© Conrad Atkinson

Conrad Atkinson
1970 - 2007: Drawings, Prints, Collages, and Photographs

"It is the forging together of conceptualism and activism to art practice that distinguishes Atkinson's work and makes it such an important contribution to 20th century art history." (Lawrence Rinder, Dean of the California College of the Arts)

Conrad Atkinson, a British artist who has developed new strategies to integrate art and politics, will exhibit works on paper from the early 70's to the present. The continuity of Atkinson's work lies in his direct engagement and activist stance. Exploring social issues that relate to the tragedy of human suffering, Atkinson investigates war, corporate malfeasance, and the gap between the powerful and the impoverished everywhere. He does it not with didactic accusations but with a delicate and exquisite touch, as well as what was described by Art in America as "a wicked sense of humor."

Featured in the exhibition is Atkinson's new series based on Northern Ireland, "Some Wounds Healing; Some Birds Singing", which was exhibited at the Grand Opera House in Belfast in 2007. The exhibition will also include examples from his earlier work about the strife in Northern Ireland, which was censored in the 70's. The Belfast Media Group, who commissioned the new series, said, "What a pleasure then to host Atkinson's return to Belfast after a thirty-two year hiatus, during which his artistic star has ascended, and to be able to say 'sorry,' in the best way that you can to an artist, with a commission."

The exhibition conveys the variety of media that Atkinson has employed to explore his themes. Early works mimic the tools of political activism - photographs, posters, documentary material, text, and collages of everyday objects that serve as "evidence." Works from these seminal series relate to local strikes, industrial diseases, such as pneumoconiosis and mesothelioma, and the asbestos and thalidomide scandals. Atkinson's newspaper series, initiated in the 80's, uses humor to question how power determines meaning, the marginalization of art, and the debasement of culture. Many newspapers/magazines including "Art in America" and "The Guardian" have commissioned Atkinson to create special pages for them.

His later works, visually seductive, incorporate oblique themes that reference literature and art history. Landscapes that relate to the fragility of nature derive from the radical works of Wordsworth and the English romantic tradition. His depictions of landmines were exhibited in conjunction with his role as the official artist of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines (Vietnam Veterans Trust). As Distinguished Visiting Professor to the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2002, Atkinson deconstructed the wounds appearing in Medieval and Renaissance paintings, a commentary on the agony of reoccurring and present wars. The exhibition includes several portraits that span his career, both affectionate and biting, of well-known figures: Wordsworth, Gerry Adams, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush.

Atkinson, who divides his time between Britain and the United States, is Professor Emeritus of Art and Art History at the University of California at Davis and has been represented by the Feldman Gallery since 1979. His awards include a Churchill Fellowship and an honorary fellowship at Cumbria University. Museum collections include The Tate Gallery, the British Museum, The Museum of Modern Art, and the Australian National Gallery. A monograph, "Conrad Atkinson Landescapes", was published in 2006 by John Isaacs Books.

Exhibition: November 30 - December 22, 2007
Gallery hours: Tues-Sat 10 am - 6 pm

Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
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