In the Peaceful Dome

Bluecoat

October 13, 2017

October 13, 2017–March 25, 2018

Bluecoat
School Lane
Liverpool
L1 3BX

www.thebluecoat.org.uk
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Concluding Bluecoat’s 300th anniversary year, this exhibition brings together historic and contemporary art, new commissions and archival material, to set up conversations across time. It takes the idea of a continually evolving building—from charity school in the early 18th century, to the UK’s first arts centre—to look afresh at some of the art Bluecoat has presented, reinvigorating it by finding contemporary resonances. It considers how the past informs the future, explored through several themes: the building, its architecture and the passing of time; global trade and legacies of Empire; Modernism and fine and applied arts; gender and military conflict; and the gallery as a site for critical engagement. 
 
The exhibition features work by local, national and international artists. Highlights include:
 
Jacob Epstein’s Genesis, exhibited at Bluecoat in 1931 when almost 50,000 visitors paid sixpence each to see the controversial sculpture. Loaned from the Whitworth, it will remake its journey from Manchester, and be accompanied in the gallery by documentary material relating to its showing 86 years ago. 

–Alongside Genesis, Jo Stockham will revisit sculptures and prints first displayed at Bluecoat in 1990, a response to war and nuclear proliferation, informed by feminism and peace studies.    

–Work by the Sandon Studios Society, the pioneering arts group that established Bluecoat as an arts centre in 1907, including Edward Carter Preston, who showed with Picasso and Matisse in the 1911 Post-Impressionist exhibition at the venue, and developed a highly individual approach to landscape.

–Rarely seen and historically significant early Modernist paintings by another Sandon artist Roderick Bisson from the 1930s. 

–Applied art including an arts & crafts bookplate designed by Fanny Calder who was instrumental in securing the building for the arts in the early 20th century; and Julia Carter Preston’s distinctive “sgraffito” ceramics.

William C. Penn’s portraits of black men painted in Liverpool in the 1920s/30s; and contemporary artist Paul Clarkson’s portrait of the first black lord mayor in London in 1913, Pan-Africanist John Archer.

–Text works by poets Nathan Jones and Sean Borodale, Bluecoat resident letterpress studio Juniper Press, and Risograph prints by Sumuyya Khader presented on a wallpaper installation commissioned from The Grantchester Pottery.

Dan Coopey’s elegant “basket” objects created using archaic crafting methods. 

Joanne Masding’s installation continuing her ongoing critique of the museum and notions of cultural certainty.

–Film works by Uriel Orlow and Grace Ndiritu, a reclamation of colonial histories and reminder of Bluecoat’s philanthropic origins supported from maritime trade including Transatlantic slavery. 

Janet Hodgson’s film works exploring Bluecoat and the passing of time, shown with other printed, photographed and imagined representations of the building’s architecture by photographer John Davies, architect Edmund Tan and others.

The exhibition title is taken from a 1770 poem, Mount Pleasant, by Liverpool historian, poet and philanthropist William Roscoe, written when Bluecoat was a school providing succor in its “peaceful dome.” The exhibition sets out to highlight the dichotomy of arts institutions as accessible and welcoming but also as places that challenge and problematise.

With Bluecoat’s own history marked by an uneven engagement with modernism, and an improvisatory approach to arts programming, the exhibition also aims to provoke thinking about contemporary exhibition-making and its relationship to time, place and history.

Liverpool’s fortunes have changed dramatically over the past three centuries, and Bluecoat, undergoing profound change itself, has had a symbiotic relationship to the port: reflecting its economic fortunes and cultural shifts, connecting local and global, and developing a dynamic relationship with audiences. In the Peaceful Dome continues this reflection, through Bluecoat’s heritage and exhibitions, on both local history and the wider world.