Tuesday 2 June 2015

Review of Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn at the Whitechapel Gallery

Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn
Whitechapel Gallery, London
20 May – 19 July 2015

A darkened gallery filled with peculiar objects: ladders, signposts, a stuffed rat, cheese, coloured light bulbs, mirrors, a wardrobe on wheels. You could be forgiven for wondering whether you hadn’t perhaps wandered backstage at a theatre, rather than in to an exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery. But this is precisely the point. Corin Sworn’s exhibition is an installation piece Silent Sticks (2015) – about mistaken identity, and these objects are all based on stage props used by 16th-century travelling theatre troupes.

Sworn (b1976) is the fifth winner of the biannual Max Mara Art Prize for Women. She was selected by a panel of judges, which was chaired by Whitechapel Gallery director Iwona Blazwick and included gallerist Pilar Corrias, collector Candida Gertler, artist Runa Islam and curator and writer Lisa Le Feuvre. Based on her winning proposal, Sworn was awarded a six-month Italian residency, which she split between Rome, Naples and Venice. She used this time to meticulously research the 16th-century Italian Renaissance art form of the Commedia dell’arte, with its exaggerated expressions and gestures and tales of subterfuge and misrecognition at a time when rapid social and economic change were bringing about anxieties regarding status.

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