Monday, May 27, 2024
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Review: Fanchon Fröhlich, The Wrong Sex at Exhibition Research Lab

The British Art & Design Association has been pushing for this exhibition for a long time, knowing the value of Fanchon Fröhlich, and seeking recognition in the city for her impact on it.

Fröhlich was, and remains a largely unknown artist in Liverpool, yet her work has had global recognition and become something of a critical mass when it comes to art theory and visual inspiration for other artists in her field.

Talking to Terry Duffy, the director of the British Art & Design Association, and a local artist himself, a few years ago, I was palpably excited by the prospect of this show – not because I was a fan of Fröhlich, but because I wasn’t. Because I’d never come across this artist who he was so clearly passionate about, and who had, as I was to learn had such a large, but quiet, impact on the art scene we now know.

The exhibition itself is engaging, archival, and incredibly intimate. Its presentation as a studio complex allows us to explore Fröhlich’s work as I firmly believe art should be explored – by touch. Stacks of canvases and working drawings are strewn across shelves, and lent informally against the walls of the Exhibition Research Lab, with some of the more precious diary entries and proposals safely cased in shallow display tables.

The British Art & Design Association began just before the pandemic, so this exhibition will be most people’s first tangible experience of them here in Liverpool. Their aim is to present and preserve these archives of artists whose work deserves recognition, but falls outside of the remit of major institutional collections.

For most grassroots artists, they offer a recognition for their work too, by archiving work which is significant to other artists, offering an opportunity to be recognised for your contribution to the art world, rather than simply recognised for recognition’s sake.

The choice of LJMU’s Exhibition Research Lab (the street-facing corner of the John Lennon Art & Design building) is useful too, perhaps more for the gallery than BADA, as it helps to solidify their intentions as a gallery by presenting work in more manageable, navigable ways, as opposed to static exhibitions.

Perhaps the gallery had an influence on BADA’s curatorial choices too, leading them to a more audience focussed presentation of Fröhlich’s posthumous work, which feels somehow still developmental.

Words, Patrick Kirk-SmithFanchon Fröhlich, the Wrong Sex is open at Exhibition Research Lab until 4th May

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