Cage fighters add punch to new Chatsworth exhibition

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A punchy new exhibition inspired New York’s cage-fighter subculture is to open at Chatsworth next month.

The exhibition is by the young British artist Emma McGuire – who immersed herself within the cage-fighting culture – and will be launched on July 11 until November 8.

Through McGuire’s characteristic use of photographic and mono-lithographic printing techniques the exhibition, titled ‘XXXX’ aims to challenge established ideas around male identity, violence and beauty.

McGuire’s work explores the inherent tension between society’s perceptions of cage-fighters and the reality of their personal narratives.

The ‘XXXX’ exhibition features large-scale, abstracted images of cage fighters in combat captured in Atlantic City, New Jersey during 2011 and hand-processed throughout 2012.

McGuire, who grew up in Nottingham but is half-American, divides her time between London and New York, which is where her interest in the subject was initially sparked by regular visits to the famous Renzo Gracie Fight Club. There she met the Gracie family, known for their founding of Brazilian jiu-jitsu as well as their success in combat sport competitions.

“There is a long standing tradition of gladiatorial games, predating antiquity, which is now being popularised in contemporary TV series like ‘Spartacus’. How comfortable we feel about our spectatorship, which is essentially voyeuristic, of this often violent sport is an overlooked factor in the continuation of the tradition,” says McGuire.

“Although my initial focus was capturing the fighters during the photographic stage, interestingly it was during the printing process that the spectators emerged as a parallel subject matter – and our voyeuristic nature as human beings became amplified.”

McGuire first met the Duke of Devonshire while studying at the Royal College of Art and over the years he became an admirer and collector of her work. “I acquired several artworks from Emma McGuire’s ‘Warrior’ exhibition in 2012 and it was there that we began to talk about a new show for Chatsworth. I’m delighted that we’ve been able to make it happen with XXXX and that more people will get to see her provocative but beautiful work.”

XXXX is a solo exhibition of Emma McGuire’s work and entry is free with the purchase of a ‘House and Garden’ ticket.