The Aerodrome – An exhibition dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley

Ikon’s latest exhibition The Aerodrome – An exhibition dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley sees the work of over 40 artists sprawled throughout the building with art on show even before you reach the galleries. 

From the moment you enter reception you’re greeted with the smell of rubber and the spoken words of a David Bowie song.  

The reception area itself has undergone a makeover with what appears to be a sea of black rubber tubes representing clouds suspended from the ceiling courtesy of Michael Sailstorfer and the walls clad in a green cartoonish mock wood panelling by Richard Woods. 

The Aerodrome – An exhibition dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley sees the artists involved offer up works they felt best represented Stanley or pieces from shows he curated.

About: “This exhibition is dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley, Curator of Ikon before becoming Director of Milton Keynes Gallery and then Modern Art Oxford, who died tragically in 2012. Co curated with David Austen and George Shaw and structured loosely on Rex Warner’s 1941 wartime novel The Aerodrome, a book that made a great impression on Stanley, it includes many of the artists he worked with”. – Ikon’s website.

Wandering through the gallery spaces it’s not obvious what the overarching theme is, I’m not sure whether this is because I’m not familiar with Warner’s novel in which a brave new world is offered by the air force who have set up an aerodrome outside an English village. I believe Warner uses the book to attack totalitarianism and promote liberalism.

 There are some nods to planes via several artists including collage based work by Aleksandra Mir for example.

Grief and death are featured in works by Polly Apfelbaum and Anya Gallacio. I’ve come to expect large scale colourful installations such as ‘Waiting for the UFOs (a space set between a landscape and a bunch of flowers)’  from Apfelbaum but ‘Shades of White’ comprised of white sheets and beads. White is a symbol of mourning in some cultures.

Gallacio’s ‘preserve beauty’ made from 1300 red gerberas displayed behind a glass panel was originally produced in 1991 the installation has been reassembled on many occasions including 2003 when it received a Turner Prize nomination. Recreated for ‘The Aerodrome’ you’ll see over the course of the exhibition the artwork in various stages of decomposition.

Linder Sterling’s ‘Salt Shrine’ is another installation which has been recreated for this exhibition. Originally shown in 1998 Linder filled a disused school in Widnes with 42 tonnes of industrial salt. It seems quite fitting that this version which includes the crucifix from the original work is now on display at Ikon which itself is a converted Victorian school.

Best known for her stylised paintings of nude women such as ‘Strategy (South Face/Front Face/North Face)’ which was used for the cover of Holy Bible by Manic Street Preachers Jenny Saville’s ‘Portrait of Lola’ was my favourite artwork in the show. Saville’s work is normally in the vein of Lucian Freud however I was drawn to the minimalistic style of this portrait.

From Constable’s clouds to Jeremy Deller and Alan Kane’s skull motorcycle helmet the range of art on display show what broad tastes Stanley had, here’s a few of my favourites from the exhibition.

Whilst some would argue that the links to the ‘Aerodrome’ novel and the exhibition are somewhat tenuous it’s obvious there’s an outpouring of love and respect for Michael Stanley from the critically acclaimed artists here. 

This exhibition is both a celebration of Stanley’s life and of contemporary art.

The Aerodrome an exhibition dedicated to the memory of Michael Stanley is on until 8 September 2019 at Ikon.


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