TONY MORGAN: Some Films (and Videos) 1969-1973

9 December 2011 - 29 January 2012

In collaboration with Thomas Dane.

 

Richard Saltoun and Thomas Dane Gallery are pleased to present the first exhibition of British artist Tony Morgan (1938-2004) since his inaugural show at the Indica Gallery, Mason's Yard in 1966.

 

Morgan left England on foot for Rome at the age of 22, an act that he would retrospectively consider his first 'performance'. This was the start of a nomadic artistic life which took him to Paris, New York, Aachen, Munich, London and Amsterdam, with more sustained periods in Düsseldorf and Geneva.

 

Morgan experimented with most media and left behind a considerable oeuvre that merits revisiting. This particular exhibition will focus on Morgan's early film, video and photographic works, produced between 1969 and 1973. At its core is a previously unrealised installation of three of his structural films from that period. At the time, Morgan was invited by the Städlische Kunsthalle Düsseldorf to produce Between, a series of experimental exhibitions. He was equally involved in Aktionsraum, Munich, recently the subject of a survery at MUMOK, Vienna. These experiences led him to an intense exploration of process from which these films derive. Wall Slap, Paper Drop and Black Corner are projected in the original 16mm format, in a very deliberate configuration.

 

The exhibition will also include historic photographic material - some derived from Morgan's Book of Exercises, 1971, which is the fulcrum of much of his early thinking. Bringing together photography and text, the book attempts a taxonomy of activities according to their usefulness to the community: washing, transportation, housework, harvesting, versus private wealth, censorship, and the abuse of legal power.

 

It was during a visit to New York in 1972 with Rebecca Hor, that Morgan gave birth to his alter ego 'Herman Fame', identified as being indebted to Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground. His practice was re-routed toward a personal quest and a darker type of emotion. Herman was to accompany Morgan throughout the remainder of his career, with constant appearances in video, photography and performance in exhibitions from De Appel and the Stedelijk, to the Musée d'Ixelles under Harald Szeeman and most notably in Jean Christophe Amman's exhibition Transformer 1974.

 

The exhibition in Duke Street includes four of the key New York videos from 1973: Lash, a head shot of an androgynous Morgan bearing long eyelashes which he strokes to a koto melody; Volcano, in which he "blacks-up" and vomits white yoghurt words onto the TV screen; Smear in which he covers the TV screen with kisses (from the inside); and Shatter, in which a hammer "within" taps the surface of the screen until it breaks.

 

To foretell Morgan's later work, the exhibition will also include a rare set of oil drawings from 1993. These small, abstract monochromes echo the preoccupations of his first structural films.

 

A screening evening will be held from 18.30 to 20.30 on Tuesday 13th December at No. 3 Duke Street. On this occasion, two of Morgan's films will reveal his proximity to the Fluxus movement: Beefsteak - Resurrection (1968), a joint-production with Daniel Spoerri, reverses the story of a steak from the toilet to the birth of a calf. Düsseldorf Description (1970), features Morgan's contemporaries Blinky Palermo, Sigmar Polke, Gerhard Richter and Joseph Beuys. Other rare films by John Hilliard, David Dye, David Hall, Barry Flanagan and John Blake will be screened.

 

A small publication will accompany the exhibition and will include an essay by David Curtis.

 

This exhibition is a collaboration with Thomas Dane Gallery, under the guidance of Christine Serdaly-Morgan. With thanks to TMS Studio, Musée national d'art moderne - Centre Pompidou/Film, and the Fonds municipal d'art contemporain, Genevé.