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"Dorothy Cross: Sculpture, Installation, Performance, Photography and Film"
2005-06-03 until 2005-09-11
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Dublin, , IE

The first large-scale exhibition in this country of the work of the internationally-acclaimed Irish artist Dorothy Cross opens to the public at the Irish Museum of Modern Art on Friday 3 June 2005. The exhibition, entitled simply Dorothy Cross, comprises more than 40 works, including sculpture, installation, performance, photography and film, and covers the period from the late 1980s to date. A number of Cross’s iconic sculptures, such as, Amazon, 1988, and Virgin Shroud, 1993, are included alongside some of her best-known films, among them Eyemaker, 2000, and Jellyfish Lake, 2002. The exhibition is presented in association with THE IRISH TIMES.

In his foreword to the catalogue IMMA Director, Enrique Juncosa, the curator of the exhibition, describes Cross’s art as “a poetic amalgamation of found and constructed objects; sometimes humorous, sometimes disturbing, always intellectually stimulating and physically arresting”. The exhibition includes a key work from the 1980s, when Cross first came to public attention with a series of witty and inventive works in a variety of media exploring contemporary sexual and political mores. Shark Lady in a Ball Dress, 1988, brings together many of the elements central to Cross’s past and present work. The shark’s accentuated breasts and woven bronze dress serve to undermine its usual status as an archetype of aggression, while its upright stance has clear phallic undertones.

In the 1990s much of Cross’s work took the form of an extended series of sculptures using cured cowhide or stuffed snakes, again drawing on the symbolic associations of these materials to powerful effect. In one of the best-known of these works, Virgin Shroud, now in the Tate Collection, a life-size cowl - made using cow hide and her grandmother’s wedding veil - mimicks the form of a traditional statue of the Virgin Mary, its crown formed by four udders. Shuttlecock, 1993, Rugby Ball, 1994, and Croquet, 1994, all employ the same combination of unlikely subject matter and material. Another strand of Cross’s work in this period was her exploration of found or disused structures and their contents. Bible, 1995, makes use of an illustrated bible discovered in her family’s attic and retained until a use presented itself. In this case the artist carefully drilled an inch-and-a-half hole through the entire book. The fortuitous appearance of the hole in the quaint Victorian images providing a very contemporary comment on religious iconography in a modern secular society.

More recently, Cross has devoted much of her time to developing large-scale public events and projects, most notably in Ghostship, 1998, chosen for the prestigious Nissan Art Project, organised by the Irish Museum of Modern Art. This homage to the lightships which once encircled the Irish coast, took the form of a ship covered in luminous paint, which faded and glowed creating a breathtaking spectacle in Dublin Bay, and drawed large crowds of on-lookers for a three-week period in 1998. Among the films in the exhibition is Stabat Mater, 2005, documenting an event which took place in a disused slate quarry - now a Marian grotto - on Valentia Island, off the coast of Co Kerry, in 2004. Using the proscenium arch of the quarried cave, Cross produced with Opera Theatre Company a performance of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. As the music came to an end, it was replaced by the roar of industry accompanied by video images of the trinity that Cross had brought together in the work - nature, industry and religion.

Commenting on the exhibition Enrique Juncosa said, “We are delighted to present a comprehensive overview of this leading Irish artist’s work at IMMA, particularly given her long and successful association with the Museum, from early acquisitions to our Collection and the memorable Ghostship to her participation in the important Irish Art Now exhibition. The Dorothy Cross exhibition forms part of an important strand of programming at IMMA that aims to produce defining mid-term retrospectives of Irish artists of international repute. This series has already included shows by Kathy Prendergast and Willie Doherty.”

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