Protest: Visual Autonomy

Victoria Miro stages a group exhibition by artists concerned with socio-political issues of their day, who question the status quo and the power structures found within societies, and who take the language of protest as a means to explore its potency. Inspired by Alice Neel’s 1936 painting Nazis Murder Jews, the exhibition draws together new and recent works by artists including Doug Aitken, Elmgreen & Dragset, Isaac Julien, Wangechi Mutu, Richard Prince and Sarah Sze amongst others.

Featured pieces serve as a call to action: they do not document protests, but instead promote a consideration of the possibilities for a life of freedom and an insistence on human rights. This exhibition has been realised in partnership with Reprieve, a small organisation of committed human rights defenders who provide free legal and investigative support to some of the world’s most vulnerable people.

Doug Aitken’s sculptural wall text Free, 2016, turns a ‘quick read’ into an endlessly shifting experience through elements of light and reflectivity; Ian Hamilton Finlay’s La Rèvolution est un Bloc, 1992, refers in content and form both to advances in secular democracy and social progress, and the bloodshed and unrest brought about by the French Revolution; and Yayoi Kusama’s enveloping sculpture Prisoner’s Door, 1994, places the viewer in a space defined equally by forces of containment and release.

Also on view is a new piece by Sarah Sze – a follow up to her recent Calendar Series, 2013. When elements of the work were rejected by censors ahead of its inclusion in a biennial in China, Sze created Calendar Series China Revision, 2015, applying strips of black acrylic paint to cover the content proscribed by the censors – all news references to China. For the show Protest, Sze represents the same New York Times covers, redacting all the written content except for references to China.

Exhibiting artists: Doug Aitken, Jules de Balincourt, Vlassis Caniaris, Elmgreen & Dragset, Ian Hamilton Finlay, Christian Holstad, Isaac Julien, Yayoi Kusama, Wangechi Mutu, Alice Neel, Chris Ofili, Richard Prince, Sarah Sze, Wolfgang Tillmans, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Kara Walker.

Protest, until 5 November, Gallery I, Victoria Miro, 16 Wharf Road, London, N1 7RW.

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1. Doug Aitken, Free, 2016. Courtesy of Victoria Miro.