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"Abracadabra: International Contempory Art"
1999-07-15 until 1999-09-26
UK United Kingdom
Abracadabra brings together an international selection of fifteen contemporary
artists who represent a particular spirit in art at this millennium's end. This spirit is
one of optimism and play, of fantasy and imagination, even of magic, as the title
suggests. Although none of the artists in this exhibition presents a heavy handed
social agenda, this dimension is explicit in some and implicit in others.
Another crucial characteristic which these artists share is that they address the
real world and everyday life, and their art is therefore further distinguished by its
combination of the real and the imaginative. This makes the work highly
approachable and engaging, in a number of instances literally so, where the artist
invites the visitor to participate directly.
The artists of Abracadabra share contemporary art's extremely open and
eclectic attitude to materials and techniques, inherited from Marcel Duchamp,
Dada, Surrealism and Pop Art. Works here range from video installations to
assemblages of real objects, environmental constructions, lifesize realistic
sculptures, tableaux of stuffed animals, real clothing, printed pages presented on a
huge scale, a bizarre board game, pictures made of chocolate and carnival debris,
and a functioning bar football table for two full teams of players.
Not the least unusual aspect of Abracadabra is its physical installation. Working
closely with both the curators and the artists, the architect Nick Coombe has
unprecedentedly opened up the Tate's exhibition galleries into a dramatic
continuous space. The design creates a stimulating, surprising and convivial
environment where the visitor is invited to make discoveries and share the
imaginary worlds of the artists.
Even the catalogue of Abracadabra is different. Centring on images, it captures
the immediacy of the work through the same use of invention, surprise and
provocation, and concludes with a highly amusing contribution by Matthew Higgs
in which he evokes, in lists of books and films and in an index transposed from
another publication, a parallel to the exhibition.