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"A Vision of Modern Art in Memory of Dorothy Walker"
2004-02-25 until 2004-06-27
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin, , IE

A special exhibition in memory of the art critic, writer and founding IMMA Board member Dorothy Walker opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Wednesday 25 February 2004.  A Vision of Modern Art in Memory of Dorothy Walker comprises 26 works by artists whose practice Ms Walker particularly admired such as Louis le Brocquy, Mainie Jellett, Evie Hone, Camille Souter and Patrick Scott. Many of the works in the exhibition are selected from her own private collection and are shown alongside works by artists she was closely associated with throughout her career, including Jim Dine, Sean Scully, Barry Flanagan and Patrick Ireland. The exhibition also includes a bust of Dorothy Walker by Oisín Kelly.

The exhibition is, fittingly, curated by a fellow writer and art critic Ciarán Bennett, who has made Dorothy Walker’s time as an outstanding art critic, from 1968 to 1982, the focal point of the show. This period was associated not only with the birth of Modernism in Ireland, with which she was synonymous, but also with the emergence of architectural practices, such as Scott Tallon Walker, with whom she worked. These companies were an emblematic force for change in the relationship between architecture and art, working with artists such as Louis le Brocquy and Patrick Scott.

It was this adhoc group of vibrant and forward-looking artists and art lovers who initiated that seminal manifestation of contemporary art in Ireland — the ROSC exhibitions in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Bennett describes A Vision of Modern Art as being “a tribute to the art that surrounded Dorothy Walker during her life. The more I considered the various themes of her life, a perception of Dorothy as a critic became paramount, rather than the persona of the cultural ambassador for which she was latterly often better known. Her participation in projects such as ROSC and L’Imaginaire Irlandais in France in 1996, The Living Art exhibitions in Dublin and projects with Joseph Beuys and Christo, in both Dublin and Florida, helped to change ideas about visual art in this country.

Writing in the catalogue to the exhibition, the distinguished American art critic Donald Kuspit, sees Ms Walker’s collection as identifying with the Ireland it served, but also having an integrity that transcended any national identity. He views her collection and, by extension, the exhibition as an expression of her inner and outer self. Christo’s Wrapped Walkways, Project for St. Stephen’s Green Park, Dublin, and Patrick Ireland’s image of a large stone found at Newgrange “signify Walker’s extroverted Irish self – her outer shell, as it were. At the center of the circle are exquisite abstract paintings by Patrick Scott, Sean Scully, Charles Tyrrell, and Sarah Walker, along with Corban Walker’s minimalist sculpture. These signify the autonomous core of Walker’s self.”

The staging of the exhibition by the Irish Museum of Modern Art marks not only Ms Walker’s highly-effective advocacy of modern art in Ireland and Irish art internationally, but also her very significant association with the Museum itself. Since well before IMMA opened in 1991, she had worked unstintingly and enthusiastically for the establishment of such an institution. She was a member of the founding Board of the Museum, established in 1990, and acted as Interim Director on a voluntary basis prior to the appointment of Declan McGonagle. She continued to serve as a Board Member until her resignation due to ill health in January 2002. During that time her expert knowledge of the visual art world, her dedicated support of the Museum’s core philosophies and her tireless promotion of its activities worldwide proved invaluable to IMMA in its formative years.

The exhibition is presented as part of the Irish Visions Programme of St Patrick’s Festival. A catalogue, with essays by Donald Kuspit and Ciarán Bennett and a foreword by Enrique Juncosa, Director IMMA, accompanies the exhibition.

The exhibition continues until 27 June 2004.

Diana Michener
Bull’s Head, 1985 – 1986
photographic image
101 x 100 cm
Courtesy Diana Michener
Photo: Denis Mortell

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