Introspective is Gee Vaucher’s first major institutional show in the UK, and spans the artist’s career of more than forty years. It charts Vaucher’s journey from local activity to international ambition, from domestic concerns to world politics, and from healing the planet to healing the mind. Including collage, photography, photomontage, painting, sculpture, film, performance, typography, sound and installation, the imagery she creates ranges from the absurd and often comical to the harrowing. Her message spans the political and the personal, the environmental and the humanitarian.
Originating from the counterculture of the 1960s’, the importance of Vaucher’s work within the historical context of collage and photomontage practices as critique of the status quo is undeniable. However it is yet to be fully recognised by the mainstream. This exhibition redresses this imbalance, and where better than in Essex where Vaucher has spent most of her life.
Known primarily for her work with anarcho-pacifist punk band Crass (1977-1984), Vaucher is a cult figure who commands a great deal of respect for her political activism, alternative way of life, and skill as an artist. Introspective presents never-before seen footage of early 1960s’ performances in Colchester with avant-garde group EXIT, which would go on to form Crass. As well as brand new photographic and sound pieces that reflect on the changing city-scape of New York, where she spent formative years in the late 1970’s working as a political illustrator for publications like The New York Times and New York Magazine.
The exhibition reveals original material that would become the iconic record covers of the 1980’s, and political posters which have influenced countless activist artists. From the political assault on the masses to the psychological assault on the individual, recent paintings and drawings emulate the dismembering and disfiguring technique of collage resulting in grotesque bodies and faceless individuals. Part-dog, part-baby sculptures laugh back at us in-amongst other works dedicated to animal rights.
As well as rare and radical material from the artist’s archive, the exhibition focuses on a particular series of works and shows them in their most complete configuration to-date. Including her series of paintings Children (who have seen too much too soon). Complementing Vaucher’s work are a selection of original books and prints by Max Ernst from his series Une semaine de bonté. Both contextualisation the artist’s practice in the history of collage but crucially illustrating Ernst’s influence on Vaucher’s working method and its resulting form: the artist book.
Throughout her career, the book and its rudimentary template, the ‘zine’, have been defining formats for the outcomes of Vaucher’s various projects, providing her with the autonomy and control to produce and disseminate work through her own channels and on her own terms. From the DIY circulation of ‘International Anthem’ (1977 – 1983) to the most recent ‘A Week of Knots’ (2013 –) published through Vaucher’s own Exitstencil Press.