It was great to travel to Barnes today and catch up with Bruce McLean who I first met about 3 decades ago when I did an “artist’s placement” when I was a student at Winchester School of Art. Bruce selected a few things for a charity show I’m organising called Always On My Mind which takes place at Fitzrovia Gallery.
Bruce McLean studied at Glasgow School of Art from 1961 to 1963. From 1963 – 66 he attended St Martin’s School of Art, London, where he famously reacted against the formalist academic teaching of teachers such as Anthony Caro. In 1966 he abandoned conventional studio practice for impermanent sculptures made using materials such as water, along with performances of a generally satirical and subversive nature. In ‘Pose Work for Plinths I’ (1971; London, Tate), photographs record a performance in which McLean appeared in a variety of different positions on plinths to parody the poses of Henry Moore’s celebrated reclining figures. When in 1972 he was offered an exhibition at the Tate Gallery, he opted, with mocking intent, for a retrospective lasting only one day. He has continued to use humour to confront the pretensions of the art world and wider social issues such as the nature of bureaucracy and institutional politics. From the mid 1970s, while continuing to mount occasional performances, McLean turned increasingly to painting and most recently to ceramics. McLean has participated in many major international exhibitions since the 1960s, highlights include: When Attitudes Become Form, Kunsthalle, Bern (1969); Information, Museum of Modern Art, New York (1970); The British Avant Garde, New York Cultural Centre (1971); Documenta 6, Kassel (1977); Art in the Seventies, Venice Biennale (1980); A New Spirit in Painting, Royal Academy, London; Zeitgeist, Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin (1982); Documenta 7, Museum Fredericianum, Kassel (1982); Thought and Action, Laforet Museum, Tokyo (1983); The Critical Eye, Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven (1984); Out of Actions; Between Performance and the Object, 1949-79, 1985 he was awarded the John Moores Painting Prize. Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (1997); Bruce McLean and William Alsop, Two Chairs, Milton Keynes Gallery (2002) and Body and Void: Echoes of Moore in Contemporary Art, The Henry Moore Foundation, Hertfordshire (2014). First Site, Colchester (2014) and ‘A Hot Sunset and Shade Paintings’ Bernard Jacobson (2016). McLean’s work is in private and public collections around the world. In September 2023 Bruce is having a major show at The Cut (a rural arts centre in Halesworth, Suffolk)