new-york

Susan MacWilliam

Jack the Pelican Presents

Artists who employ inherently intriguing subject matter set themselves a knotty challenge: how to avoid that fascination becoming the be-all and end-all of their work, leaving any individual twist looking superficial or superfluous next to its inspiration. The difficulty is most clearly discernable in “research art”—work made in direct response to its maker’s wonderstruck immersion in some (always colorful, frequently obscure, often historical) cultural artifact, incident, character, or site. The practice emerged concurrently with Conceptual art, but gained momentum in the bookish art of the 1990s via artists such as Tacita Dean and Simon Starling. Irish artist Susan MacWilliam, born in 1969, is not strictly part of this generation but her archive-based methodology is in tune with it, and she faces the same problem.

MacWilliam’s recent New York solo debut featured two video installations,

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