Sperone Westwater is pleased to announce Malcolm Morley: Tally-ho, the sixth solo show devoted to the late London-born artist, widely hailed as among the most pioneering figures of his generation. On the occasion of his 1983 Whitechapel exhibition “Malcolm Morley: Paintings, 1965-82,” Morley was the recipient of the inaugural Turner Prize in 1984. The gallery exhibition will feature recent paintings dating from 2015 through 2018, created before his passing in June at the age of 86.
“Over the past thirty years Morley continued on a path that took him on a searching and distinctive examination of the art of painting,” writes Sir Nicholas Serota in a tribute in the exhibition catalogue. Morley ranged, over the course of his five-decade career, through styles including abstraction, photo-based realism, neo-romanticism, and neo-expressionism. The paintings in the upcoming exhibition, mostly dating from the last three years of his life, principally dwell on medieval knights in armor, painted in bold hues, most of them based on constructed paper models that were among his most favored inspirations.
The stunning, nearly ten-foot-wide Melee at Agincourt (2017) shows two ranks of mounted knights in armor, their striped lances crossed, facing each other against an arresting, bright yellow background. Also in keeping with his lifelong interest in the machinery of war, other works in the show depict fighter planes, the Trojan Horse, and jousting matches. His keen interest in art history is evident in Piazza d’Italia with French Knights (2017), in which two armored figures on horseback stand, seemingly frozen, in a piazza that echoes a trademark composition by Giorgio de Chirico.
Vintage canvases from earlier decades will contextualize the new paintings and demonstrate Morley’s innovative artistic achievements. Cristoforo Colombo (1966) dates from just two years after his first New York exhibition and depicts a massive cruise ship, one of his perennial subjects, which he often painted from postcards. The Ultimate Anxiety (1978), meanwhile, brings a distinctly surrealist twist to a traditional Venetian scene, which is interrupted by a freight train that seems to barrel across the surface of the canvas itself. Synthetic History (1996) introduces his penchant for affixing objects to the surface of his paintings; a foreshortened knight in armor, lying on his back, is pierced with an actual arrow.
A richly illustrated, 72-page catalogue, with an introduction by Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, and an essay by Tim Barringer, Paul Mellon Professor of the History of Art at Yale University, will accompany the exhibition. This catalogue will include 30 color reproductions of Morley’s paintings, as well as a selection of memorable quotes from the artist.