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Barry Joule Archive Works on
Paper Attributed to Francis Bacon

By David Alan Mellor
August 2000
Irish Museum of Modern Art
Distributed By Trans-Atlantic Publications
96 Pages, Color Illustrations, 9 x 11"
$54.50 Paper

The works on paper in this exhibition come from the Barry Joule Archive and are attributed to Francis Bacon. There is some, but not much, continuing debate about their origins in the studio of the artist and at the time of writing, the Archive, which includes the X Album and related material has not yet been fully accepted by the Francis Bacon Estate. There has been much discussion in the general and art media in Britain but very few people have actually seen the material first hand.

It is in this context of debate that the Irish Museum of Modern Art presents to a wider public a 'study' of a selection of pieces from the Joule Archive. The material is presented as contested in its nature and purpose as well as its attribution. The artist's apparent disregard for this and similar material from the studio does not mean that it is not significant nor that it cannot provide insights into the thinking of an important artist of the post-war period. A wider public will now have the opportunity to examine this material in the exhibition and this publication.

It is, anyway, one of the principles of this Museum to explore art as a contested rather than a consensual process in the belief that presenting this contest can empower the public, from the general visitor to the scholar, to negotiate rather than receive meaning and therefore constantly recharge the art object. Museums are inevitably involved in historicising art but in this case the aim is to historicise the process as well as the products of an artist's practice.

This is true of the Museum's approach in general and is necessary with this body of work in particular - expecially when one considers the paintings for which Francis Bacon is justifiably celebrated. It is as if a traditional view of his practice as a painter is problematised by this archive material just as, for example, sacred texts in medieval manuscripts were problematised but enriched by profane marginalia or the way new art regularly problematises and, I would argue, enriches tradition.

Francis Bacon: A Brief Memoir
Graphic Eveidence: Vision & Corporeality
Album Descriptions and Plates
Working Documents:
  Politics & History
  Art, Animals & Africa
  Athletic Body

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