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Anne Massey, curator.


Parallel of Art & Life

Parallel of Art & Life: The Independent Group

Exhibition, 27 March - 9 June 2013, ICA, London

To coincide with the 60th anniversary of the ground-breaking exhibition Parallel of Life & Art, this exhibition, co-curated by Professor Anne Massey presents original art works by the Independent Group.

The Independent Group met at the original ICA in Dover Street from 1952-5 and comprised architects Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling and Colin St John Wilson; artists Magda Cordell, Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, John McHale, Eduardo Paolozzi and William Turnbull; music producer Frank Cordell and writers Lawrence Alloway, Reyner Banham and Toni del Renzio. Celebrated today as the so-called Fathers of Pop, the Group worked with art, science, technology and popular culture. From horror films to theories of evolution, modern architecture to Marilyn Monroe, this group project worked beyond traditional boundaries and conventional disciplinary areas.

The exhibitions organised by the group – Growth & Form; Tomorrow’s Furniture; Parallel of Life & Art; Man, Machine & Motion and sections of This is Tomorrow – were highly innovative, both in terms of layout and the range of objects displayed. Building on the ICA’s Surrealist legacy, the Independent Group shows introduced the new age of modernity and mass culture to the gallery space. Reflecting the Group’s collage mentality, new technology and high end design were juxtaposed with avant-garde art.

Unlike other London venues, "none provided a foyer, a hearth which the artists and his audience can gather in unanimity, in fellowship, in mutual understanding and inspiration", stated Herbert Read in the exhibition catalogue 40 Years of Modern Art. Even before the Group was assembled by Assistant Director Dorothy Morland, members gravitated to the ICA as the only place to see and discuss modern art and modern culture. Hamilton, Paolozzi and Turnbull exhibited at the Dover Street inaugural exhibition, 1950: Aspects of British Art and continued their involvement throughout the 1950s and 1960s, curating a wide range of public exhibitions and events, underpinned by clandestine discussions and gatherings.

The ICA exhibition includes paintings, drawings and photographs by John McHale, Magda Cordell, Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi and Richard Hamilton, alongside related designed objects and ephemera from the Independent Group. Evoking the ICA’s original home in Dover Street in the 1950s, the exhibition was designed to give viewers a sense of ‘The Home of the Avant Garde’ which first attracted this collection of creative practitioners.

In addition the exhibition was accompanied by a two day conference which brought together leading researchers, practitioners and curators who are working on aspects of the Independent Group. The aim was to consider ways in which the Independent Group have been, and continue to be, exhibited. Participants shared their knowledge and approaches to this seminal moment in the history of British art and architecture at a very timely moment when the history of the Independent Group has come under increased scrutiny internationally.

Conference, 25-26 April 2013, ICA Cinema 1

Book two day ticket: £35 / £30 Concessions / £20 ICA Members / £15 Student ICA Members

Book single day ticket: £20 / £18 Concessions / £15 ICA Members / £10 ICA Student Members

This two day event will investigate the exhibition work of the Independent Group at the very institution which first fostered and encouraged the practice. Moreover, the conference will also consider ways in which the Independent Group have been, and continue to be, exhibited.

How can the Independent Group’s transdisciplinary practice best be understood and exhibited? The event follows on from last year’s event, BUNK: Celebrating 60 Years of the Independent Group which contributed to broader understanding of British art and architecture; the papers are to be published in a special issue of the Journal of Visual Culture Summer 2013.

The main aim of the conference is to bring together researchers, practitioners and curators who are working on aspects of the Independent Group, to share their knowledge and approaches to this seminal moment in the history of British visual culture. Although it only met between 1952-55, the issues explored by the members, including architects Alison and Peter Smithson, James Stirling and Colin St John Wilson; artists Magda Cordell, Richard Hamilton, Nigel Henderson, Eduardo Paolozzi, William Turnbull and Nigel Henderson and writers Lawrence Alloway, Reyner Banham and Toni del Renzio, continue to resonate today.

Many of the Independent Group members went on to work across and between disciplines. In addition, no fewer than seven exhibitions devoted to members of the Independent Group will be taking place, or are being planned, at the time of the conference. Therefore, the two day event represents the opportunity to share strategies, explore ideas, and explain decisions taken by exhibition curators. The history of the Independent Group has come under increased scrutiny internationally over the past ten years, and this sequel to last year’s event will provide an opportunity for researchers to meet and share their enthusiasm with each other and with a broader audience at the ICA.

In Conversation

Culture Now: The Foundations of the ICA

Tuesday 12 April 2013

1pm ICA Studio

Professor Anne Massey in conversation with Dr Ben Cranfield (Birkbeck College). Booking essential, £5 / Free to ICA Members

What is to write a history of an institution dedicated to the contemporary? What can be gained from writing-in the history of non-museal spaces that have been the sites for the formation and display of culture? Can and should such histories be written?

Sharing their experiences of working with the traces of the ICA's early history, Professor Anne Massey and Dr Ben Cranfield will discuss potentials, problems and possibilities of working with the ephemeral traces of the post-war obsession with capturing the fleeting and the now.

Anne Massey is Professor of Design at Middlesex University. Her writing on interior design includes Interior Design Since 1900 (Thames & Hudson, 3rd edition, 2008), Designing Liners: Interior Design Afloat (Routledge, 2006) and Chair (Reaktion, 2011). She is the founding editor of the academic journal Interiors: Design, Architecture, Culture, published by Berg since 2010. She has researched and lectured widely on the subject of the Independent Group, including The Independent Group: Modernism and Mass Culture, 1945-59 (Manchester University Press, 1995) and Out of the Ivory Tower: the Independent Group and Popular Culture (Manchester University Press, 2012).

Ben Cranfield is Director of the Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies and the MRes in Cultural Enquiry at Birkbeck, University of London. He is currently developing a book project, Chasing the Contemporary, investigating changing ideas concerning the relationship of art to technology, education and society in the post-war period through the lens of the ICA. This work will build on recent articles 'Between Consensus and Anxiety: Curating Transparency at the ICA of the 1950s' (Journal of Curatorial Studies, 2012), ‘Not another Museum’: the search for contemporary connection (Journal of Visual Culture, 2013 forthcoming) and 'Students, Artists and the ICA: the revolution within?' in Resurgence of the Sixties: The Continuing Relevance of the Cultural and Political Watershed (London and New York: Anthem Press, 2010). His work is concerned with questions of cultural memory, institutions, archives and curatorial form. In 2007-8 he curated the series 60 Years of Curating at the ICA, London and was contributing editor of How Soon is Now, the ICA’s 60th anniversary publication.

Thursday 25th April

New Voices: Research Students Present Their Work

10.00 Kevin Lotery (Harvard University)

10.20 Claudia Marfella (Kingston University)

10.40 Ann Pillar (University of Reading)
'Edward Wright (1912–1988) artist, designer, teacher

11.00 Elly Thomas (Slade School of Art)
‘Meccano Work’: Eduardo Paolozzi’s Kits

11.20 Coffee

11.40 Jessica Kelly (Middlesex University)
Exhibiting Differences: The Independent Group and the ICA

12.00 Hannah Durham (Architectural Association)

12.20 Giulia Smith (UCL)
Human Images by the Independent Group

12.40 Discussion

13.00 Lunch

14.00 Welcome and Introduction 
Matt Williams (ICA) and Hilary Robinson (Middlesex University) 

14.15 New Brutalism: Parallels of Life and Art
Ben Highmore (Sussex University)

14.45 Hammer Prints
Michelle Cotton (Firstsite, Colchester)

15.15 The Parallel Structures of the Curatorial
Ben Cranfield (Birkbeck College)

16.00 Refreshment Break

16.30 The Independent Group: A Transdisciplinary Approach
Alex Coles (University of Huddersfield)

Reception and Private View of The Independent Group: Parallel of Art & Life


Friday 26th April

10.00 Exhibiting This is Tomorrow
Nayia Yiakoumake (Whitechapel Art Gallery)

10.45 An Architect’s Response to This is Tomorrow
Juan Arribas (Sao Paolo)

11.30 Refreshment Break

12.00 Respect: The IG take on Francis Bacon
Martin Hammer (Kent University)


14.00 Sylvia Sleigh
Eleanor Clayton (Tate Liverpool)

14.15 William Turnbull
Clare Lilley (Yorkshire Sculpture Park)

14.30 Richard Hamilton
Mark Godfrey (Tate Modern)

14.45 Eduardo Paolozzi
(Pallant House Gallery, Chichester)

15.00 Refreshment Break

15.30 Hunstanton School and Parallel of Life & Art
Vicky Walsh (RCA) and Claire Zimmerman (Michigan University)

15.45 Exhibiting The Independent Group
Anne Massey (Middlesex University)

16.00 Round Table Discussion – Chaired by Professor Jon Bird, Middlesex University

17.00 Closing Remarks and Next Steps