I am delighted to exhibit new work by Alexander Massouras in a variety of media-
“The exhibition will include The Goldmine, a suite of nine etchings with gold leaf that comprise the latest instalment in a series of 120 etchings which the artist has been working on for the last ten years, which explore ideas of narrative, progress and beginnings.
These themes recur throughout the exhibition. Piercing (Hermes)
is a body of altered plaster casts of the Greek messenger god Hermes,
giving formal expression to the interventions and distortions which accompany messages, particularly over time.
Massouras’s Swingeing Cuts series a homage to Richard Hamilton’s Swingeing London series of painted screenprints on canvas, created almost fifty years ago. Massouras’s series repeats the medium and dimensions of Hamilton’s work, as well as its political melancholy. Hamilton’s image of Mick Jagger and Robert Fraser (Hamilton’s art dealer) was a response in part to the severity of sentences they received for drug offences. In sentencing Fraser, the judge took into account his privileged background to hold him to a higher standard—Fraser was the only person to serve a sentence.
Massouras’s images respond to the different context of anti-austerity unrest in 2010. An attack on the car of the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall arose alongside demonstrations against education funding cuts, rises in tuition fee caps, and the abolition of the Education Maintenance Allowance. Where Hamilton’s vehicle was an image of incarceration, this car insulates its passengers from the vicissitudes of the outside world. Massouras’s image also mimics its subject: bystanders threw white paint at the Prince’s car, a gesture that Massouras repeats through the creation of these works.
The Polaroid Etchings explore a mismatch between form and subject. In this series, the artist translates intaglio printmaking into the format of Polaroid 600 instant film. These works fuse photographic images with manual process, but here the relationship of technological reproducibility and natural singularity are inverted: it is the hand-made etching that has the capacity for duplication; the machine-made Polaroid is unique.
“We never really confront a text immediately, in all its freshness as a thing-in-itself. Rather, texts come before us as the always-already-read; we apprehend them through sedimented layers of previous interpretations.” Frederic Jameson (1981)
Massouras’s ‘Sculpture Paintings’ series draws from 1970s postcards of bronze sculptures. This process of mediation continues the representational tradition of ancient sculpture: to be known through copies, for example Roman marble copies of Greek bronzes, then plaster casts, lantern slides, and ultimately digital images. Painting the historically specific colour distortions associated with photography of the 1960s and 1970s lets the work evoke three aesthetic moments simultaneously: the contemporary moment of Massouras’s paintings; the period in which the photographs were taken; and the period of the sculptures themselves.
Alexander Massouras is Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at the Ruskin and combines art history with art practice. His work is in collections including the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum.
His current project, Casts and Iconoclasts: The Twentieth-century Plaster Cast and the Reproduction of Culture, considers the transformation of the plaster cast from a medium of canonic transmission into an autonomous art object. It uses the history of the plaster cast to throw new light on institutional and wider cultural shifts: attitudes to originality, relationships between art and art history, hierarchies of creativity, and reformulations of the idea of education.
Images courtesy Danny Loo The Goldmine@Danny_Loo