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Mary Kelly preview

The Whitworth Art Gallery's spring blockbuster

Published on February 9th 2011.

Mary Kelly preview

From 19 February to 12 June, The Whitworth Gallery will be hosting the works of Mary Kelly. Titled ‘Mary Kelly: Project, 1973-2010’ the exhibition is the largest and most comprehensive collection of Kelly’s work ever to be presented internationally.

The ground floor of the gallery will be taken over by four decades of art confronting issues of sexuality, identity and historical memory. The American artist has had a profound influence on politically engaged art and the Whitworth exhibition gives visitors the chance to see a large number of these works under one roof.

A highlight of the exhibition is Post-Partum Document (1973-9). A work in six parts, it hasn’t been collectively shown in the UK for over 30 years making the Whitworth exhibition particularly special for art fans. Initially causing outrage for its display of stained nappy liners when it was exhibited at the ICA, it is sure to provoke a reaction once more. The piece will be shown alongside her later large-scale narrative installations Corpus (1984-5) and parts of Love Songs (2005-7) which trace Kelly’s enduring commitment to representations of women and their experiences.


These themes are echoed in Multi-Story House, made in collaboration with Ray Barrie, where a transparent structure is illuminated from its floor and short narratives about the legacy of the Women’s Movement are cut into the panels. Visitors are invited to walk around inside the structure as they read the dialogue.

Another collaboration with Barrie is Habitus (2010). Based on the Anderson Shelter from the Second World War, the exhibit displays texts relating to those born around after the war began which are legible only when looking into the mirrored floor of the piece. Other works focus on the wars in Iraq and Kosovo with some using musical scores to add to the sensory experience of Kelly’s artwork.

The exhibition will continue to blur the boundaries between the personal and the political and visitors are sure to gain a greater insight into themes of childhood, aging, social injustice and war.

Admission to the exhibition is free and open seven days a week. For a personal insight into the works then the gallery is hosting a day of speakers including Mary Kelly on 26 March. Tickets cost £25 (£12 for students/concessions) and include lunch and refreshments.

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