James Beckett: The Guinness Curse

Lazio, Rome, 03/21/2017 - 04/21/2017

Via Ripense 6


T293 is proud to present The Guinness Curse, James Beckett’s fourth exhibition at the gallery. The exhibition consists of a new body of thematic work – a series of wall and floor assemblages delving into the bizarrely high occurrence of premature death in the Guinness family. The exhibition touches on speculation, myth, superstition and, inevitably, pop culture itself.

In keeping with Beckett’s vocabulary, the works are developed in a macabre museological sphere, using formal artifacts to legitimatize peripheral narrative. The pieces combine biographical elements from each family member portrayed with merchandise from the brewing company itself – a mélange evoking discomfort through clash. Using display grids, additional planes of custom printed fabrics and tinted glass evoke an austerity, making for an environment of fatality – then memorial.

The Guinness family is a large aristocratic Anglo-Irish Protestant dynasty known for its accomplishments in banking, politics, religious ministry, and even fashion. Most notable, is the Guinness brewery business founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759. Arthur fathered 21 children, of whom only 10 survived to maturity. The “Guinness Curse” (hence the name of this show) has been a recurring media phrase referring to this high death rate; deemed ‘pre-destined’ and somehow doomed to be repeated throughout the family history.

Beckett exploits this casual media naming of a metaphysical damning, integrating elements of both company and person into commemorative displays. “The Curse” is, for this purpose, exaggerated to the point of b-grade horror, with abstract clichés of death appearing, for example, in the form of blood streaks amid snippets of raw nature. This approach sees life in its entirety as inapproachable, instead turning to the extended drama of others as a provisional model for alternative celebrity. In this sense, as a study of yearning and loss, the show spawns a shallow and sinister form of entertainment.

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James Beckett

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