Amazing Rayday (circa 1960). Hand-coloured paper collage with watercolor and gouache © Jeff Keen
Amazing Rayday (circa 1960). Hand-coloured paper collage with watercolor and gouache © Jeff Keen

Shoot the Wrx – Jeff Keen by Jamie Wyld


27 November 2012

Brighton Museum and Art Gallery’s Fine art and print galleries have been taken over by a feast of Jeff Keen’s mind-blazing art, in a retrospective of his life’s work - Shoot the Wrx - on until February 2013. Collages, prints, paintings, films, books and found objects in the galleries attest to the uniqueness of one of the UK’s true experimental visionaries.

Keen working on large scale drawing (circa 1990) © Jeff Keen
Keen working on large scale drawing (circa 1990) © Jeff Keen

Keen’s paintings sizzle and gurgle with life on the walls, writing in print and paint swerves across card and board, picking and pointing out collaged words and images from magazines. Drawings, prints and burnt books sit inside glass cabinets, defying touch, but drawing the gaze, inviting other senses.

The exhibition shows less of the film work Keen is best known for, but instead offers a rich review of his love of making, in many forms and formats – the comic strip, paintings, prints and book art, as well as some of his well known film works, such as RayDay. Large-scale cardboard artworks hang from the ceilings, with rich colours, burn holes and shiny wax glistening. Keen’s hero character, Dr Gaz, appears throughout the work, manifesting in film and other media.

There is no way I’m told to describe how prolific Keen was (except what I’ve seen on film), but the show at Brighton Museum gives a good glimpse of the deep relationship he had with creating, his affection for American popular culture and his disinterest in being part of the cultural mainstream. It is an arresting show that needs time, though the urge to run around and see everything at speed kept gripping me, much like wanting to see the show as one of Keen’s films, with rip-roaring energy and fast-pacedness.

Complementing Shoot the Wrx, Lighthouse is showing two screenings of Keen’s experiments with video, some of which has not been shown in public before. Furious and brilliant, the videos are exemplars of the beginnings of experimentation with video as a medium in the 90s; handled, scratched, videoed off screen and reworked, they are visually dazzling and absorbing. The two screenings will be shown 28 and 29 November, with introductions by Keen’s long-time collaborator and curator of the programmes, Damian Toal.

For more details about the screenings and to book: www.lighthouse.org.uk/programme/cinecity-at-lighthouse

Shoot the Wrx is on at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery: 27 October 2012 to 24 February 2013
Details for Shoot the Wrx exhibition at Brighton Museum and Art Gallery: is.gd/ShoottheWrx


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