Grayson Perry: The MOST Specialest Relationship at Victoria Miro, London
September 15 – October 31, 2020
Inspired by his three-part documentary Grayson Perry’s Big American Roadtrip, broadcasted on Channel 4 in September, in which the artist travels across the US on a custom-built motorbike he designed especially for the journey, these new works explore some of the biggest cultural and political fault-lines in the country. Works respond to the programme’s themes and conversations as Perry spent time with different communities, from African-American businesspeople in Atlanta to farmers in Wisconsin, to understand how Americans today view issues of identity, race, money and class – and what might be done to overcome the divisions in their country (and in our own).
The exhibition is available to view by free timed ticket. Book your visit here.
‘If I think of American cultural power, the image that pops into my head is a huge Abstract Expressionist painting, a Cold War symbol of a self-confident land of the free. In those days New York was the white hot centre of the art world, now it is a hideously expensive liberal enclave. This tapestry is made up of layers that reflect some of the cultural and social archaeology of Manhattan. The deepest layer is made up of historic textiles from the many cultures that make up the modern city, American, African, Asian and European. A virtual patchwork of quilts, rugs, blankets, flags and sacks. On top of this is splurged a Jackson Pollock style abstract painting – a freewheeling gesture of macho cultural dominance. The outline map of Manhattan is on its side to fit in the landscape sweep of the Ab-Ex painting but also to ram home how phallic it appears, the subway map forming its pulsing veins and arteries. The final layer is a series of pasted collage labels that between them lay out the economic, social and cultural forces that maintain the glass floor under the affluent liberal elite.
I adore American culture and I love going on road trips through this vast land, preferably on a motorcycle. American Journey is a roadmap of American cultural icons I enjoy and I could list off the top of my head. They run from hyperstars like Elvis and Walt Disney to forgotten heroes like Cliff Vaughs and Ben Hardy who built the motorcycles ridden by Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper in Easy Rider. When I was filming my US TV documentary series one of my favourite encounters was with a Manhattan colour consultant and one of her clients. When I referred to them as members of the liberal elite the client said he hated that term. I said, “yeah, now you know how it feels for your group to have a negative label.” The Sacred Beliefs of The Liberal Elite is covered in little phrases that perhaps mock the pieties of his tribe: “Original Ideas are the product of Capitalist Scum!”, “This pot is made using 67% ethically sourced ideas”, “Hipsters Unite against conformity”.’Grayson Perry
Born in Chelmsford, Essex in 1960, Grayson Perry lives and works in London. Winner of the 2003 Turner Prize, he has exhibited in museums worldwide. Major institutional exhibitions in 2020 include The Pre-Therapy Years at The Holburne Museum, Bath, UK (on view until 3 January 2021), the first exhibition to survey works made by the artist between 1982 and 1994. Institutional venues for other recent national and international solo exhibitions include the Monnaie de Paris; Kiasma, Helsinki; The Serpentine Galleries, London; Arnolfini, Bristol; ARoS Aarhus Art Museum, Aarhus; Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Perry has also curated several major exhibitions, most recently the critically acclaimed 250th Summer Exhibition at London’s Royal Academy and The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman at the British Museum, London.
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