Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Open Project Gallery Crawl ~ Grand Union

The final stop on our self-proclaimed curation crawl was Grand Union, based within Minerva Works. There we met with Gallery Director and all-round-nice-lady Cheryl Jones to explore their current show A Small Hiccup. DEFINITELY is spelled wrong on the wall in huge type, grabbing my attention as my very own spelling nemesis. The exhibition approaches the idea that language could become diseased in some way and was curated by George Vasey. Cheryl explained that George, an MFA student from Goldsmiths, was picked for a guest curation slot, showing Grand Union's penchant for promoting fresh curatorial voices. The work in the show is a strange mix of stuff, possessing an intriguing quality yet feeling a little bit inaccessible in places, befitting the exhibition's theme. The show tips the audience into a linguistic meltdown of symbols and nonsensical digi-speak, suggesting words are mutating at an alarming rate to the point of being unrecognisable.

Cheryl also gives us a wee tour of Grand Union's studios, with holders including Stuart Whipps, Juneau Projects (designers of The Open Project gallery) & Matt Westbrook (see Berliningham above). There is an emphasis on playful art-making with a message here, as we hear about BAZ's colourful escapades such as Curate Me Out whilst standing in their very own bar. The spirit of the studios indicates hard work develops into good times.

One thing that continues to shine from Birmingham's Eastside is the bold printed matter, A Small Hiccup being accompanied by a newspaper designed by An Endless Supply. I feel this strong visual identity is key to drawing people from the mainstream public galleries of Birmingham City Centre into the more forward-thinking artist-led spaces of Digbeth. The strong stamp of typographic cool along with Grand Union's experimental programming gives the city some much-needed contemporary art credentials, creating an arena for anyone who finds themselves wondering what art is being made / shown in Birmingham and more importantly, why?

A huge thanks to everyone who took the time to show me and The Open Project team around today. It was fascinating to hear about what you do and, inevitably, compare you all for the good of accidentally aligning our own curatorial style somewhere along the way. Cheers.

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