When Richard Cox, the curator at Howard Gardens’s Gallery, proposed an exhibition from londonprintstudio my initial response was that there were at least two competing identities to choose from. There is the londonprintstudio with its long-term engagement in community-based art in West London, and the londonprintstudio that provides training and facilities for artists to develop and create work for a wide-range of audiences and outlets. Richard’s response ‘we would like the Agitpop studio’ shaped the development of this exhibition. But, in preference to presenting a thirty-five year retrospective of londonprintstudio’s projects and community activism, I opted to invite a small group of artists associated with the studio, whose work reflects the socially engaged practice, and issue based work, for which londonprintstudio, and its predecessor Paddington Printshop, are best known.
Taking Issue began with the idea that, during the second half of the twentieth century, two technologies dominated the political and cultural landscape of the Industrial West. One threatened Armageddon, the other brought the voices and sensibilities of diverse cultures together. The Atom Bomb and the recording disc disrupted social boundaries in unprecedented ways. Beatniks, the clergy and the labour movement found common cause against the former, while the latter entranced young white kids with the music of an older generation of America’s black rural and urban underclass. The post-war collapse of European Empires, and the growth of Civil Rights Movements, added further fuel to a new social environment; in which identity became politicised and the goal of transforming everyday life within communities displaced the abstract promise of an egalitarian future uniquely obtainable through the ‘struggle’ of organised labour.
Taking Issue seeks to reflect the changes and developments in artistic practice that have contributed to, and been shaped by this transformed, and transforming, social space. It includes work created over five decades; from the early documentation of the protest and music scenes of the early 60’s, to the work of artists who challenge notions of representation and identity today.
The exhibition has been made possible by the generous and enthusiastic support of the artists and their representatives: insert names, who have loaned their works freely, and to the wholehearted support of Richard Cox, who provided me with more than sufficient rope on which to hang all our reputations. My thanks are due to you all. I would also like to thank Vicky Smith, whose keen designer’s eye realised this catalogue from my rather vague instructions, Damon Taylor, who deftly summarises the work of each artist in the limited copy space that I allowed him, and Lizzy Stewart, who quietly brought the show together. If Taking Issue has shortcomings, they are entirely mine.
John Phillips, Director, londonprintstudio, London, 2010.