Ikon Gallery’s 50th anniversary celebrations will officially begin next month with the opening of Saddam is Here, an exhibition of photography and video from the Iraqi artist Jamal Penjweny.

Formerly a shepherd and now a tea-shop owner, Jamal’s documentation of post-war Iraq brought him international attention when his work was included in Iraq Pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale, curated by Ikon director Jonathan Watkins .

His images of Iraq in the aftermath of Saddam Hussein’s removal are powerful and arresting.

John Salt’s White Chevy – Red Trailer (1975).
John Salt’s White Chevy – Red Trailer (1975).
 

Meanwhile, Ikon Icons sees a return to Ikon of five key artists from each of its five decades. To open the series the gallery welcomes back John Salt, the first artist to exhibit at Ikon when it opened in the 1960s.

Ikon Icons:

John Salt

February 19 – April 21, 2014

A selection of work by John Salt, the first artist ever to exhibit at Ikon, it includes paintings, prints and sculpture made before he embarked on an artistic career both in the US and the UK that saw him acknowledged internationally as a thorough-going Photorealist. They reflect to some extent a pop sensibility, a subtle sense of humour and an abiding interest in cars.

Ian Emes

April 30 – June 22, 2014

Ian Emes shows his masterpiece French Windows (1972), dating from his final year as a student at Birmingham Polytechnic Art and Design Centre. It is a visualisation of One of These Days, a track from Pink Floyd’s recently released Meddle album. An extraordinary melange of pop and surrealism, animated ballet dancers move through three dimensions that stream with architectural geometry and lattice arrangements of clocks, window frames and boxes.

Cornelia Parker

July 2 – August 31, 2014

In 1988 Ikon commissioned Cornelia Parker to make 30 Pieces of Silver, a major work in her early career now in the collection of Tate. She returns to Ikon to show a new related work comprising a suspended circle of squashed silverware. A kind of critical response to monumental floor-based sculpture, it also characteristically conflates ideas of preciousness and perceived cultural value with traces of a traumatic event.

Yinka Shonibare

September 10 – November 9, 2014

Yinka Shonibare’s exhibition at Ikon in 1999 was seminal. We now show Five Under Garments and Much More (1995), an early suspended installation that prefigures the artist’s mannequin works. Each piece mimics the structured corsetry of period noble dress but the dramatically enlarged proportions and exuberant textiles suggest a provocative de-robing of social and class constructions.

Julian Opie

November 19, 2014 – January 25, 2015

The installation of Julian Opie’s high-rise building sculptures on the first floor of Ikon Gallery in 2001 coincided with 9/11. The modernist aesthetic they embody and their smart neatness as models is now informed by memories of a day that dramatically changed the world. The ‘less is more’ efficiency they suggest, symbolic of a society that functions in an orderly way, can no longer be seen with innocence. A number of these architectural pieces now rise up in Ikon’s Tower Room.