Reply All at the Grosvenor Gallery developed from Brazilian PhD student Raphael Fonseca’s time at Manchester Metropolitan University. He was interested in the comparison between the art education in Brazil in relation to his time spent at MMU, and the exhibition was formed from his and Assistant Curator Nuria Lopez de la Oliva’s desire to create a dialogue between the two cultures, selecting MMU and Brazilian students to be shown together. Rather than have Brazilian artists’ work sit alongside MMU students, Raphael wanted to be experimental in his approach and so paired the participants in accordance with similarities in their own practice. Each pair would produce a new artwork based upon the virtual conversations exchanged prior to the exhibition. From what initially began as the pairing of two strangers miles apart, Reply All was a culmination of their correspondence and exchange of thoughts, feelings and creativity.
The exhibition focuses on how we communicate and interpret ideas and the central basis of Reply All is connecting people who may have not ever met to discuss art, with the exhibition only a temporality of these exchanges that we, the viewer, will never be aware of. It comprises twenty artists and ten artworks, each very diverse both in media and subject matter, ranging from discussions on photo books to Afro-Brazilian religions. On entering the gallery you first notice Nica Aquino and Luciana Miyuki’s piece which dominates the room and divides the gallery into two sections by using a strip of salt and water along the floor. The piece conveys a sense of fragility to it in its fibrous appearance in contrast to the rigid pillar from which it emanates. The piece explores interiors and how you interact with the space, questioning our existence within them. This is continued within Kasumi Dean and Julia Arbex’s work in its placement of individual pieces on different levels exploring perspective, with the large cardboard tubes mimicking the space’s architectural pillars. The piece also explores materiality and is a playful investigation of colour, material and surface. Samantha Evans and Cristina Nogueira, Leo Robinson and Tiago Sant’Ana and Laura-Anne Taylor and Raquel Nava conversely all explore identity and rituals of individuals and cultures. Situated diagonally opposite within the space they link the two divides together to what appears on the surface to be separate in contexts. Whilst the exhibition has a sense of separation to the individual pieces, there are subtle subtexts that link them together once you start to explore the dialogues that the artworks convey; this then results in a group dialogue rather than an isolated one contained to just the artist parings.
In a bold move all the artworks are left untitled so the focus is on solely the works themselves and how they communicate, rather than ‘answering to the demands of the art system’. Whilst some information on each of the artists would have been useful as they are widely unknown to the public, it would also have helped in understanding how the practices themselves link to one another. However through the omission of titles and artist information it allows the viewers to focus solely on the artwork as the object that communicates the ideas and ultimately what the artists want to say. It is this approach both to curation and to the actual formulation of the artwork which makes the exhibition so intriguing.
Claire Walker is a writer based in Wigan.
Image: Mollie Milton, unearth (2016), courtesy Grosvenor Gallery.
Reply All, Grosvenor Gallery, Manchester.
5 – 19 August 2016.