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A road trip round the Midlands' galleries

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The Midlands has plenty to offer the touring gallery visitor, writes James Pallister

Given its automotive history, the Midlands seems an appropriate region to propose for a little gallery road trip. In no particular geographic order, here’s a proposed itinerary. In Brum itself, the gallery (and occasional publishing house) Ikon has gone back to the first artist to exhibit at its gallery when it opened in 1965, the painter John Salt. Expect Ballard-esque photorealistic paintings of abandoned American cars: Pontiacs, Firebirds aplenty.

Busting out of the ring road to West Bromwich, the controversial Will Alsop-designed Public is currently showing an exhibition of photographs by Maurice Broomfield (father to documentary maker Nick Broomfield). Broomfield started his working life on a factory floor in Derbyshire, taking evening classes at the Derby College of Art, and went on to become an industrial photographer. His epic shots give a colourful order to postwar industrial life. Whether you read this as overblown romanticising or otherwise, there’s an undeniable beauty to his still life shots.

Up the M5 is Caruso St John’s New Art Gallery at Walsall. Until June the gallery has two very different exhibitions – a pyre of signs in ‘The Bonfire’ from Bob and Roberta Smith and, in the second show, also free, you zoom back to the Victorian Romantic movement with the paintings of landscapist Samuel Palmer in the show ‘Towards the Light’.

If you’ve any energy left and fancy relaxing in some picturesque parkland, as well as seeing a show, then head down into Bear County and finish up at Warwickshire’s Compton Verney. The 18th-century mansion house is currently showing ‘Alfred Wallis and Ben Nicholson’, an exhibition that explores the friendship between the unlikely duo of the Cornish ‘naive’ painter and the abstract artist.

www.ikon-gallery.co.uk; www.thepublic.com; www.thenewartgallerywalsall.org.uk; www.comptonverney.org.uk

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