Assuming the roles of artistic producer, publisher, filmmaker, collaborator, curator, parade organizer and cultural archivist, Jeremy Deller is an artist working in constant search for a genuine dialogue with the public. His major works range from The Battle of Orgreave (An Injury to One is an Injury to All), 2004— a filmed re-enactment of a 1980’s miner’s strikes in the north of England, to It Is What It Is, 2009, in which—together with an Iraqi citizen, a U.S. soldier, and the remains of a car destroyed by a bomb in Baghdad—he toured the country. Deller’s most recent major project Sacrilege, 2012, is a to-scale inflatable replica of British pre-Neolithic monument Stonehenge.
For his second solo-exhibition at Gavin Brown’s enterprise, Deller presents a series of silk-screened posters bringing together a number of text-based ideas he has been working with in the last five years. Referencing a particular British cultural context, these works present a complex portrait of contemporary society with direct means. Along with his 1995 installation, “I Heart Melancholy”, Deller also presents two recent biopic films exploring the lives of British eccentrics, Adrian Street and Bruce Lacey.
Deller’s interest lies in the men’s lives - inseparable from their carnivalesque creativity and heroic contributions to British pop-culture - and how this butts up and meshes against society as a whole. Deller’s work takes joy in the extraordinary possibilities of everyday lives, what he has called ‘social surrealism’.
Adrian Street, born in a Welsh mining town, fled at the age of 16 to 1950’s London to pursue a career as a professional wrestler. While hanging out in bohemian London’s Soho district, with the likes of Francis Bacon and the Kray Twins’, he developed a cross-dressing persona that combined hyper-camp, glam-rock and post war pop culture with the macho attitude of his working class past. His increasingly exotic image took him to Florida where he now lives, still wrestling in his 70s and running an artisan business, producing bespoke costumes for the wrestling industry.
Bruce Lacey, now in his mid-eighties, has been an artist, performer and “silly-bugger” since the 1950’s. During this time he has worked with The Beatles, Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers and produced - or more aptly invented - numerous machines and automata, his most-prized of which, Rosa Bosom, won the ‘Alternative Miss World’ in 1985. Deller’s film, made in collaboration with director Nick Abrahams, attempts to chart the oddball happenings of Lacey and his family, whom he frequently involved in mysterious new-age performances.
Jeremy Deller’s Joy in People, organized by the Hayward Gallery, London, is currently on show at ICA Philadelphia and will tour to the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, MO in Spring 2013, (Feb 1 – April 28). Deller will present a solo exhibition at the British Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, 2013.
He studied art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art and the University of Sussex, and in 2004 won the Turner Prize. Monographic exhibitions include: Unconvention (1999, Centre for Visual Arts, Cardiff), After the Goldrush (2002, Wattis Institute, San Francisco), Folk Archive with Alan Kane (2004, Centre Pompidou, Paris and Barbican Art Gallery, London), Jeremy Deller (2005, Kunstverein, Munich), From One Revolution to Another (2008, Palais de Tokyo, Paris), It Is What It Is: Conversations About Iraq (2009, Creative Time and New Museum, New York, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, and Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago), and Processions (2009, Cornerhouse, Manchester).