From the MAO archive: Signs of the Times in 1990

Since 1966, Modern Art Oxford has hosted avant-garde artists, performances and art forms. In this third post in our #MAOarchive series we look back to a pioneering show in 1990.

At a time when video art remained marginalised in the art world, Signs of the Times was the first major exhibition of British sculpture and installation in video, slide-tape and film from the 1980s.

Cover page of the programme for Signs of the Times at Modern Art Oxford, 1990.

Referring to then head curator Chrissie Iles, one critic wrote: “The Museum of Modern Art Oxford must be the only public space to have on its staff a specialist in video and alternative media… I’m not a lover of video – rarely does an artist overcome the clutter of technology – but this selection is exemplary.” Scroll to see just a few from this exemplary selection.

Tina Keane, Escalator. Signs of the Times, installation view at Modern Art Oxford 1990 © Modern Art Oxford

Tina Keane’s Escalator featured a double ‘staircase’ of video monitors. Frames of people sleeping rough in the London Underground, ‘the city of broken spirits’, were split with shots of the wealthy City.

Judith Goddard, Electron – Television Circle. Signs of the Times, installation view at Modern Art Oxford 1990 © Modern Art Oxford

Judith Goddard’s Electron – Television Circle was originally sited on Dartmoor and was created in response to the landscape. Seven television monitors and a video recorder were arranged in a circle, open to the elements. To recreate the installation in the gallery, slides were used to reinvent the surrounding landscape.

Holly Warburton, Viridus. Signs of the Times, installation view at Modern Art Oxford 1990 © Modern Art Oxford

Holly Warburton’s Viridus took the form of a triptych combining sculpture and dissolve slide-tape. Taking inspiration from Greek mythology, she reconciled contrasting symbols to explore universal themes of life, death, and resurrection.

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