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Serpent and Shadow

16 August — 10 October 2018

This exhibition is now closed

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The institutional context of a cast of Laocoön provokes this exploration of visibility and obscurity within art practices, narrated through historic objects from our Collection and artworks by RA Schools students.

The art historian Aby Warburg observed how the Pueblo Indians of the Southwestern United States symbolised the lightning of electrical storms as sky serpents. For the Pueblo, serpent-lightning represented a celestial order that lit the storm’s darkness. Unlike darkness, shadows are contingent on light. The philosopher Mario Perniola writes:

“The more violent is the light which one pretends to shed on the work and on artistic operation, the brighter is the shadow they project. The more diurnal and banal is the approach to artistic experience, the more what is essential withdraws and takes refuge in the shadow.” Art and Its Shadow, 2004

By developing and extending the metaphors of its title, the works and installation of Serpent and Shadow explore this dependency of the obscure, the secretive, noise, disguise, the monstrous and the parasitical upon visibility, display, control and order.

The curation of the exhibition continues on the first floor of Burlington Gardens in the Academy’s Collection Gallery. In a recess at the rear of the Laocöon plaster cast a model camouflage boat is displayed. Developed within the RA Schools during the First World War dazzle camouflage disguised merchant and war ships from enemy submarines.

Curated by Martin Westwood, the exhibition positions the practices of the RA Schools’ current students and graduates alongside works from the RA Collection.

Featured artists: Irini Bachlitzanaki, Josephine Baker, Tania Blanco, Joey Bryniarska, Alexandre Canonico, William Daniell RA, Jessy Jetpacks, Toby Jury Morgan, Amanda Kyritsopoulou, Richard Lockett, Matilda Moors, Henry Moses, J.M.W. Turner RA, Unknown, after Athenodorus of Rhodes, Benjamin West PRA and Margaret E. Wilson.

16 August — 10 October 2018

Sunday – Thursday 10am-6pm
Fridays 10am-10pm


Weston Studio, RA Schools