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Contemporary Art

Experimental Art and the Story of Signals London

London in the mid-1960s was characterised by an explosion of creative innovation and exploration. It went hand in hand with a wave of optimism driven by Britain’s post-war economic recovery, a liberation from the past and a turning towards new ideas of modernity. 

From April 27 to July 13, S│2 Gallery will present an exhibition dedicated to the spirit of one of the galleries at the heart of London's reputation for experimentation: Signals London.

Signals was an experimental new gallery that that functioned as a meeting place for international artists; a platform for contemporary works as yet unknown to the mainstream art world, and a vibrant space for experimentation and expression that represented a significant departure from more established galleries.

Signals, alongside other innovative galleries like New Vision Centre, Gallery One and Indica, introduced London to the international avant-garde, provided a platform for European, Latin American and Asian artists and showcased works by Mira Schendel, Heinz Mack, Lygia Clark, Carlos Cruz-Diez and Takis among many others. They became emblematic of London’s open and experimental culture throughout the 1960s.

 

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SIGNALS, 39 WIGMORE STREET, LONDON, CIRCA 1966. © CLAY PERRY, ENGLAND & CO.

Signals Newsbulletin

In August 1964, art critic Guy Brett, Paul Keeler and artists Gustav Metzger, Marcello Salvadori and David Medalla began to publish Signals Newsbulletin as part of the Centre for Advanced Creative Study, which they had set up in Medalla and Keeler’s shared apartment in Cornwall Gardens, South Kensington. The newspaper-style publication edited by Medalla was named after the Greek artist Takis’ Signals series of tensile sculptures, which he had begun in 1955.

Signals Newsbulletin declared the group’s aim to be ‘dedicated to the adventures of the modern spirit’ and was an important and influential aspect of their practice. With an experimental outlook, the news bulletin presented a wide range of international art, particularly kinetic art, alongside and often fused with poetry and progressive articles on architecture, agriculture, technology and science, among other topics.

Alongside the news bulletin, the group held early exhibitions at the Cornwall Gardens address, but Signals London truly came into being with the opening of a gallery in a four-storey space on Wigmore Street in central London where they were able to present exhibitions on a larger scale.

SÉRGIO DE CAMARGO AND GUSTAV METZGER 1964. © CLAY PERRY, ENGLAND & CO.

Ground-breaking Exhibitions

When Signals opened in 1964, it joined a small group of other galleries in focusing on younger, experimental and non-establishment artists. Signals in particular, while emphasising an interdisciplinary creative approach to modernity through its newsbulletin also brought together experimental artists from across the world to exhibit in its West End space.

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PAUL KEELER, SÉRGIO DE CAMARGO, GUY BRETT, CHRISTOPHER WALKER, DAVID MEDALLA AND GUSTAV METZGER MAILING SIGNALS NEWSBULLETIN FROM CORNWALL GARDENS IN 1964. © CLAY PERRY, ENGLAND & CO.

Latin American Artists in London

Signals quickly became one of the first British galleries to introduce London to developing international experimental art movements, from Fluxus to Kinetic and op art. Experimental artists such as Sergio de Camargo, Lygia Clark, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Mira Schendel, Hélio Oiticica and Jesús Rafael Soto all exhibited at Signals 

The Key Figures

The artists behind Signals — David Medalla, Gustav Metzger and Marvello Salvadori themselves brought together an interdisciplinary, international approach to creativity. Medalla was born in the Phillipines and had studied ancient and modern drama, poetry and philosophy, before establishing himself as a contemporary artist working across sculpture, installation, performance and kinetic art. Polish artist and activity Gustav Metzger came to Britain from Germany as a refugee in 1939, and became a leading figure in the Art Strike and Auto-Destructive art movements.

CLICK HERE to view the exhibition.

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