Nice Style: The World's First Pose Band

Institute exhibition
14th December 2011 - 12th February 2012
Gallery 4

Fibreglass cast of Robin Fletcher's head for the exhibition End of an Era
Robin Fletcher collection

Courtesy Robin Fletcher
Photo: David Cotton

Nice Style: The World's First Pose Band presents photographs, posters, postcards and archival material relating to 'Nice Style', a collaborative performance group set up in Maidstone in 1970 by British artists Bruce McLean, Paul Richards, Gary Chitty, Robin Fletcher and Ron Carr.

Displayed in the Henry Moore Institute's Gallery 4 space, this is one of the first displays of 'Nice Style' since the group disbanded in 1975. The exhibition focuses on the centrality of sculpture for these artists, presenting previously unseen material. Paul Richards and Bruce McLean initially studied sculpture at St Martin's before teaming up as 'Nice Style'. They drew as much upon the traditions of figurative sculpture for this project, such as the group figurations of Auguste Rodin, Oskar Schlemmer and George Segal, as they did on popular music and its imagery.

Posing was central to 'Nice Style'. With each performance they took the art of striking a pose to ever greater extremes as they searched for the perfect image. 'Nice Style' turned their attention to the role of body image and self-fashioning that characterised early 1970s society. They mimicked the look and posturing of 1970s bands (such as the Bay City Rollers and T. Rex), aped black tuxedo-wearing celebrities fresh from an evening function, and kitted themselves out in padded protective gear, training in the park and gymnasium as if they were a sports team.

Their elaborate, dramatic works simultaneously co-opted and satirised the posturing of the art establishment and what they saw as the social pretensions and superficiality of contemporary lifestyles in general.

In the 1974 performance High Up On A Baroque Palazzo (featured in this new exhibition) they performed at the Garage Gallery in London, donning dinner suits and striking exaggerated poses on and below a makeshift scaffolding palazzo. Their costumes were aided by posing poles and other props that highlighted particular postures. Not only were their costumes 'body sculptures', but their live art drew upon the interplay between ideas of permanence and the ephemeral, between the body alive and in motion, frozen and stylized. McLean recently described Nice Style as 'not mime, not theatre, but live sculpture.'

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