor for the crystallization of inspiration into being, as fragile and delicately balanced as the process may be. Cell, 1991, which was originally created as a site-specific work for the historic Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, is a brooding ball of thorns, threatening to overcome its surroundings.

Sculpture, drawing, painting, installation, and film have been brilliantly brought together in one of the best exhibitions to have taken place at IMMA for some time. For an exploration into the human subconscious, and for a series of thought-provokingly brilliant works, “Alice Maher: Becoming” is a show to see again, and again.