Mary Kelly: Early Work, 1973-76

15 April - 28 May 2016 Main Space

Pippy Houldsworth Gallery is delighted to present a selection of early work from the 1970s by renowned artist Mary Kelly, running from 15 April to 28 May 2016. The exhibition includes unseen prototypes, original material, photographs and experimental film directly related to the production of Kelly’s iconic Post-Partum Document (1973-79), now considered one of the most important feminist works of art to have been produced in the twentieth century.


Comprising 135 objects in six sections, Post-Partum Document (1973-79) interrogates the social and psychological processes that shape the mother-child relationship. When first exhibited in London in her solo exhibition at the ICA in 1976, the work provoked tabloid outrage for incorporating a series of stained nappy liners.


Post-Partum Document: Documentation II, Analysed Utterances and Related Speech Events (second version) (1975/2016) deals specifically with the mother's role in the child’s acquisition of language, tracking her son’s transition from single-word utterances to patterned speech. The work includes index cards which were used as first drafts for the original Documentation II, complete with revisions and amendments made in pencil by the artist prior to making the final version.


An original prototype for Post-Partum Document: DocumentationIV, Transitional Objects, Diary and Diagram  (1976/2015) will also be exhibited in the show. In this section, fragments of the child’s comforter and plaster casts of his hand, both of which constitute part of the mother’s memorabilia, are used to mark a particular moment of separation and loss. Recorded at irregular intervals between January and May 1976, Kelly typed diary narratives directly onto the fragments of cotton, revealing not only her personal anxiety as a mother, but also the universal significance of maternal subjectivity in the formation of identity.


Taken literally from the mother’s point of view, an early photographic work, Fort-Da (1974), documents 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 preoccupation with the construction of feminine identity in language is evident in Antepartum (1973). Originally filmed in Super 8, it was the first of her many project based works on this theme. In the 1970s, Kelly was among a group of artists in London who, influenced by the experimental film movement, were using the camera to explore the body as site. Notions of real time and duration were central to this exploration as Antepartum’s repetitive movement demonstrates.





The show coincides with two major UK institutions exhibiting sections of Post-Partum Document. Tate Britain will be including Post-Partum Document: Documentation III (1975), from their own collection, as part of the forthcoming show Conceptual Art in Britain: 1964-1979 from April to August 2016. The Wellcome Collection, London is exhibiting Post-Partum Document: Documentation VI (1978), from the Arts Council Collection, as part of States of Mind until mid October 2016.


Kelly’s An Earthwork Performed (1970), a rarely exhibited work which has not been seen in the UK since 1970, features in A Lesson in Sculpture with John Latham at the Henry Moore Institute, Leeds from 24 March to 19 June 2016.


Pippy Houldsworth Gallery will exhibit a solo presentation of Kelly’s work from the 1980s at Frieze New York in May 2016. Specifically, the gallery will be showing a selection of works from the first section of Kelly’s four-part installation Interim (1984-89) alongside preliminary collages drawn from the artist’s archive. Significantly, this will be the first occasion that the final installation has been presented together with the preparatory material.


Kelly’s work has been the subject of major solo exhibitions at the ICA, London (1976 and 1993); New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York (1990); Generali Foundation, Vienna (1998); Santa Monica Museumof Art (2001); Center for Contemporary Art, Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw (2008); Moderna Museet, Stockholm (2010);Mary Kelly: Projects, 1973-2010, Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester (2011) and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London (2014). Kelly was represented in the 1991 and 2004 Whitney Biennials, 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 the Art Gallery of Ontario; Arts Council of Great Britain; Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; LACMA, Los Angeles; Moderna Museet, Stockholm; New Museum, New York; Tate, London; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and Zurich Museum, amongst many others.