Home Architect “A Great Commission! Rochdale Art Gallery in the 1980s” at Touchstones Rochdale

“A Great Commission! Rochdale Art Gallery in the 1980s” at Touchstones Rochdale

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This survey traces the curatorial work undertaken by Jill Morgan and her all-female team – including Lubaina Himid, Sarah Edge and Maud Sulter – to develop a radical program of exhibitions at the Rochdale Art Gallery, a small publicly funded venue in the North West of England. known as touchstones. In a 1987 letter, Morgan said, “It is our policy to encourage new audiences for art. . . Changing the dominance of art by a middle-class white male audience and producer. A big order!”

Morgan’s socially engaged and community-focused program encouraged participation from women, black communities, people with disabilities and working class people, often in response to major socio-political issues such as the Troubles in Northern Ireland, the AIDS crisis, the British miners’ strike, anti-nuclear protests, racial tensions and riots in British cities. Along with her staff, Morgan regularly mounted new exhibitions of Rochdale’s permanent collection alongside contemporary works, a method echoed here in the juxtaposition of Joy Gregory with Vanessa Bell, Veronica Slater with Lancelot Myles Glasson and Jai Chuhan with Frances Hodgkins. . Ambitious in scope and scale, the exhibition features more than eighty artists – Chila Kumari Burman, Terry Atkinson, Claudette Johnson, Rita Keegan, Patsy Mullan, Ingrid Pollard, Veronica Slater and Keith Piper, among others – in four themed galleries. New commissions from Lubna Chowdhary, Sarah-Joy Ford and Jade Montserrat recall Morgan’s support of young artists, writers and curators, as does Donald Rodney’s recorded reconstruction Cataract1991, a reference to his 1990 “Critical” exhibition.

Curators Alice Correia and Derek Horton noted that the Rochdale scheme was pioneering, but not an exception in the 1980s. It was part of a network of local authority venues – along with Oldham Art Gallery and the Harris in Preston – which were considered provincial only in geographical terms, as they implemented the kind of radical and progressive shows and events often assumed to be the preserve. of their metropolitan neighbors to the south. A larger story is yet to be told about the interconnections between the show’s makers, artists, and curators who worked strategically and collaboratively to achieve their goals, but in the meantime, “A Tall Order” is more than enough as an exciting and exemplary case study.

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