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Indepth Arts News:

"Re-Imagining Ireland: Irish Art Today"
2003-04-12 until 2003-06-08
University of Virginia Art Museum
Charlottesville, VA, USA

The tensions between tradition and modernity and their capacity to bring about change in Ireland’s sense of identity is the focus of a special exhibit, "Re-Imagining Ireland: Irish Art Today," which opens at the University of Virginia Art Museum. Curated by museum director Jill Hartz and Charlottesville-based sculptor Susan Bacik, "Irish Art Today" presents artistically and politically challenging works in a range of media by artists living and working in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The paintings, sculpture, photographs, prints, mixed media and video works are drawn primarily from the collection of the Irish Museum of Modern Art, with additional loans from Dublin galleries, artists and private collectors.

Jointly planned with the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities in conjunction with its major international conference," Re-Imagining Ireland" (May 7-10; re-imagining-ireland.org), the exhibition will be on view through Sunday, June 8.

The show includes pieces by such internationally known artists as Dorothy Cross, Willie Doherty, Alice Maher, Paul Seawright, and Kathy Prendergast. Their art spans the distance between the political and personal, often addressing the human consequences and adjustments in outlook that have, in the last 10 years, accompanied Ireland’s rapid economic growth and social change. The exhibit also includes works by Shane Cullen, Mary Donnelly, Francis Mark, Brian Kennedy, John Kindness, Mary Lohan, Caroline McCarthy, Janet Mullarney, Fionnuala Ni Chiosáin, Sydney Nolan, Paul Nugent, Eilis O’Connell, Geraldine O’Reilly and Michael O’Sullivanare.

One of the major highlights of the exhibition is Cullen’s text-based "Fragments sur les Institutions Republicain IV," an installation that re-presents the transcriptions of actual communiqués smuggled out of the Maze Prison during the hunger strike of the 1980s (the originals are now in the collection of the National Library of Ireland). In contrast to the tiny originals, "Fragments" is monumental in scale and intensely political, yet also contains intimate details from prisoners’ personal lives. This will be the premiere showing of the work on this side of the Atlantic.

Reflecting themes addressed in the VFH conference, the exhibition speaks to the tensions between tradition and modernity and demonstrates how tradition may be incorporated in a new sense of identity that is open to – while questioning the meanings of and thereby shaping – change. The exhibition will provide an exciting entry point to the international contemporary art scene, connecting what is happening in art with a culture to which many Americans trace their roots, while offering challenging perspectives on issues with which many citizens are vitally concerned.

Accompanying the exhibition is a full-color catalogue with essays by the curators and Declan McGonagle, director of the Dublin City Arts Centre and past IMMA director. Catherine Marshall, IMMA’s director of collections, provided biographies of the artists, and, with McGonagle, assisted the curators throughout the organization of the exhibition.

"Re-Imagining Ireland: Irish Art Today" received generous funding from the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities; the Cultural Relations Committee of Ireland; Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism, Dublin; Anne Lee Ueltschi Foundation; the FUNd at the Charlottesville-Albemarle Community Foundation; Irish Museum of Modern Art; Arts Enhancement Fund, Office of the Provost, University of Virginia; Office of the President, University of Virginia; and the Forum for Contemporary Thought, University of Virginia.

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