Explore some of the ways in which contemporary artists use materials and media in their work

NAMED AND GATED (2009/2009) by Karla BlackModern Art Oxford

Defining Materiality and Media  

Artistic media is diverse, ranging from painting, drawing, sculpture, installation, moving image, photography, text, performance, digital media, sound and other dematerialised approaches. Artists use contemporary visual technologies as a way of expressing ideas about life and society today. These sit alongside and in dialogue with contemporary artists who continue to work with older forms of media like painting, drawing, etching and printing. 

Concrete Poetry (1971/1972) by Various ArtistsModern Art Oxford

From Object to Ideas 

Modern art, that is to say the experimentations and innovations in art prompted by the development of the industrialised world, tended to privilege the manufactured, the physical, technically crafted, material form over matter.  Conceptual art, that is to say, art for which the idea or concept behind the work is more important than the physical object, emerged as an art movement from the 1960s.  Conceptual art developed as a critique of the material conventions of art in Modernism and aligned to the evolution of the Information Age - a period in human history characterised by the shift from traditional industry and manufacturing of goods, to an economy based on concepts and information computerisation.  

Poems 1958-1974 (1975-06-08/1975-07-20) by Carl AndreModern Art Oxford

Text, text, text

Modern Art Oxford's exhibitions in the 1970s reflected the current interest in conceptualism and demateralised approaches to making art, for example foregrounding text and language. Carl Andre's 1975 exhibition at Modern Art Oxford focused on his poems - which he considered to be of equal importance to his sculptures. 

Contemporary Art of Today: Materiality & Media (2017) by Modern Art OxfordModern Art Oxford

Have You Seen The Horizon Lately? (1997/1998) by Yoko OnoModern Art Oxford

Performance in the Gallery

Performance art has been a consistent feature of Modern Art Oxford's programme since the gallery was founded in 1965, from Joseph Beuys in 1974 to Yoko Ono in 1997 (pictured), Eva Kotatkova in 2013, up to the present day. 

Seminar with Joseph Beuys (1974/1974) by Joseph BeuysModern Art Oxford

Sean Rainbird, Director of The National Gallery of Ireland, discussed Beuys’ time in Britain and Ireland in the years following his dismissal from the Düsseldorf Art Academy in 1972.

A Storyteller's Inadequacy (2013/2014) by Eva KotatkovaModern Art Oxford

Working with a group of performers, Kotatkova created a series of tableaux - like a stage set - with each performer connected with an object to form a ‘living’ part of a sculpture.

Dog Kennel Hill Project: Choreography of An Argument Round A Table (2016/2016) by Dog Kennel Hill ProjectModern Art Oxford

An homage to Shelley Duvall’s legendary scene in The Shining, members of the public were invited to recreate this iconic moment, after which they became part of the looping performance.

Untitled (Titled) (2014/2014) by Barbara KrugerModern Art Oxford

Site Specific Work: Artworks for Oxford 

From 2000 onwards, Modern Art Oxford became known for commissioning new, site-specific installations and interventions in its gallery spaces. Some notable examples include Mike Nelson's 'Triple Bluff Canyon' in 2004, Anne Hardy's 'Field' in 2015, and this installation by Barbara Kruger in 2014. 

AN IMPATIENT CODE (2009/2009) by Karla BlackModern Art Oxford

Karla Black is interested in the psychological effects of form, scale and material and describes her approach as "a prioritisation of material experience over language".

NAMED AND GATED (2009/2009) by Karla BlackModern Art Oxford

Talking about her work in 2009, Karla Black said, "The large galleries at Modern Art Oxford will allow me to push the work into the full museum scale that it has been edging towards for the last few years. It can finally become what it really is".

FIELD (2016/2016) by Anne HardyModern Art Oxford

FIELD was an exhibition of major new work by British artist Anne Hardy. Hardy makes environments which incorporate sculptural installation, photography and audio.

FIELD (2016/2016) by Anne HardyModern Art Oxford

Anne Hardy created a series of landscapes – immersive environments, which she called ‘Fields’. Within the spaces, we encounter built structures, objects, colour fields of carpet and audio.

Swallow Hard: The Lancaster Dinner Service (2007/2007) by Lubaina HimidModern Art Oxford

Artist as activator

"I am not a painter in the strictest sense... I am a political strategist who uses a visual language to encourage conversation, argument, change..." These are the words of Lubaina Himid, an artist who is inspired by a range of sources from historic masquerades and theatre design, to weaving and textile production. Himid negotiates appropriation, storytelling, abstraction and influence by employing the principles of montage, over-painting and juxtaposition, using a range of media and materials.

Le Rodeur: The Lock & Le Rodeur: The Exchange (2017/2017) by Lubaina HimidModern Art Oxford

Freedom and Change (1984/1984) by Lubaina HimidModern Art Oxford

"Paintings are at the centre of the dialogues about art, they are the tool with which the artist can enter the arena of illusion and prophecy" - Lubaina Himid, 1991.

Credits: Story

Modern Art Oxford is an arts charity founded in 1965. It is a space for everyone to enjoy and experience contemporary art, for free. Every exhibition and event at Modern Art Oxford is supported financially by friends of the gallery and members of the public who help to safeguard our future by making regular donations. Without the support of these generous and committed individuals, we would be unable to produce these inspirational exhibitions, events and activities.

Modern Art Oxford is supported by Arts Council England and Oxford City Council.

The content provided in this series of exhibits and films is designed to provide helpful information on the subjects discussed. The exhibits and films are not designed to be used as complete analysis on these subjects. Images sourced for the exhibits and films are copyright to their respectful owners. Full credit information is listed in the details section linked to each image. Unless otherwise noted, the content provided is © Modern Art Oxford. All rights reserved. The content may not be copied in part or full without permission. Every effort has been made to trace copyright holders and to obtain their permission for the use of copyright material. Modern Art Oxford would be grateful to hear from any interested parties

Modern Art Oxford is a charity registered in the UK: 313035

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