WE WILL BE CLOSED FOR THE CHRISTMAS HOLIDAYS FROM
FRIDAY 21st DECEMBER 2018
AND WE WILL REOPEN ON
WEDNESDAY 2nd JANUARY 2019
14th December 2018 - 8th February 2019
Monday to Friday 10-5pm | By appointment
& Advertised Weekends
“If you create the stage setting and it is grand, everyone who enters will play their part.” Morris Lapidus
“At the seaside there is always a tension between reality and artifice, the mundane and the fanciful, the everyday and the escape – and this liminality is part of the seaside’s genius” Jenny Steele
WHY BE EXOTIC IN PRIVATE? is Jenny Steele’s first solo exhibition in London. The exhibition relates to the performative nature of seaside holidaying and the stage set like atmosphere which this pleasure architecture creates. It is the result of her research into South Beach Miami’s 1930’s ‘Seaside Moderne’ architecture which was inspired by the long sweeping streamlined curves and details of ocean liners and the International Modernist style.
The interwar period was one of significant societal change. After the trauma of WW1 and the introduction of annual holidays in the U.K. and the U.S.A. there was a huge leisure boom. ‘Seaside Moderne’ architecture was built to create environments where people were permitted to enjoy themselves for a temporary period, to escape from the everyday. This new modern architecture echoed a new utopic vision of the future demonstrating the optimism of the 1930’s felt across many western countries.
Manufactured from swampland with imported trees and foliage, parrots and flamingos (none of which were indigenous to the area) the tropical paradise of South Beach Miami was seen as the ultimate holiday destination. Designed as another-worldly place it became a playground that would provide a backdrop for people to perform being at the seaside. During the 1970’s and 1980’s following years of neglect, many of the art deco buildings were restored by the newly formed Miami Design Preservation League. Like a phoenix from the ashes, a skyline emerged of streamlined pastel buildings which came together as an architectural masterpiece demonstrating the transformative power of colour, design and pattern.
Steele in WHY BE EXOTIC IN PRIVATE? has created a ‘mise-en-scene’, a total artwork. She has drawn on the architectural ideas of Morris Lapidus, who declared architecture as a movie set where the guest took on the role of an actor, and the artist Marc Camille Chaimowicz, who plays with the ideas of art, décor and domestic environments. Steele has carefully considered the fabric of the gallery as an integral part of her immersive artwork creating an exhibition which considers not only the surface of the walls but also the gallery's large windows. The walls have been painted in a pastel colour palette with paint from ‘Little Greene Paint Company’ and to frame the gallery’s large front windows a faux jungle of palms and foliage, printed by ‘The Graphical Tree’, have been installed. The window is reminiscent of the 1920’s staged tropical garden in Miami’s Lincoln Road Mall which you were not allowed to enter, you simply had to stand outside and gaze in at this exotic private world.
Four shaped panels have been installed into the gallery space suggesting temporary theatre sets with the front of each panel displaying a different wallpaper design. The shapes of the panels have been taken from the profiles of the ‘Seaside Moderne’ buildings themselves. The wallpaper consists of Steele’s hand pulled screen prints of graphic motifs and designs built up with layers of colour and placed into a repeat pattern. The reverse of each shaped panel reveals a restaged collection of Steele’s personal research including photography, postcards and historical memorabilia giving us a valuable insight into the social history of South Beach Miami.
Jenny Steele has successfully bought the exotic stage of Miami’s ‘Seaside Moderne’ architecture to London. Her work demonstrates a refined graphic sensibility and a sensitive use of colour. The way she works challenges the categorical divisions that exist between art, design and décor as she moves effortlessly between them. By exploring the formal and decorative aspects of architecture through the means of drawing, painting and printmaking she has developed a strong visual language that explores the very spaces between art, life and decoration.
ABOUT JENNY STEELE Jenny Steele is a Scottish artist who lives and works in Manchester, U.K. She has an MFA in Fine Art from Goldsmiths, University of London. Jenny’s work references 20th century architecture and interiors; particularly coastal mid-war modernist architecture and design. She is interested in the permanence of architecture and how it embodies changing governance and social history. Jenny has exhibited widely both in the U.K. and internationally. She has work in the collections of University of Dundee, The Lothian Council and Donna Karan Ltd, New York.
DETAILS FROM HAND PRINTED WALLPAPER