Project was very proud to present the first Irish exhibition of the seminal Canadian artist’s group General Idea (1968 – 1995) in January 2006. Established by AA Bronson, Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal, for almost thirty years this group worked with wit, theoretical sophistication and formal flair to critique and challenge the norms of both high and low culture – earning them a place within the cannon of the late 20th Century avant-garde. The exhibition, made in collaboration with the group’s surviving member AA Bronson, brings together a unique selection of work including rarely seen material from the early 1970s. The exhibition combines the display of archival material and reconstructed artworks.
Project would like to thank the Arts Council of Ireland; the National Gallery of Canada Library and Archives, Ottawa, Canada; Dublin City Council/ Baile Atha Cliath; Shutters of Ireland, Dublin; AA Bronson and Fern Bayer.
Carefully selected key pieces from General Idea’s oeuvre were shown at Project in the gallery and foyer, on the poster site outside the building and distributed as mail art. For example, the minimal and elegant Luxon V.B. (1973) an early work in the form of a Venetian blind with mirror slats, was reconstructed and installed in the window at the front of the building.
This selected retrospective included rare and previously un-exhibited archival material, documenting General Idea’s early conceptual and performance-led practice at a time when the group worked in the context of experimental theatre. This provides a unique opportunity to see formative projects such as What Happened (1970) the group’s free flowing interpretation of Gertrude Stein’s play, which gave rise to the infamous Miss General Idea Pageants.
Also on display was the complete archive set of FILE Megazine (1972-89) which appropriates the format of LIFE magazine and became the main platform for the group’s ideas and numerous curatorial collaborations with other artists.
In the mid-1980s General Idea responded to the AIDS epidemic by focusing their practice on the semiotic and social implications of the disease and married this to a form of political activism. A classic work from this period is General Idea’s appropriation and conversion of Robert Indiana’s famous LOVE emblem into the AIDS acronym to produce a logo used both in the gallery and in the public domain. Perhaps their most well known work, the AIDS logo wallpaper is installed floor to ceiling in Project’s gallery creating a formal background to the presentation of the archive material, displayed in a structure designed by artist Anthony Gross.
A selection of GI early video works: Pilot (1977); Hot Property (1978/80) and Shut The Fuck Up (1985) were screened alongside unseen footage from Luxon Video (1973/74). Other aspects of the exhibition included a new multiple created by AA Bronson especially for Ireland, which were for sale, alongside artists multiples and publications from Art Metropole (a centre for the publishing and distribution of artist material set up by General Idea in 1974). There was also a programme of General Idea’s films at the Irish Film Institute. This exhibition, made in collaboration with the group’s surviving member AA Bronson, brings together a unique selection of work including rarely seen material from the early 1970s. The exhibition combined the display of archival material and reconstructed artworks.
AA Bronson currently works as a solo artist. His first independent work made after the death of Felix Partz and Jorge Zontal in 1994: Felix, June 5, 1994 (1994-99) is shown outside the gallery as a billboard. Later on during the show, Bronson produced a new artist’s edition especially for Ireland, based on Joseph Beuys’ Bruno Cora Tea (1974). This is exclusively for sale at Project for the duration of the show, alongside General Idea multiples and publications from Art Metropole, Toronto (a centre for publishing and distributing artists editions established in 1974 by General Idea).
The overall project was the result of extensive research by Paul O’ Neill and Grant Watson who co-curated the exhibition in consultation with General Idea’s remaining member AA Bronson.
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