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Earlier this week in London, Whitechapel Gallery celebrated the fifth edition of the Max Mara Art Prize for Women—a biannual award supporting women artists in the UK since 2005—and presented a large-scale multimedia exhibition by world-renown, Glasglow-based artist Corin Sworn.
“The Max Mara Art Prize for Women in collaboration with the Whitechapel Gallery nurtures the creative talent of the next generation of female artists. In this fast-paced world we offer the gift of time in which to make a new work of art,” said Max Mara Chairman Luigi Maramotti.
Sworn proposed her submission to a judging panel including Whitechapel Gallery Director Iwona Blazwick, gallerist Pilar Corrias, collector Candida Gertler, artist Runa Islam, and curator and writer Lisa Le Feuvre.
“For the fifth edition of the Prize, we are presenting the culmination of Corin Sworn’s research from her residency, which gave her an opportunity to sample the culture and fascinating history of theater in Italy,” said Blazwick. “Sworn’s thorough exploration of la commedia and its complex impact on contemporary culture is original and fascinating. Her sensitive eye and intelligent interpretation and theatrical devices and scenography has been transformed into an arresting and complex visual installation, which will take us on a memorable journey.”
The artist was awarded a six month residency in Italy divided between Rome, Naples, and Venice, to spend time immersing herself in each cities’ culture, and she chose to thereafter study traditional plays, their important architectural sites, and their incredible, ancient storylines.
Based off of 16th-century theater comedy, Sworn’s exhibition touches on the tales within Commedia dell’Arte, where most characters, storylines, expressions, and gestures are exaggerated. It is from these exaggerations that many artists and writers—such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Goys, and Picasso—have, for hundreds of years, gained great creative influence.
Sworn’s interests of frequent mistaken identity in early theater (women dressed as men, masters dressed as servants, lords dressed as beggars) allows her to also point out their social freedoms, mobility, misrecognition, and the overall social instability.
A collection of handmade props and costumes, derived from the text Scenarios of the Commedia Dell’Arte by Flaminio Scala, is coupled with fragments of sound and video for a collaborative, theatrical installation. Sworn’s research on clothing during that time led her to her own sketches, which were then carried into Max Mara’s fashion house headquarters in Reggio Emiliar, Italy, and are now on view in this show.
“From Rome to Venice, Corin has been inspired by the legacy of the Commedia dell’Arte in Italian cultural life, and we are honored to help bring this artist’s vision to life and also create hamdmade costumes from our fashion house. We look forward to seeing this new commission at the Whitechapel Gallery and sharing this with audiences in Italy and at the Collezione Maramotti,” concluded Maramotti.
“Max Mara Art Prize for Women: Corin Sworn” will be on view until July 19, 2015, and will continue at the Collezione Maramotti, Reggio Emilia on October 3, 2015.