Maguire (b. 1951, Dublin) is an Irish artist whose work stems from his involvement in the civil rights movement of Northern Ireland in the 1970s. In his work, Maguire draws attention to marginalized voices by occupying a role as facilitator, which he is uniquely careful not to exploit. This overview of Maguire's human rights-focused paintings include important loans from Christian Groenke and Gulia Bruckman, the TIA Foundation in Sante Fe, New Mexico, the Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago, the Kerlin Gallery in Dublin, the Fergus McCaffery Gallery in New York City, and Gallerie Christophe Gaillard In Paris.
Important notice: This exhibition contains images of bodies and violence that may be upsetting to viewers. The exhibition does not celebrate or promote hate or violence towards any groups of people.
HOW THIS EXHIBITION CAME TO BE
In 2020, Irish artist Brian Maguire was invited by MAM to participate in the Emily Hall Tremaine Curatorial Research project investigating how the museum might present an exhibition around the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP).* MAM is planning a juried exhibition of contemporary Native artists who are engaged with this issue in addition to an exhibition of Maguire’s work featuring portraits of those who have gone missing. Maguire was in Missoula from May to September 2021, a rare artist-in-residency for the museum. Maguire came as a 2021 Fulbright Scholar, a prestige that allowed him to travel from Ireland specifically for this project.
The epidemic of MMIP is taking place across the United States and Canada. Thousands of men, women, and children go missing or are murdered each year and the web of federal, state, local, and Tribal jurisdictions often complicate these cases. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland created a Missing and Murdered Unit taskforce within the Bureau of Indian Affairs to take on and solve these cases. Missoula, adjacent to the Flathead Reservation, within a short distance of the Blackfeet Reservation, and host to a significant Native urban population residing within the city, is an ideal place for Maguire to conduct research on this topic. He has applied his subtle, sensitive, humanitarian approach to the plight of MMIP.
Maguire’s artistic response to the political and racial content inherent in the topic has informed the development of an exhibition of Indigenous and non-Indigenous artists with the goal of bringing greater awareness to the topic and leading to a better institutional response. After Maguire’s visit, MAM found it necessary to plan two exhibitions of the artist’s work: This first exhibition, called Brian Maguire: In the Light of Conscience, features a selection of his work, followed by an exhibit in 2023 featuring his MMIP portraits from across Montana.
ALEPPO AND JUÁREZ SERIES
Starting in 2010, the artist has created work in Juárez, Mexico, in response to the proliferation of women murdered by the cartels in the wake of the Mexican drug war (a practice known as Feminicidio). Maguire’s efforts have been profiled in Blood Rising, a 2014 documentary co-produced with Mark McLoughlin. This has led him to spend extensive amounts of time in the U.S.-Mexico border region, especially in Arizona. In 2017, Maguire spent time in Aleppo, Syria, and created an entire body of work cataloging the devastation of the city after years of war. In 2018, he traveled with a humanitarian aid organization to Bentiu, South Sudan, to create portraits of refugees and displaced peoples. His bodies of work are profound in their subject matter and masterfully executed in their painterly, expressionist forms. By visiting and listening with families of displaced or missing peoples and working with professionals on the frontlines of these migratory and geopolitical issues, Maguire harnesses a journalist's attention to detail and humanity with his immense artistic talent.
"Since the very beginning of his career in the 1970s, Brian Maguire has approached painting as an act of solidarity. He operates a truly engaged practice, compelled by the raw realities of humanity's violence against itself, and the potential for justice. Maguire's preoccupations draw him to the margins of the art world—alternative space, prisons, women's shelters, and psychiatric institutions—making shows in traditional gallery and museum spaces something of a rarity. Maguire's most recent paintings directly confront issues of migration, displacement, and human dignity in the face of the current global unrest. They are some of his most nuanced and ambitious to date, which he has crafted with larger brushes and thinned-down acrylic on canvas. He works slowly, using photographic sources, searching for that point where illustration ceases and art begins. This growing contrast between the seductive painterly aesthetic and the subject matter only adds to the potential impact of these formidable canvases." —Kerlin Gallery