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Polly Morgan, ‘Short Sentences, Spoken Softly’ at Other Criteria, NYC

September 10, 2014 by Mary

Other Criteria is pleased to present an exhibition of new work by London-based artist Polly Morgan. Her first show solo show in the US, the exhibition will also mark the first exhibition at Other Criteria’s New York outpost, which opened in May 2014.

Morgan is an accomplished taxidermist who uses her skills to create work in a contemporary context. The exhibition consists of a group of unique sculptures, using taxidermy snakes. In each of the works, the artist playfully navigates between beauty and fear, attraction and repulsion, by shaping these anxiety-inspiring creatures into a series of graceful loops, knots and arabesques.

In 1998 Morgan moved to East London to read English Literature at London University. As an undergraduate she became acquainted with many prominent artists and, inspired by their example, took up taxidermy and began making sculptural work in 2004. Having studied with Scottish taxidermist George Jamieson, Morgan began to play with and dismantle taxidermy traditions, allowing some animals to appear dead rather than imitating life.

Recent exhibitions have examined the pest/host relationship, the carnivorous side of nature, and reflection on themes of life and death. With Short Sentences, Spoken Softly the artist has removed the elements of narrative that appeared in previous series, stripping the work down to pure sculptural forms, evoking austerity and elegance, and where at times the line approaches the resonance of a graphic symbol or hieroglyph. In this series, Morgan also takes taxidermy away from its gothic associations, revealing a more Modernist influence. Of the work, she says “I've tried, with these particularly, to separate the animal from its usual associations and symbolism, treating it as purely sculptural material.”

Born in 1980, Polly Morgan owes the beginning of her artistic career to a chance encounter with Bansky, at a bar called the Electricity Show Room, where she had taken a job after reading English Literature at London University. Morgan's first work, fittingly shown at the Zoo Art Fair in London, caught the attention of the art world in 2005 and she has exhibited widely since, including at Other Criteria in London, Haunch of Venison, Pippy Houldsworth, Robilant + Voeva, and White Cube, among others. Her work features in promininent collections both private and public, including those of Ivor Braka, Didier Casimiro, Omer Koç, Thomas Olbricht, David Roberts, and Anita Zabludowicz. Morgan has been shortlisted for the Washington DC’s National Museum of Women in the Art’s 2015 Women to Watch list.

All the animals used in the artist’s work have died from natural causes. No animals are killed for the purpose of making the work.