Frieze New York 2016 | Spotlight: Mary Kelly

5 - 8 May 2016

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present a solo booth of Mary Kelly’s work in the Spotlight sector at Frieze New York 2016, juxtaposing unique work from the 1970s and 1980s. The presentation will highlight the artist's shift in focus from exploring the formation of the subject to investigating representations of women and the body. Regarded as one of the most significant conceptual artists working today, Kelly is known for her large-scale projects that address questions of sexuality, identity and historical memory.


Kelly first came to prominence with Post-Partum Document (1973-79), a sociological study of the intersubjective relationship between mother and child. Comprising 135 objects in six sections, the work provoked tabloid outrage when it was first exhibited at the ICA, London in 1976 for incorporating a selection of her son’s stained nappy liners within the installation. Post-Partum Document is now considered one of the most important feminist works of art to have been produced in the twentieth century. An original study for Post-Partum Document: Documentation I, Analysed Faecal Stains and Feeding Charts (1974), comprising a small group of the infamous nappies, will be on show at Frieze New York for the first time in a commercial context, recording the baby’s intake of solids between January and March 1974. 


Fort-Da (1974), another important work from this period, will also be on view, one of only a handful of photographic works the artist has ever produced. Taken literally from the point of view of the mother/artist, these photographs document the intense, physical intimacy between mother and child in a series of hand gestures that capture a moment of prelinguistic play around presence and absence. Kelly’s focused examination of the body-as-site also occurs in Antepartum (1973), an early, experimental film currently on show at the Whitney Museum, New York in the group exhibition Human Interest: Portraits from the Whitney Collection and at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London in her solo exhibition Early Work, 1973-76.


Whilst Kelly’s work from the 1970s highlight the heavily prescribed nature of motherhood, her projects in the 1980s interrogate the image and representations of women in relation to the body and aging. Kelly’s four-part installation Interim (1984-89) was the subject of a major solo exhibition at the New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York in 1990, subsequently described by Amelia Jones as ‘the single most important feminist artwork from the 1980s.’ At Frieze New York, Pippy Houldsworth Gallery will present Corpus, Preliminary Artwork (1984), comprising thirty collages that informed the production of Corpus (1984-85), the first section of Interim.


Each group of six panels in Corpus is named after one of the five passionate attitudes that psychiatrist Jean-Martin Charcot attributed to hysterical women in the late-nineteenth century. MenacéAppel, Supplication, Érotisme and Extase are represented by items of the artist’s clothing (a jacket, a handbag, a pair of shoes, black nightgown and a white embroidered dress) folded or tied three different ways, one to accompany each narrative. The texts are hand-written, first-person accounts which explore how older women experience the body both physically and psychically. In the preliminary artwork, black and white photographs are enhanced with chinagraph and significant words are highlighted in red acrylic, indicating a shift in focus from looking to listening.


Kelly’s work has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the ICA, London (1976 and 1993); Museum of Modern Art, Oxford (1977); Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge (1986); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1990); Vancouver Art Gallery (1991); Generali Foundation, Vienna (1998); Santa Monica Museum of Art (2001); Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2010); Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2011) and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2014). Kelly was represented in the 1991 and 2004 Whitney Biennials, Whitney Museum, New York; Documenta 12, Kassel, 2007 and the 2008 Biennale of Sydney. In 2015, she was awarded the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship.


Kelly’s work is included in numerous international collections, including Tate, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; New Museum, New York; Zurich Museum; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; MOCA, Los Angeles; Arts Council of Great Britain and Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, among many others.


In early 2016, noteworthy exhibitions include Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964-1979, Tate Britain, London; A Lesson in Sculpture with John Latham at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds; Human Interest, Whitney Museum, New York and States of Mind, Wellcome Collection, London. Kelly’s collaborative installation Women and Work: A Document on the Division of Labour in Industry (1973-75) will also be on show as part of the inaugural displays at the new Tate Modern, London opening 17 June 2016.


Kelly’s presentation at Frieze New York coincides with Mary Kelly: Early Work, 1973-76 at Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London.