Private View: Friday 18 August 2006, 6:30PM to 8:30PM

Exhibition Run: 18 August 2006 - 22 September 2006

Curated by Tirdad Zolghadr and Meg Cranston

The second exhibition in Cubitt’s series One and One and One is Three: Three Shows About the Group Show*, The Wonder and the Horror of the Human Head reconstructs and re-imagines a 1953 group exhibition held at the ICA, London, organized by the artist Roland Penrose and designed by the artist Richard Hamilton, with a catalogue by critic Herbert Read. Themed — like Penrose’s original show — on the human head, Tirdad Zolghadr and Meg Cranston’s skewed cover-version features an array of cephalic material from across time and space, from African masks to contemporary works by John Baldessari and Cranston herself.

Curator’s Statement:

“Our project is a partial reconstruction of a group exhibition at the London ICA in 1953. Wonder and Horror of the Human Head was essentially a collection of visual studies of the head, which was reconstructed by artist Meg Cranston at the 4F gallery in LA, May 2006. Typically for Cranston’s practice, which persistently redefines the creative function of the curator as well as curatorial strategies among artists, her staging of the ICA show is hard to classify as an occurrence. Many works on display were her own, or those of other US-based artists, or made in collaboration with various practitioners, while other pieces were (quasi-)ethnographic findings – underlining the fact that the London event was itself organized by artist (and ICA Director) Roland Penrose, designed by artist Richard Hamilton, and held at the artist-run ICA. For Cubitt, Cranston will assemble pieces in London to combine them with contributions from the recent LA rendition. To reconstruct a reconstruction in this manner is not only to reexamine what is structurally integral to a group show, but also to stage a foray into questions of adaptation, travel and, above all, art-historical testimony.

It bears mentioning that the Cubitt invitation suggests each curator pick precisely three artists. I initially decided to embrace the mandate by overidentifying, and resolving to find a Christological triptych of watertight dialectic coherence. Unfortunately, however, no clear-cut Hegelian marching order seemed to do justice to the offhand appeal of Cubitt curator Tom Morton’s proposal. What is a group show — let’s find the degree zero and take it from there. Typically for overidentification, strategic or not, I was running the risk of missing the innovative possibilities at hand. Morton was hoping to go beyond conventional impulses, not deepen Pavlovian reactions. Arguably, Meg Cranston’s project was asking similar questions with similarly offhand, understated intelligence. But it also brilliantly messed with authorship, and pointed to a disregarded history of artists working as curators, or, if you will, of curators as something other than selectors occasionally permitting artists to futz around with the rules of the game in creative little ways.

In short, we suggest that the triad here is Meg Cranston, Richard Hamilton and Roland Penrose. As Cranston has pointed out, these are three practitioners who have frequently used other artists’ and designers’ work in their projects. Here, Penrose construed the concept and catalogue, and selected various objects abundantly displayed in the show, Hamilton’s contribution is the installation design, while Cranston’s is the reconfiguration of the above into a new installation. The advantage of our situation is that other trios are also feasible, but among all possibilities, the above constellation seems the least unreasonable.”
— Tirdad Zolghadr.


Tirdad Zolghadr is a freelance critic and curator based in Zurich. He was co-curator of the Sharjah Biennial 2005 and is a frequent contributor to frieze.

Meg Cranston is an artist based in Venice, California. Her recent projects include ‘100 Artists See God’, a travelling group exhibition co-curated with John Baldessari.

*The Wonder and The Horror of the Human Head is part of One and One and One is Three, a series of three guest-curated group shows, premised on the idea that the smallest number of works – and the smallest number of artists – needed to make up a group show is three. Importantly, the three guest curators of the series are all figures known for working on exhibitions and biennales that feature many tens, if not hundreds, of artists and works. These curators are: Alex Farquharson, Tirdad Zolghadr, and Le Consortium, Dijon (Xavier Douroux, Franck Gautherot and Eric Troncy).

Cubitt curator Tom Morton has invited these guest curators to each select three works, each of them by a different artist, for a show that will run for three weeks. No other stipulations were given, and the guest curators were free to title and theme their shows as they wished.

In a sense, One and One and One is Three is a response to the current preoccupation with exploring the question “what is a group show?” through large-scale curatorial projects. Although One and One is Three is restrictive, it is by no means regressive — instead, it reaffirms and hopefully re-invigorates one of the core enterprises of curating, and offers its guest curators the opportunity to produce something closer to a haiku than an epic poem.