This May the Grundy Art Gallery unveils its latest exhibition Mark Leckey:This Kolossal Kat, That Massive MOG, centring on the artist’s interest in the first broadcast image: Felix the Cat.
At its core will be a major new art installation by Leckey which has been commissioned by the Arts Council Collection to mark its 70th anniversary this year. Inspired by a found photograph of an actor wearing a Mickey Mouse costume at Disneyland, Leckey’s new work, FEELINTHECAT, will invite viewers to walk inside a giant cardboard speaker fashioned roughly in the shape of Felix’s head, where they will watch a video involving the artist and Felix.
The exhibitionwill see a profusion of images of the black and white feline in artworks includingInflatable Felix (2013) a giant blow-up version, as well as earlier video pieces such Felix Gets Broadcasted(2007) and Flix(2008), a 16mm film animation of the cat's tail.
As its first image, Felix can be considered a motif or avatar for broadcasting itself—the original avatar in now an endless sea where everyone projects a version of themselves online. Through his artwork, the image of Felix has also become an avatar for the artist. The idea of actually turning into a cat is something that for Leckey incites both fear and desire: the fear of humiliation at becoming an animal against his will, and desire for the loss of pride and the spiritual awakening that might accompany it. FEELINTHECAT further adds to this by recalling the subculture of "furries," or "furry fandom," in which participants dress up in furry costumes taking on hybrid human-animal-cartoon characteristics.
Blackpool is an appropriate stage for an exhibition about Felix the Cat and the moment when broadcasting began. A town in the North West of England steeped in references to popular entertainment and mass media, where Disney once designed its famous "Illuminations," it is a town of notable firsts—outdoor street lighting, electric trams, and the archetypal mass tourism resort for the working class.
Visitors will also be able to see Leckey's seminal film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore(1999). The film shows archival footage of British nightlife from the late 1960s to the early 1990s and links to Blackpool's prominent role in the history of Northern Soul: an underground music and dance movement that was particularly active in venues such as the Blackpool Mecca.
Mark Leckey (b. Birkenhead, 1964) has exhibited extensively at numerous venues internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include at Haus dear Kunst, Munich, Germany (2015); WIELS Contemporary Art Center, Brussels, Belgium (2014); Manchester Art Gallery, UK (2012); and Serpentine Gallery, London (2011). His curated show for Hayward Touring The Universal Addressability of Dumb Things launched at the Bluecoat, Liverpool in 2013 before touring to venues across the UK. In 2008 Leckey was awarded the Turner Prize for Industrial Light and Magic. A further new commission of his work will be shown at the Liverpool Biennial 2016, and he will undertake a major solo exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art MoMA PS1 in New York later in the year.
Mark Leckey is represented by Cabinet, London; Galerie Buchholz, Cologne, Germany; and Gavin Brown's Enterprise, New York.
Grundy Art Galleryis Blackpool's art gallery and offers a year round programme of contemporary and visual art exhibitions and events including solo and group exhibitions together with talks, workshops and educational activities. Grundy Art Gallery is part of Blackpool Council and also receives regular funding as one of Arts Council England's National Portfolio Organisations.
Also showing at the gallery will be From Here to Here; An Exhibition in Two Parts by Louise Giovanelli (b. London, 1993), in which the painter responds to the Grundy's permanent collection. Part One runs May 14–June 18 and Part Two July 2–August 13. Noel Clueit's (b. Manchester, 1984) exhibition : / runs until May 28, where the artist re-purposes sections of the gallery's display apparatus to new ends.