Archive for the 'National Gallery of Victoria' Category

16
Feb
14

Review / Text: ‘Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2013 – 2nd March 2014

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This is a sublime exhibition, teaming as it does fabulous frocks and beautiful, classical, evanescent photographs. The exhibition was in my top nine magnificent Melbourne exhibitions that featured on Art Blart last year. Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this exhibition has been a sure fire winner for the NGV. This review will concentrate on the photographs by Edward Steichen. See my previous posting on the exhibition including installation photographs.

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model-dinarzade-in-a-dress-by-poiret-edward-steichen

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Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Model Dinarzade in a Dress by Poiret
1924
Gelatin silver photograph

Image used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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steichen-clara-bow-WEB

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Edward Steichen (1879-1973)
Actress Clara Bow for Vanity Fair
1928
Vintage silver gelatin print
Block Museum, Gift of the Hollander Family in Honor of Morton and Mimi Schapiro
Steichen / Condé Nast Archive; © Condé Nast

Image used under fair use for the purpose of art criticism

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High Society

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Edward Steichen (1879-1973) was a painter and champion of art photography who initially worked in the soft focus, Pictorialist style prevalent at the beginning of the 20th century. He was an artist who worked closely with Alfred Stieglitz on the influential quarterly art journal Camera Work, designing the cover and the Art Nouveau-style typeface especially for the internationally focused publication. Stieglitz, and by extension Camera Work, lived to promote photography as an art form and to challenge the norms of how art may be defined.1 In the early years Camera Work only published photography, but in later years the journal increasingly featured reproductions of and articles on modern painting, drawing and aesthetics.

“This change was brought about by a similar transformation at Stieglitz’s New York gallery, which had been known as the Little Galleries of the Photo-Secession until 1908. That year he changed the name of the gallery to “291″, and he began showing avant-garde modern artists such as Auguste Rodin and Henri Matisse along with photographers. The positive responses he received at the gallery encouraged Stieglitz to broaden the scope of Camera Work as well, although he decided against any name change for the journal.”2

Steichen was heavily associated with Gallery 291 (291 Fifth Avenue, New York City) which ran from 1905 to 1917. The gallery exhibited European artists such as Braque, Picasso, Matisse, Brancussi, Cézanne and Rodin and soon to be famous American artists such as John MarinMax WeberArthur DoveMarsden Hartley and Georgia O’Keeffe. Virtually no other gallery in the United States was showing modern art works with such abstract and dynamic content at this time.3 Both the gallery and the journal ran hand in hand; both closed in 1917. The journal closed due to a downturn in interest in Pictorial photography, a lack of subscribers, cultural changes and the economic effects of the First World War, which saw both the costs and even the availability of the paper on which it was printed become challenging.4 In the penultimate issue 48 (October 1916) Stieglitz,

” …introduced the work of a young photographer, Paul Strand, whose photographic vision was indicative of the aesthetic changes now at the heart of Camera Work’s demise. Strand shunned the soft focus and symbolic content of the Pictorialists and instead strived to create a new vision that found beauty in the clear lines and forms of ordinary objects. By publishing Strand’s work Stieglitz was hastening the end of the aesthetic vision he had championed for so long. Nine months later, in June 1917, what was to be the final issue of Camera Work appeared. It was devoted almost entirely to Strand’s photographs.”5

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Edward Steichen felt the change in the air. When he accepted the job as chief photographer for Condé Nast publications in 1923 his early fashion photographs for Vogue and Vanity Fair were seen as innovative and ground breaking, even as his former art colleagues saw shooting fashion and celebrities was a way of selling-out. Steichen bought to fashion and portrait photography an aesthetic of clear lines and forms that simply had not been present before, coupled with a Pictorialist sensibility for light and the use of low depth of field. John McDonald in his excellent review of the exhibition observes, “Steichen has claims to having invented fashion photography with a series of pictures he took in Paris in 1911, for couturier, Paul Poiret; but the genre had found its first true professional in Baron Adolphe de Meyer, who left Vogue for Harper’s Bazaar, opening the door for Steichen’s appointment. De Meyer was an incurable mannerist who remained true to the Pictorialist aesthetic, but his successor would prove himself an innovator.”6

Steichen’s photographs from 1923-1924 are pared back, Modernist photographs that evidence the beginning of his later photographic style. Madame Nadine Vera wearing a crêpe evening gown by Chanel (1924) has a plain background of some wooden studio panels; Model Dinarzade in a Dress by Poiret (1924, above) has fabric hanging behind while Crêpe de chine dress by Lanvin (1924) has three doors casually put together to form the backdrop to the model. All three photographs show beautiful tonality and lighting in the full length capture of the models with hints of browns and yellows in the prints. The figure is isolated in the studio space simply and elegantly. The model is being studied. Steichen’s models are immersed in suffused light but the form of the photograph is different from that of Pictorialism, for the models themselves are pin sharp, as though stepping out into the world. These early photographs are fascinating to study, for they lay the ground work for what is to follow. These three images inform the viewer as to the experimentation that Steichen was undertaking to get to a starting point for the complex and atmospheric studio lighting that he would later employ.

Gradually, Steichen’s images become more confident and assured and take on a patina of beauty, style and grace. In his close-up portraits there is an isolation of the face against out of focus backgrounds with the use of profiles, arms and elbows as framing devices, for example Actress Sylvia Sidney (1929) and Actress Clara Bow (1928, above). In his longer-length portraits there is an isolation of figures against a white or black ground, as in Marion Morehouse in a dress by Louise Boulanger (1929) and Actresses Norma and Constance Talmadge (1927). Males usually have a heavy darkness to them while the females are more luminously lit. In the male portraits the hands dominate. The hands in the male photographs belong to the male as part of the portrait whereas in the early photographs of women they are only models, there at his command, and the hands are almost invisible. Only in the later photographs of high society women are the hands of females fully represented. What can be observed is that the figure is usually isolated against an out of focus background, with deep, dark shadows and soft luxurious light, low depth of field and feminine profiles.

In commercial terms (and we must remember that this is how the artist made his living for these photographs were seen as his commercial work at the time), Steichen’s photographs fulfilled his brief: the portrayal of shimmer and sparkle, geometric Art Deco style, the drama and theatrical lighting of the talkies, and the spectacle of the liberated modern women. She in turn was influenced by the prevalent cultural conditions: smoking, jazz, prohibition, automobiles, trains, dancing, fast living, gold (King Tuts tomb was discovered in 1922) and African and Japanese art. Appealing to the new leisure classes, publications such as Vogue and Vanity Fair offered a glimpse of a longed for paradise to the burgeoning middle-classes with their photographs of the rich and famous, the glamour and the costumes – the social groups that hold the most power actually exposing their own status on paper through these magazines.

As John McDonald notes, “Steichen uses every trick at his disposal to convey a particular kind of image,”7 an image that uses increasingly elaborate studio lighting and disparate indoor and outdoor locations. But by the early 1930s the work becomes quite formulaic with its use of low depth of field, profiles, angles of arms or chairs and geometric shapes. The figure is tightly controlled – either cropped close in or set amongst ambiguously filled sets and shaped backgrounds. There is a sameness and repetitiveness about the work as one image bleeds into another. In fact, after that early period of experimentation, there is basically no change to his mature style from the years 1925-1937 and this makes for a long twelve years for an artist of his talent. He found his mother load and he stuck to it.

Steichen’s photographs of the rich and famous are “pictures” taken by one who mingled with the elite, one who enjoyed the trappings of fame and high society. As Robert Nelson notes in his review of the exhibition, “Steichen’s talents were never incompatible with the conspicuous snobbery of his age, for which it would never have occurred to him to proffer an apology. Having arrived himself, he naturally admires gentry-by-ambition and crowns it with the smugness that it enjoys.”8 Ouch! Nelson goes on to observe, “Much of the work is statuesque and formidable in its composition, lighting and symbolic rigour,” while at the same time portraying a world that is completely artificial in which nothing is real and everything is a pose.9 And we, the viewer and reader, are voyeurs of this hedonistic world.

On close reading, the photographs flatten out into a studied set of stylistic maneuvers, a form where style stands in for a quality of visual perception.10 As Steichen seeks to “clinch the image” the syntax of his photographs (the system of organisation used in putting lines together to form pictures) becomes imitative. This leads to evanescent photographs, images that soon pass out of sight, memory, or existence; images that slip for the mind as quickly as one sees them. There is little sense of dislocation in the images, only “in his ability to distance himself from a subject, analysing his or her foibles with a cool, practiced eye,”11 and in the distance of the scene from the reality of everyday life. Each photograph becomes a microcosm of vanity, celebrity and fashion. Steichen ticks all the boxes (and he made all the boxes that he ticked) but the photographs usually don’t fulfil any new demands that the situation generates. He restricts his field of view to one that he creates and controls within certain narrowly defined boundaries, usually using passive people who are at his command. In his orientation to the world the photographs are not ‘things as they are’ but things as they are constructed to be (seen) – a form of social capital, social fascism, even.12

Only when Steichen is challenged by an active “personality” does he raise his game. This is when the modernist, emotive, visually rhapsodic AND MEMORABLE photographs take hold in this exhibition. The great breakthrough with Greta Garbo (1929, below), mass of black with face surmounting, hair pulled back by hands “the woman came out full beauty on her magnificent face” Steichen said; Actress Gloria Swanson (1924, below) like some prowling, wide-eyed animal hidden behind a black lace veil, “a predatory femme fatale concealing her ambitions behind a mask of beauty”13; Marlene Dietrich (1934, below) nestled into the glorious curve of an armchair, lace-covered hand open, inviting; and Actress Loretta Young (1931) active, not passive, in which Steichen humanises his sitter. For me, these are the glorious images – not the men, not the fashion photographs, but these strong, independent women.

“An interested image-maker takes available resources for meaning (visual grammars, fabrication techniques and focal points of attention), undertakes an act of designing (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.”14 Initially, in the early experimentation, this is what Steichen did; he achieves it again in the photographs of Garbo, Swanson, Dietrich and Young. As for the other photographs we feel an overall suffused glow of beauty and glamour – we admire their scale and intensity, the deep blacks and velvety whites, and wonder at the light and assemblage of elements – but they do not have the power and engagement of the best, most challenging work. In these photographs of vibrant women the viewer finally starts to feel the spirit of the face, the spirit of the person captured in an instant. And that is a rare and beautiful thing.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

Word count: 1,883

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Endnotes

1. Whelan, Richard. Alfred Stieglitz: A Biography. NY: Little, Brown, 1995, pp. 189-223
2. Anon. “Camera Work,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
3. Anon. “291,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
4. “Camera Work,” op. cit.,
5. Hoffman, Katherine. Stieglitz : A Beginning Light. New Haven: Yale University Press Studio, 2004,  pp. 213–222 cited in “Camera Work,” op. cit.,
6. McDonald, John. “Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion” on John McDonald website February 1, 2014 [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
7. Ibid.,
8. Nelson, Robert. “An age of elegance captured forever,” in The Age newspaper Wednesday November 6th, 2013, p. 54
9. Ibid.,
10. Rewording of a sentence by Sleigh, Tom. “Too Much of the Air: Tomas Tranströmer,” 2005, on the Poets.org website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
11. McDonald, op. cit.,
12. “In sociology, social capital is the expected collective or economic benefits derived from the preferential treatment and cooperation between individuals and groups. Although different social sciences emphasise different aspects of social capital, they tend to share the core idea “that social networks have value”.”
Anon. “Social capital,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
“Social fascism was a theory supported by the Communist International (Comintern) during the early 1930s, which held that social democracy was a variant of fascism because, in addition to a shared corporatist economic model, it stood in the way of a complete and final transition to communism.”
Anon. “Social fascism,” on Wikipedia website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014
13. McDonald, op. cit.,
14. Anon. “The Image of Transformation: Properties of Consequence,” on The Image website [Online] Cited 15/02/2014

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23  Actress 'Gloria Swanson' 1924

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Actress Gloria Swanson
1924
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Steichen’s portrait of Gloria Swanson has taken on iconic masterpiece status overtime. Created in 1924, just as the first feature-length sound movies were emerging – effectively truncating the actress’s brilliant silent-film career – this image caught the essential Gloria Swanson: haunting and inscrutable, forever veiled in the whisper of a distant era. Steichen’s photograph has elements of turn-of-the-century pictorialism (moody and delicate, the subject seeming to peer from the darkness, as if from jungle foliage), yet it also projects modernist boldness, with its pin-sharp precision and graphic severity. (Text from Iconic Photos website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Dancers Leonore Hughes and Maurice Mouvet' 1924

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Dancers Leonore Hughes and Maurice Mouvet
1924
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Maurice Mouvet was one of the most famous and successful dance teams around the early 1910′s and lead the way for many performers that would follow… Maurice was born in New York but as a young lad moved to Paris with his father and knew he wanted to be a dancer as a young boy. He had his first professional dance at the Noveau Cirque in Paris, France at age 15. Mouvet’s best partners were Florence Walton and Leonora (Leona) Hughes.

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Actress Paula Negri' 1925

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Actress Paula Negri
1925
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Pola Negri (née Apolonia Chałupiec, January 3, 1897 - 1 August 1987) was a Polish stage and film actress who achieved worldwide fame during the silent and golden eras of Hollywood and European film for her tragedienne and femme fatale roles. She was the first European film star to be invited to Hollywood, and become one of the most popular actresses in American silent film. She also started several important women’s fashion trends that are still staples of the women’s fashion industry. Her varied career included work as an actress in theater and vaudeville; as a singer and recording artist; as an author; and as a ballerina. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Tamaris with a large Art Deco scarf' 1925

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Tamaris with a large Art Deco scarf
1925
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Model wearing a black tulle headdress by Suzanne Talbot and a brocade coat with black fox collar' 1925

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Model wearing a black tulle headdress by Suzanne Talbot and a brocade coat with black fox collar
1925
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Actor Gary Cooper' 1930

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Actor Gary Cooper
1930
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Marion Morehouse and unidentified model wearing dresses by Vionnet' 1930

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Marion Morehouse and unidentified model wearing dresses by Vionnet
1930
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Marion Morehouse (1906-1969), was a fashion model who rose to prominance in the late 20s and early 30s, sitting for Vanity Fair and Vogue photographer Edward Steichen. The pair created some strikingly modernist photographs. According to Steichen Morehouse was:

“The greatest fashion model I ever photographed …. When she put on the clothes that were to be photographed, she transformed herself into a woman who really would wear that gown … whatever the outfit was.”

She was also a favorite of Cecil Beaton and French Vogue’s Baron George Hoyningen-Huene. Morehouse was of Choctaw Indian ancestry, with brown eyes and an angular frame. After her modeling career ended, she took up photography herself. Later she became the third wife of author and painter E.E Cummings. When Cummings met Marion Morehouse in 1932, he was in the middle of a painful split from his second wife, Anne Barton. Although it is not clear whether the two were ever formally married, Morehouse lived with Cummings in a common-law marriage until his death in 1962. Morehouse died on May 18, 1969. (Text from the Photographs, film, literature & quotes from the bygone era website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Olympic diver Katherine Rawls' 1931

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Olympic diver Katherine Rawls
1931
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Katherine Louise Rawls (June 14, 1917 – April 8, 1982) was a multiple United States national champion in swimming and diving in the 1930s.

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 Model 'Dorothy Smart wearing a black velvet hat by Madame Agnès' 1926

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Model Dorothy Smart wearing a black velvet hat by Madame Agnès
1926
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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France’s most popular milliner Madame Agnes was born in France in the late 1800′s, she retired in 1949, and died a short while later. She was famous for cutting the brims of her hats while they were worn by her customers. Madame Agnes styled hats which were both abstract and unique. An illustration from 1927 depicts Madame Agnes’ Congo inspired hats with a model wearing a slave collar. As the 20′s moved into the 30′s, the hats became smaller and away from the face. In December 1935 she introduced hats with large straw brims which were mounted on flowered madras handkerchiefs. Madame Agnes was inspired by a matador’s hat when she created a small dinner hat for Spring 1936. It was sewn of black maline with heavy white silk fringe. The fringe was mounted on each side of the hat’s top. In mid-1946 she created a soft beige beret of felt which featured a line that was broken just above the right eyebrow, where a soft quill was inserted. (Text from the Photographs, film, literature & quotes from the bygone era website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'On George Baher's yacht' 1928

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
On George Baher’s yacht. June Cox wearing unidentified fashion; E. Vogt wearing fashion by Chanel and a hat by Reboux; Lee Miller wearing a dress by Mae and Hattie Green and a scarf by Chanel; Hanna-Lee Sherman wearing unidentified fashion
1928
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Elizabeth “Lee” Miller, Lady Penrose (April 23, 1907 – July 21, 1977) was an American photographer. Born in Poughkeepsie, New York, in 1907, she was a successful fashion model in New York City in the 1920s before going to Paris, where she became an established fashion and fine art photographer. During the Second World War, she became an acclaimed war correspondent for Vogue, covering events such as the London Blitz, the liberation of Paris, and the concentration camps at Buchenwald and Dachau.

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Marlene Dietrich' 1934

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Marlene Dietrich
1934
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Greta Garbo' 1929

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Greta Garbo
1929
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 Actress 'Joan Crawford in a dress by Schiaparelli' 1932

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Actress Joan Crawford in a dress by Schiaparelli
1932
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Elsa Schiaparelli (1890-1973) was an Italian fashion designer. Along with Coco Chanel, her greatest rival, she is regarded as one of the most prominent figures in fashion between the two World Wars. Starting with knitwear, Schiaparelli’s designs were heavily influenced by Surrealists like her collaborators Salvador Dalí and Alberto Giacometti. Her clients included the heiress Daisy Fellowes and actress Mae West.

Perhaps Schiaparelli’s most important legacy was in bringing to fashion the playfulness and sense of “anything goes” of the Dada and Surrealist movements. She loved to play with juxtapositions of colours, shapes and textures, and embraced the new technologies and materials of the time. With Charles Colcombet she experimented with acrylic, cellophane, a rayon jersey called “Jersela” and a rayon with metal threads called “Fildifer” – the first time synthetic materials were used in couture. Some of these innovations were not pursued further, like her 1934 “glass” cape made from Rhodophane, a transparent plastic related to cellophane. But there were more lasting innovations; Schiaparelli created wraparound dresses decades before Diane von Furstenberg and crumpled up rayon 50 years before Issey Miyake’s pleats and crinkles. In 1930 alone she created the first evening-dress with a jacket, and the first clothes with visible zippers. In fact fastenings were something of a speciality, from a jacket buttoned with silver tambourines to one with silk-covered carrots and cauliflowers. Schiaparelli did not adapt to the changes in fashion following World War II and her business closed in 1954. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'White (center Gwili André)' 1935

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
White (center Gwili André)
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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Gwili Andre (4 February 1908 – 5 February 1959) was a Danish actress who had a brief career in Hollywood films. Andre came to Hollywood in the early 1930s with the intention of establishing herself as a film star. She appeared in the 1932 RKO Studio films Roar of the Dragon and Secrets of the French Police and began to attract attention for her striking good looks. These films provided her with starring roles playing against such established actors as Richard Dix, ZaSu Pitts and Frank Morgan, and RKO began using her glamorous looks to promote her.

A widespread publicity campaign ensured that her name and face became well known to the American public, but her next role in No Other Woman (1933), opposite Irene Dunne, was not the success the studio expected. Over the next few years she was relegated to supporting roles which included the Joan Crawford picture A Woman’s Face (1941). Her final role was a minor part in one of the popular Falcon series, The Falcon’s Brother in 1942. (Text from the Wikipedia website)

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Actress Mary Heberden' 1935

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Actress Mary Heberden
1935
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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American actress Mary Heberden made her first New York stage appearance in 1925 and performed regulary on Broadway in the 1930s.

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Charlie Chaplin' 1934

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23
Charlie Chaplin
1934
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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03
Jan
14

Melbourne’s magnificent nine 2013

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Here’s my pick of the nine best local exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2013 (plus a favourite of the year from Hobart). Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Review: Terraria by Darron Davies at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

This is the first “magical” exhibition of photography that I have seen in Melbourne this year. Comprising just seven moderately large Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag images mounted in white frames, this exhibition swept me off my feet. The photographs are beautiful, subtle, nuanced evocations to the fragility and enduring nature of life…

A sense of day/dreaming is possible when looking at these images. Interior/exterior, size/scale, ego/self are not fixed but fluid, like the condensation that runs down the inside of these environments (much like blood circulates our body). This allows the viewer’s mind to roam at will, to ponder the mysteries of our short, improbable, joyous life. The poetic titles add to this introspective reflection. I came away from viewing these magical, self sustaining vessels with an incredibly happy glow, more aware of my own body and its relationship to the world than before I had entered Darron Davies enveloping, terrarium world.

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Darron Davies. 'Encased' 2012

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Darron Davies
Encased 
2012
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80 cm / edition of 6

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Darron Davies. 'The Red Shard' 2012

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Darron Davies
The Red Shard 
2012
Archival Pigment Print on Photo Rag
80 x 80 cm / edition of 6

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2/ Review: Confounding: Contemporary Photography at NGV International, Melbourne

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?

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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German born 1964
Public housing
2003
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9 cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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3/ Review: Louise Bourgeois: Late Works at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois: Late Works installation view
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Photograph: John Gollings 2012

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Louise Bourgeois 'Untitled' 2002

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Louise Bourgeois
Untitled
2002
Tapestry and aluminium
43.2 x 30.5 x 30.5 cm
Courtesy Cheim & Read and Hauser & Wirth
Photo: Christopher Burke
© Louise Bourgeois Trust

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This is a tough, stimulating exhibition of late works by Louise Bourgeois at Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne. All the main themes of the artist’s work explored over many years are represented in these late works: memory, emotion, anxiety, family, relationships, childhood, pain, desire and eroticism are all present as are female subjectivity and sexuality, expressed through the body…

Bourgeois’ work gives me an overall feeling of immersion in a world view, one that transcends the pain and speaks truth to power. Bourgeois confronted the emotion, memory or barrier to communication that generated her mood and the work. She observed, “My art is an exorcism. My sculpture allows me to re-experience fear, to give it a physicality, so that I am able to hack away at it.” By weaving, stitching and sewing Bourgeois threaded the past through the present and enacted, through artistic performance, a process of repair and reconstruction, giving meaning and shape to frustration and suffering. I have not been so lucky. My mother refuses to discuss the past, will not even come close to the subject for the pain is so great for her. I am left with a heaviness of heart, dealing with the demons of the past that constantly lurk in the memory of childhood, that insistently impinge on the man I am today. Louise Bourgeois’ sculptures brought it all flooding back as the work of only a great artist can, forcing me to become an ethical witness to her past, my past. A must see exhibition this summer in Melbourne.

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4/ Exhibition: Petrina Hicks: Selected Photographs, 2013 at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

A stunning, eloquent and conceptually complex exhibition buy Petrina Hicks at Helen Gory Galerie…

I am just going to add that the photograph Venus (2013, below) is one of the most beautiful photographs that I have seen “in the flesh” (so to speak) for a long while. Hicks control over the ‘presence’ of the image, her control over the presence within the image is immaculate. To observe how she modulates the colour shift from blush of pink within the conch shell, to colour of skin, to colour of background is an absolute joy to behold. The pastel colours of skin and background only serve to illuminate the richness of the pink within the shell as a form of immaculate conception (an openness of the mind and of the body). I don’t really care who is looking at this photograph (not another sexualised male gaze!) the form is just beauty itself. I totally fell in love with this work.

Forget the neo-feminist readings, one string of text came to mind: The high fidelity of a fetishistic fecundity.

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Petrina Hicks. 'Venus' 2013

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Petrina Hicks
Venus
2013
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm

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Petrina Hicks. 'Enigma' 2013

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Petrina Hicks
Enigma
2013
Pigment print, Edition of 8
100 x 100cm

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5/ Exhibition: Density by Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

I include this in my list of magnificent photographic exhibitions for the year not because I curated it, but because of the conceptualisation, the unique quality of the images and the tenacity of a visually impaired artist to produce such memorable work.

A wonderful exhibition by vision impaired photographer Andrew Follows at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond. It has been a real pleasure to mentor Andrew over the past year and to see the fruits of our labour is incredibly satisfying. The images are strong, elemental, atmospheric, immersive. Due to the nature of Andrew’s tunnel vision there are hardly any traditional vanishing points within the images, instead the ‘plane of existence’ envelops you and draws you in.

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Density n.

The degree of optical opacity of a medium or material, as of a photographic negative;

Thickness of consistency;

Complexity of structure or content.

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Andrew Follows. 'Number 31, Eltham' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Number 31, Eltham
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Andrew Follows. 'Green, Montsalvat' 2013

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Andrew Follows
Green, Montsalvat
2013
Digital photograph on archival cotton rag
130 cm x 86.5 cm

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Carol Jerrems. 'Mark and Flappers' 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Mark and Flappers
1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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Carol Jerrems. 'Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm' c. 1975

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Carol Jerrems
Carol Jerrems, self-portrait with Esben Storm
c. 1975
Gelatin silver photograph
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Gift of Mrs Joy Jerrems 1981
© Ken Jerrems and the Estate of Lance Jerrems

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6/ Review: Carol Jerrems: photographic artist at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

This is a fascinating National Gallery of Australia exhibition about the work of Australian photographer Carol Jerrems at Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill – in part both memorable, intimate, informative, beautiful, uplifting and disappointing…

The pity is that she died so young for what this exhibition brought home to me was that here was an artist still defining, refining her subject matter. She never had to time to develop a mature style, a mature narrative as an artist (1975-1976 seems to be the high point as far as this exhibition goes). This is the great regret about the work of Carol Jerrems. Yes, there is some mediocre work in this exhibition, stuff that really doesn’t work at all (such as the brothel photographs), experimental work, individual and collective images that really don’t impinge on your consciousness. But there are also the miraculous photographs (and for a young photographer she had a lot of those), the ones that stay with you forever. The right up there, knock you out of the ball park photographs and those you cannot simply take away from the world. They live on in the world forever.

Does Jerrems deserve to be promoted as a legend, a ‘premier’ of Australian photography as some people are doing? Probably not on the evidence of this exhibition but my god, those top dozen or so images are something truly special to behold. Their ‘presence’ alone – their physicality in the world, their impact on you as you stand before them – guarantees that Jerrems will forever remain in the very top echelons of Australian photographers of all time not as a legend, but as a women of incredible strength, intelligence, passion, determination and vision.

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7/ Exhibition: Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International, Melbourne

What a gorgeous exhibition. It’s about time Melbourne had a bit of style put back into the National Gallery of Victoria, and this exhibition hits it out of the park. Not only are the photographs absolutely fabulous but the frocks are absolutely frocking as well. Well done to the NGV for teaming the photographs with the fashion and for a great install (makes a change to see 2D and 3D done so well together). Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this is a sure fire winner….

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Installation photograph of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International

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Installation photograph of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International

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Edward Steichen American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23 'Marlene Dietrich' 1934

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Edward Steichen (American 1879-1973, emigrated to United States 1881, worked in France 1906-23)
Marlene Dietrich
1934
Gelatin silver photograph
Courtesy Condé Nast Archive
© 1924 Condé Nast Publications

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8/ Exhibition: Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes.

“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.”

Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013

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Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed

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Jeff Koons
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Andrew Liversidge. 'IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE' 2009

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Andrew Liversidge
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney

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9/ Review: Claudia Terstappen: In The Shadow Of Change at the Monash Gallery of Art, Wheelers Hill, Melbourne

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)' 2002

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Claudia Terstappen
Cabbage trees (Queensland, Australia)
2002
from the series Our ancestors 1990-
Gelatin silver print
29.0 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Claudia Terstappen. 'Zion Park (USA)' 1996

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Claudia Terstappen
Zion Park (USA)
1996
from the series Sacred land of the Navajo Indians 1990-
Gelatin silver print
37.0 x 37.0 cm
Courtesy  of the artist

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Without doubt this is the best pure photography exhibition I have seen this year in Melbourne. The exhibition is stimulating and enervating, the image making of the highest order in its aesthetic beauty and visual complexity. The artist explores intangible spaces which define our physical and spiritual relationship with the un/known world…

In Terstappen’s work there is no fixed image and no single purpose, a single meaning, or one singular existence that the images propose. They transcend claims about the world arising from, for example, natural or scientific attitudes or theories of the ontological nature of the world. As the artist visualises, records the feeling of the facts, such complex and balanced images let the mind of the viewer wander in the landscape. In their fecundity the viewer is enveloped in that situation of not knowing. There is the feeling of the landscape, a sensitivity to being “lost” in the landscape, in the shadow of ‘Other’, enhanced through the modality of the printing. Dreamworld vs analytical/descriptive, there is the enigma of the landscape and its spiritual places. Yes, the sublime, but more an invocation, a plea to the gods for understanding. This phenomenological prayer allows the artist to envelop herself and the viewer in the profundity – the great depth, intensity and emotion – of the landscape. To be ‘present’ in the the untrammelled places of the world as (divine) experience…

I say to you that this is the most sophisticated reading of the landscape that I have seen in a long time – not just in Australia but from around the world. This is such a joy of an exhibition to see that you leave feeling engaged and uplifted. Being in the gallery on your own is a privilege that is hard to describe: to see (and feel!) landscape photography of the highest order and by an Australian artist as well.

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10/ Exhibition: Joan Ross: Touching Other People’s Shopping at Bett Gallery, Hobart

The claiming of things
The touching of things
The digging of land
The tagging of place
The taking over of the world

Tag and capture.
Tag and capture.
Shop, dig, spray, destroy.

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An ironic critique of the pastoral, neo/colonial world, tagged and captured in the 21st century.
Excellent work. The construction, sensibility and humour of the videos is outstanding. I also responded to the two works Tag and capture and Shopping for butterfly (both 2013, below).

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Joan Ross. 'Tag and capture' 2013

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Joan Ross
Tag and capture
2013
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
50 x 47 cm (image size)
edition of 3

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Joan Ross. 'Shopping for butterfly' 2013

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Joan Ross
Shopping for butterfly
2013
hand painted pigment print on cotton rag paper
51.5 x 50 cm (image size)
edition of 3

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03
Dec
13

Essay: ‘Made ready: A Philosophy of Moments’ Dr Marcus Bunyan / Exhibition: ‘Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century’ at the Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 3rd October – 14th December 2013

Presented by Monash University Museum of Art in association with Melbourne Festival

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Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) is generating an enviable reputation for holding vibrant, intellectually stimulating group exhibitions on specific ideas, concepts and topics. This exhibition is no exception. It is one of the best exhibitions I have seen in Melbourne this year. Accompanied by a strong catalogue with three excellent essays by Thierry de Duve, Dr Rex Butler and Patrice Sharkey, this is a must see exhibition for any Melbourne art aficionado before it closes. My favourite pieces were Jeff Koons’ tactile Balloon dog (Red) (1995, below) and the coupling, copulating lights of Lou Hubbard’s Stretch (2007, below).

I am not going to critique the exhibition pieces per se but offer some thoughts about the nature of the readymade below.

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Many thankx to MUMA for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs taken at the opening © Monash University Museum of Art and Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated.

Download this essay as a pdf (9.8Mb pdf) Text © Dr Marcus Bunyan

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“This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.”

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Dr Marcus Bunyan. Made Ready: A Philosophy of Moments. December 2013

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Made ready: A Philosophy of Moments

Dr Marcus Bunyan

December 2013

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The readymade is everywhere in the world (for the readymade can be made of anything); the readymade is nowhere in the world. This is the paradox of the readymade: it does not exist in the world as art until after the artist has named it. In this sense it can be argued that there is no such thing as a readymade. It only comes into being through the will and intention of the artist. The readymade may live unnamed in the world for years but it does not exist in the world as art until the artist has intentionally named it (or made it). As Marcel Duchamp observes,

“It’s not the visual aspect of the readymade that matters, it’s simply that fact that it exists… Visuality is no longer the question: the readymade is no longer visible, so to speak. It is completely grey matter. It is no longer retinal.”1

The readymade is (initially) a concept of the brain and not of the eye. It is a commodity made by man living in the world made ready for identification as art ‘already made’ by the recognition of the artist of its exchange value – the object as transitory metonym which “stands in” for another place of being through a change of name or purpose. It is the intention of the artist to impose an (alternate) order on the object, an order in which the readymade questions aesthetic criteria and categories such as taste, authorship and intentionality. As Dr Rex Butler notes, “The work is not simply intended – which is an obvious fact about any work of art – but about an intention that has come to replace, while entirely reproducing, that which is the very embodiment of the contingent and unpredictable.”2

According to Thierry de Duve, the choosing of the object is accompanied by three other acts: naming the object, signing it and devising some original presentation for it.3 There are the so called unassisted readymades (such as Duchamp’s Bottle dryer, 1914 reconstructed 1964 below) and there are also plain, aided, sick, unhappy, reciprocal and semi-readymades.4 In reality no readymade is unassisted as all are called into being by the mind of the artist. But the concept of the readymade “heralds the realisation that art can be made from anything whatsoever.”5 If this is the case then the readymade “makes of all aesthetic judgements something unconvincing, derivative, second-hand,”6 perhaps even deliberately “invoking” criticism before the artwork is even constructed. If the inherent structural and aesthetic function of all things is predetermined, as though fulfilling some underlying design, it is the artists intentionality in naming the object as art – a model of explanation “that abducts from external products to internal processes, from what is visible to what must be inferred”7 - that deliberately places and fixes these objects in a new moment in space and time.

Through appropriation, readymades “make their claim to the dignity of an art object through some unexpected presentation that decontextualises them and pulls them away from their daily use.”8 Through appropriation, artists laud everyday objects as art for all to see.9 Through appropriation, art institutes emphasise the power of the art institution, the readymade made taxidermied, stuffed object, placed on a stand, an everyday object lauded as art for all to see. In this scenario, the desire of manufacturing that wants consumer objects to be seen as useful, valuable is inverted as readymades become institutional objects of desire just out of reach of the audience (10,000 dollar coins just lying around on the floor!). The death of the object as an object and its reanimation “to the dignity of an art object” is completed “simply by its presence in the museum.”10 As Elizabeth Wilson states, “The only defence against transgressive desire is to turn either oneself or the object of desire to stone.”11 In this case it is the museum officials that turn the object of desire into stone (by lionising them as readymades). In actuality, these objects that artists imagine explore the dichotomy between presence and absence and the nature of transgressive desire.

Essentially, the concept of the readymade is both elastic (like the band that holds together the brick and book cover in Claire Fontaine’s witty La société du spectacle brickbat 2006, below) and fixed (like the brick itself), the readymade being both a performative act (ritualised play) and citational practice by which discourse produces the effects it names.12 Further, a link can be made to Bachelard’s theory of space and imagination which describes literary space as reflexive, resonant and moulded by consciousness.13 In their playfulness the spatial dynamics of readymades challenge and illuminate the human, sensory possibility. They examine how the reality of contemporary life is disguised and concealed from view, and how human beings are alienated from the very objects that they produce. For the French philosopher and sociologist Henri Lefebvre, “(The) critique of everyday life is … at once a rejection of the inauthentic and the alienated, and an unearthing of the human which still lies buried therein.”14

“One avenue for this unearthing is what Lefebvre describes as moments of presence - fleeting, sensate instants in which the “totality of possibilities contained in daily existence” were revealed. While destined to pass in an instant, it is through such moments that we are able to catch glimpses of the relation between the everyday and the social totality.”15 This philosophy or theory of moments was developed in opposition to Bergson’s understanding of time as a linear duration (duree) of separate instances and for Lefebvre, these “moments are “experiences of detachment from the everyday flow of time” which puncture the banality of everyday life…”16

“All the activities that constitute everyday life must then be rethought in terms of a dialectic of presence and absence and each moment is simultaneously an opportunity for alienation and disalienation.”17 The readymade, then, explores the politically radical potential that lies within the everyday through play and the intentionality of the artist. Through representation, readymades mediate between absence and presence; through poësis they begin to inhabit another time and space.

“In the poetic act, presence is the given. Lefebvre intends ‘poetic’ to cover unalienated production – the Greek poësis - as he explained in The Production of Space (1974)… Presence and poësis stand outside social relations of production. Flashes of inspiration, moments when one feels ‘all together’ and ‘in touch’, are not determined by economic relations, and cannot be prevented, even in a prison camp.”18

Readymades are a reaction against the linear production of industry, which is both functional and hierarchical. They are a reaction against the banality and repetition of the everyday – of the hegemony of capitalist production and the social relations of everyday life. In a culture of use and use by, the readymade “inscribes the work of art within a network of signs and pre-existing material.”19 Theses assemblages enable us to ask the question, what makes aesthetic judgement possible. They offer an alternative form of resistance to the imposition of linear repetition, through a form of mental and visual play. The moment of the representation encloses a transition (something transitory, something which ‘traverses’)20 – through a plethora of creative, emotive and imaginative practices - from something stable to un/stable.

This transition is a flash, a boundary where this becomes that, not then, not that – falling in love, jumping of a bridge. Alive : dead; presence : absence; purpose : play; mastery : exhaustion; logos : silence; worldly : transcendent. Not this, not that. It is an impossible presence, present – a moment of unalienated production that we know exists but we cannot define it, place it. How can we know love? We can speak of it in a before and after sense but it is always a past moment that we recognise.

It is the same with the readymade. The inscriptions on the early readymades (such as the bottle dryer and urinal) detailing authorship, dates, times, places can be seen as an attempt to ‘fix’ an individual artwork in the flow of time, to distinguish it from its unacknowledged neighbour – like “fixing” a photograph. It is telling that when the bottle rack was lost and remade in the 1960s the text that was originally on the lower metal ring was lost with the object itself.21 The text sought to fix these transitory moments of absence : presence.

Søren Kierkegaard calls this transition a “leap,” where a human being chooses an ethical life-view, one that resides in the actual and not in an ironic-aesthetic attitude.

“It is important to see that choice, as the characteristic of the ethical lifeview, forms a radical break with the ironic spiral of the aesthetic attitude. Kierkegaard sometimes calls the ethical choice a “leap,” a term that expresses the fundamental uncertainty of each commitment to actuality: contrary to aesthetic fantasy, which is “safely” self-contained, the outcome of the individual’s ethical choice is dependent on actuality and therefore not fully under the individual’s control. This is a decisive difference between aesthetic irony (including meta-irony) and the ethical leap: instead of merely rejecting all actuality, the latter takes responsibility for a certain actuality and tries to reshape it.”22

And tries to reshape it. Thus we can say that readymades are human beings taking responsibility for their actuality by choosing to name an object as art, creating objects that challenge aesthetic value judgements and an ironic-aesthetic lifeview through their very presence, by their very selfness. Remembering (ah memory!), that it is always a past moment that we recognise. The familiar is not necessarily the known – it has to be named.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Endnotes

1. Duchamp, Marcel. “Talking about Readymades,” Interview by Phillipe Collin, June 21, 1967, quoted in Girst, Thomas. “Duchamp for Everyone,” in The Indefinite Duchamp. Germany: Hatje Cantz, 2013, p. 55 quoted in Day, Charlotte. “Introduction,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 85
2. Butler, Rex. “Two Snapshots of the Readymade Today,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 98
3. Duve, Thierry de. “Readymade,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 92
4. Ibid.,
5. Ibid.,
6. Butler, op. cit.,
7. Danto, Arthur C. “Criticism, advocacy, and the end-of-art condition: a working paper,” on Artnet website [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. www.artnet.com/magazine_pre2000/features/danto/danto97-3-6.asp
8. Duve, op. cit. p. 91
9. “Still, appropriationism, which defines the end-of-art condition, is pretty much the defining principle of our moment, putting, as it does, everything and every combination of things at the service of art, even including bad drawing and bad painting, since these, being designated, tell us only what kind of point the artist who appropriates them intends, not what kind of artist she or he is.”
Danto op. cit.,
10. Duchamp, Marcel. Definition of the readymade in the Dictionnaire abrégé du Surréalisme quoted in Duve, op. cit. p. 92
11. Wilson, Elizabeth. “The Invisible Flaneur,” in Watson, Sophie and Gibson, Katherine (eds.,). Postmodern Cities and Spaces. Cambridge, Mass: Blackwell, 1995, p. 75
12. Butler, Judith. Bodies That Matter. New York: Routledge, 1993, p. 1-2
13. See Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1958 (1994)
14. Trebitsch, M. “Preface,” in Lefebvre, Henri. Critique of everyday life Vol. I. London: Verso, 1991, pp.ix-xxviii quoted in Butler, Chris. Law and the Social Production of Space. August 2003, p.60 [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. www120.secure.griffith.edu.au/rch/file/6e262ab2-3509-3354-9079-f0a16c85949c/1/02Whole.pdf
15. Harvey, D. “Afterword,” in Lefebvre, Henri. The production of space. Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, see note 1, at p. 429 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 60
16. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, see note 4, at p. 61 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 61
17. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, see note 4, at p. 70 quoted in Butler, Chris. Ibid., p. 61
18. Shields, Rob. Lefebvre, love and struggle: spatial dialectics. London: Routledge, 1999, p. 99 [Online] Cited 01/12/2013. Google Books website.
19. Sharkey, Patrice. “When Everything is already a Readymade,” in Reinventing the Wheel: The Readymade Century. Melbourne: Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), 2013, p. 107
20 Lefebvre, Henri. The production of space. Blackwell, Oxford, 1991, p. 213 quoted in Shields, Rob op. cit., p. 99
21. Duve, op. cit. p. 91
22. Dulk, Allard Den. “Beyond Endless “Aesthetic” Irony: A Comparison of the Irony Critique of Søren Kierkegaard and David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest,” in Studies in the Novel Vol. 44, No. 3. University of North Texas: Fall 2012, pp. 325-345

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Man Ray. 'Cadeau (Gift)' 1921 reconstructed 1970

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Man Ray
Cadeau (Gift)
1921 reconstructed 1970
Iron with brass tacks and wooden base
19.0 x 14.9 x 14.9 cm (overall); iron & base: 17.9 x 14.9 x 14.9 cm; glass cover: 19.0 cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

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Marcel Duchamp. 'Bicycle wheel' (detail) 1913 reconstructed 1964

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Marcel Duchamp
Bicycle wheel (detail) (with Dr Marcus Bunyan)
1913 reconstructed 1964
Painted wooden stool and bicycle wheel
Stool: 50.4 cm (h.); wheel: 64.8 cm (diam.); overall: 126.5 cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Photo: © Joyce Evans

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Marcel Duchamp. 'Bicycle wheel' 1913 and 'Bottle dryer' 1914

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Marcel Duchamp
Bicycle wheel (detail)
1913 reconstructed 1964
Painted wooden stool and bicycle wheel
Stool: 50.4 cm (h.); wheel: 64.8 cm (diam.); overall: 126.5 cm (h.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Marcel Duchamp
Bottle dryer
1914 reconstructed 1964
Galvanised iron bottle dryer
65.0 x 44.0 x 43.0 cm (overall); base: 37.5 cm (diam.)
Collection: National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Martin Creed
Work no. 88 A sheet of A4 paper crumpled into a ball
1995
A4 paper, ed. 625/Unlimited
Approx. 2 in / 5.1 cm diameter
Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth, London

Aleks Danko
Art stuffing
1970
Synthetic polymer paint on paper-stuffed hessian bag
75.0 x 58.0 x 30.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales – John Kaldor Family Collection

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Barry Humphries. 'Battle of the plate' 1958

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Barry Humphries
Battle of the plate
1958
Welded steel forks
28.5 x 87.0 x 26.5 cm
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Bequest of Barrett Reid 2000
Photo: © Joyce Evans

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Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (detail)

Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (detail)

Haim Steinbach. 'Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks)' 1990 (detail)

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Haim Steinbach
Untitled (graters, Victorian iron banks) (details)
1990
Aluminium laminated wood shelf with glass display case and objects
150.0 x 150.0 x 62.0 cm (overall installed)
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992

Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992

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Tony Cragg
Spyrogyra
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Tony Cragg. 'Spyrogyra' 1992 (detail)

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Tony Cragg
Spyrogyra (detail)
1992
Glass and steel
220.0 x 210.0 cm
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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“Arguably the most influential artistic development of the twentieth century, the readymade was set in motion one hundred years ago when Marcel Duchamp mounted an upturned bicycle wheel on a stool. Duchamp’s conversion of unadorned, everyday objects into fine art completely inverted how artistic practice was considered. Suddenly, art was capable of being everywhere and in everything. It was a revolutionary moment in modern art and the ripples from this epochal shift still resonate today.

Reinventing the Wheel: the Readymade Century pays tribute to Duchamp’s innovation, including two key examples of his work: Bicycle wheel 1913 and Bottle dryer 1914. Other important historical works that MUMA has borrowed for the exhibition reveal the readymade’s presence in Minimalism and Conceptual art as well as its echoes in Pop art. The exhibition traces some of the ways the readymade has been reinterpreted by subsequent artists in acts of homage to Duchamp or further expanding the possibilities the readymade has unfurled.

Among the various trajectories of the readymade, Reinventing the Wheel traces its elaborations in neo-dada practices, with a particular focus on everyday and vernacular contexts; the mysterious and libidinous potential of sculptural objects; institutional critique and nominal modes of artistic value. These discursive contexts also provide a foundation to explore more recent tendencies related to unmonumental and social sculpture, post-Fordism and other concerns, particularly among contemporary Australian artists. Bringing together works by over forty artists – from Duchamp and Man Ray to Andy Warhol and Martin Creed, along with some of Australia’s leading practitioners – this is a one-of-a-kind salute to an idea that continues to define the very nature of contemporary art.

“This is the most ambitious exhibition that MUMA has yet presented, including works that establish the historical moment of the readymade in Europe and its reception in the USA and in Australia. Most exciting is the opportunity for living artists to see their work as part of this ongoing history,” said Charlotte Day, Director of MUMA.”

Press release from the MUMA website

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Joseph Kosuth. 'One and three tables' 1965

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Joseph Kosuth
One and three tables
1965
Wooden table, gelatin silver photograph, and photostat mounted on foamcore
Installation dimensions variable
Collection: Art Gallery of New South Wales

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Julian-Dashper-Untitled-(The-Warriors)-WEB

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Julian Dashper
Untitled (The Warriors)
1998
Vinyl on drumheads, drum kit
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the Julian Dashper Estate and Michael Lett Auckland

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Masato Takasaka. 'Smile! Bauhaus babushka sundae boogie woogie (model for a prog rock SCULPTURE PARK)' (detail) 1999-2007/2013

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Masato Takasaka
Smile! Bauhaus babushka sundae boogie woogie (model for a prog rock SCULPTURE PARK) (detail)
1999-2007/2013
MDF, vinyl, marker on foamcore, soft drink cans, acrylic, paper notepad from Bauhaus Museum giftshop, plastic wrapper, cardboard, polycarbonate sheeting, marker on paper, Metallica babushka dolls, toy guitar, sundae keyring
Dimensions variable
Courtesy of the artist and Studio Masatotectures, Melbourne

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Jeff Koons. 'Balloon dog (Red)' 1995 designed

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Jeff Koons
Balloon dog (Red)
1995 designed
Porcelain, ed. 1113/2300
11.3 x 26.3 cm diameter
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Lou Hubbard. 'Stretch' 2007

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Lou Hubbard
Stretch
2007
Two ‘Studio K’ Planet lamps, fluorescent lights, MDF, acrylic paint and Perspex
108.3 x 251.8 x 29.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Sarah Scout, Melbourne

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Andrew Liversidge. 'IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE' 2009

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Andrew Liversidge
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney

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Andrew-Liversidge-IN-MY-MIND-I-KNOW-b-WEB

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Andrew Liversidge
IN MY MIND I KNOW WHAT I THINK BUT THAT’S ONLY BASED ON MY EXPERIENCE (installation photograph)
2009
10,000 $1 coins (AUD)
30.0 x 30.0 x 30.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and The Commercial Gallery, Sydney
Photo: Joyce Evans

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Callum Morton. 'Mayor' 2013

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Callum Morton
Mayor
2013
Polyurethane resin, wood, fibreglass, synthetic polymer paint
290.0 x 200.0 x 26.0 cm
City of Melbourne Art and Heritage Collection

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Claire Fontaine. 'La société du spectacle brickbat' 2006

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Claire Fontaine
La société du spectacle brickbat
2006
Bricks and brick fragments, laser impression
178.0 x 108.0 x 58.0 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Metro Pictures, New York

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Word History: The earliest sense of brickbat, first recorded in 1563, was “a piece of brick.” Such pieces of brick have not infrequently been thrown at others in the hope of injuring them; hence, the figurative brickbats (first recorded in 1929) that critics hurl at performances they dislike. The appearance of bat as the second part of this compound is explained by the fact that the word bat, “war club, cudgel,” developed in Middle English the sense “chunk, clod, wad,” and in the 16th century came to be used specifically for a piece of brick that was unbroken on one end.

1. A piece of brick or similar material, esp one used as a weapon
2. Blunt criticism the critic threw several brickbats at the singer

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Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA)
Ground Floor, Building F.
Monash University Caulfield campus
900 Dandenong Road
Caulfield East, VIC 3145
T: 61 3 9905 4217

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Friday 10am – 5pm
Saturday 12 – 5pm

Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA) website

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28
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 2

Exhibition dates: 22nd November – 23rd March 2014

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This is the second of a two-part posting on the huge Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The photographs in this posting are from NGV Australia at Federation Square. The first part of the posting featured work from NGV International venue in St Kilda Road. Melbourne Now celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne.

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Please note: All text below the images is from the guide book.

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“Melbourne is a microcosm of the global art world. This is evident not only in its possession of world-class infrastructure, but also in the multitude of tendencies, styles and modes of practice that circulate in its midst. I doubt that there is an underlying formal unity, or even a hierarchy of movements, that holds together and directs the global art world. This then begs the question: does the teeming multitude of art forms in Melbourne suggest that the local scene is an isomorph [a substance or organism that exactly corresponds in form with another] of global chaos, or a unique fragment that coexists with other entities?
The answer is paradoxical. It is our haunted and resistant sense of place that allows for both a form of belonging that is forever seeking to be elsewhere, and a unique aesthetic that anticipates the many returns of a repressed past.”

Nikos Papastergiadis. “As Melbourne in the world.” 2013

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“What the show delivers in spades is a sense of the city as a place of immense creativity and subtle exploration. While non-Melburnians might be tempted to see this as an especially large example of the city’s enduring fascination with itself, when the theme is the city, the inclusion of architecture and design makes sense.

And the result is anything but narcissistic; a turn round the exhibition reveals that although Melbourne features strongly in some works, it is also curiously incidental; at the heart of the show is an examination of urban and suburban, and what it feels like to live in a rapidly changing world where old certainties no longer apply.”

Anon. “Melbourne Now: this exhibition changes the city’s arts landscape,” on The Guardian Australia Culture Blog, nd

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Stephen Benwell 'Statue' 2012

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Stephen Benwell
Statue
2012

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Throughout his career a major preoccupation of Benwell’s work has been the depiction of the male figure. In 2006 he commenced a series of figurative sculptural works that explore issues relating to masculinity, naked beauty and sensuality. These works, initially inspired by eighteenth century figurines and Greco-Roman statuary, have become a significant aspect of Benwell’s recent practice. The artist contributes a group of these evocative male figures for Melbourne Now.

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Polixeni Papaetrou born Australia 1960 'Ocean Man' 2013

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Polixeni Papaetrou born Australia 1960
Ocean Man
2013
from the series The Ghillies 2013
Pigment print
120.0 x 120.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2013
© Polixeni Papapetrou/Administered by VISCOPY, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Papapetrou’s contribution to Melbourne Now comprises three photographs from her 2013 series The Ghillies. Working with her children as models and using the extreme camouflage costumes that are employed by the military, Papapetrou reflects on the passing of childhood and the moment when children separate themselves from their mothers. Young men often assume the costumes and identities of masculine stereotypes, hiding themselves, and their true identity, from plain sight in the process.

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Michelle Hamer born Australia 1975 'Can't' 2013

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Michelle Hamer born Australia 1975
Can’t
2013
Wool, plastic
52.0 x 67.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Michelle Hamer, courtesy Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Hamer’s contribution to Melbourne Now pairs works referencing local signage, Blame and punish the individual, 2013, and Can’t, 2013, with three earlier tapestries from her American series I Send Mixed Messages, 2013. While the contrasting palettes and particular nuances of typography, built architecture and native vegetation point to specific times and places, when amplified and dislocated Hamer’s chosen texts suggest a more universal narrative of perplexity and turmoil. The artist describes these powerful distillations as ‘revealing the small in-between moments that characterise everyday life’.

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Patricia Piccinini born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-72, arrived Australia 1972 'The carrier' (detail) 2012

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Patricia Piccinini born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-72, arrived Australia 1972
The carrier (detail)
2012
Silicone, fibreglass, human and animal hair, clothing
170.0 x 115.0 x 75.0 cm
Collection of Corbett Lyon and Yueji Lyon, Lyon Housemuseum, Melbourne, proposed gift
© Patricia Piccinini, courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Supported by Corbett and Yueji Lyon

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Piccinini’s work for Melbourne Now is The carrier, 2012, a hyper-real sculpture of a bear-like figure holding an elderly woman. With his massive, hirsute and muscular physique, the creature is almost human; there is warmth and intimacy between the mismatched couple. The figures’ relationship is ambiguous. Are they mistress and servant, or simply unlikely friends, embarked on a journey together? It is nice to believe the latter, but hard to forget that humans rarely treat other animals equitably. The carrier investigates what we want from our creations, and wonders about unexpected emotional connections that might arise between us and them.

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Georgia Metaxas born Australia 1974 'Untitled 28' 2011

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Georgia Metaxas born Australia 1974
Untitled 28
2011
From The Mourners series 2011
Type C photograph
60.0 x 50.0 x 7.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Georgia Metaxas, courtesy of Fehily Contemporary, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Metaxas’s contribution to Melbourne Now comprises five photographs from The Mourners series, 2011, which was first exhibited at the Centre for Contemporary Photography, Melbourne, in 2011. These stately portraits show women who have adopted the traditional practice of wearing black, symbolising perpetual mourning, following the death of their husbands. Photographed against plain black backdrops, dressed in their widows’ weeds, these women form an austere and mournful frieze.

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Stuart Ringholt born Australia 1971 'Nudes' 2013

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Stuart Ringholt born Australia 1971
Nudes
2013
Collage (1-52)
29.0 x 30.0 cm (each)
Collection of the artist
© Stuart Ringholt, courtesy Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Expanding the artist’s greater naturist project, Nudes, 2013, is a series of collages featuring images of twentieth-century modernist art objects and nudes taken from soft porn references. In these works, Ringholt complicates the original function of the images as the spectator considers the relationship between the nude and the work of art. Interested in how images can be transformed by simple interventions, Ringholt opens possibilities for new narratives to emerge between the nude, the object and the audience.

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Richard Lewer born New Zealand 1970, arrived Australia 2000 'Northside Boxing Gym' (detail) 2013

Richard Lewer born New Zealand 1970, arrived Australia 2000 'Northside Boxing Gym' (detail) 2013

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Richard Lewer born New Zealand 1970, arrived Australia 2000
Northside Boxing Gym (details)
2013
Charcoal on existing wall, boxing bag, 5.1 sound system
550.0 x 480.0 x 480.0 cm (installation)
Collection of the artist
© Richard Lewer, courtesy Hugo Michell Gallery, Adelaide

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Since challenging fellow artist Luke Sinclair to a boxing match at Melbourne’s Northside Boxing Gym in 2001 (as a performance), Lewer has remained interested in the site, training there regularly and making art about it. For Melbourne Now Lewer presents an immersive recreation of the gymnasium, featuring a large-scale charcoal wall-drawing accompanied by mirrors, sound and a sweaty boxing bag.

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Hotham Street Ladies Australia est. 2007 'At home with the Hotham Street Ladies' 2013

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Hotham Street Ladies Australia est. 2007
At home with the Hotham Street Ladies
2013
Royal and buttercream icing, modelling paste, confectionary, furniture, plinths, pot plants, colour DVD, television, light fittings, heater, icing, video, chandelier, lampshade, fireplace, furniture, television, crockery, cutlery, glassware, fabric dimensions variable (installation)
NGV commission Supported by Melbourne Now Champions the Dewhurst Family
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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The collective’s members are Cassandra Chilton, Molly O’Shaughnessy, Sarah Parkes, Caroline Price and Lyndal Walker. Their practice embraces themes of home life, feminism and craft and explores how collaborative participation in, and contemporising of, these activities creates a distinct cultural community. Their work’s innovative combination of humour and contemporary critique with nostalgic or familiar elements makes it appealing to a wide audience. Often thought of in terms of dysfunction, the share house in their hands becomes a site of creativity, cooperation and overindulgence.

Food is a constant presence in HSL’s work, from recipe swap meets, street art and public art commissions to controversial cake entries in the Royal Melbourne Show. For Melbourne Now the group take baking and icing to a whole new level. Their installation At home with the Hotham Street Ladies, 2013, transforms the foyer of The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia into an icing-bombed domestic wonderland. Their commission for kids invites children and families to photograph themselves within one of the scenes from HSL’s icing- and lolly encrusted share house.

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Lucy Irvine 'Before the after' 2013

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Lucy Irvine
Before the after
2013

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For Melbourne Now Irvine has constructed a large site-specific work at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Before the after, 2013, which establishes a dialogue with the gallery building, its architecture and the temporality of the exhibition. Spilling out across the floor, the serpentine form is an interruption of the order of things, a writhing obsidian mass that clings to the interior of the building. At the same time the work is a nuanced meditation on the nature of surfaces and skin. Irvine’s iterative practice argues for value in the gestural, and proposes the act of making as a form of knowledge.

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Paul Knight 'Untitled' 2012

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Paul Knight
Untitled
2012
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Paul Knight 'Untitled' 2012

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Paul Knight
Untitled
2012
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Knight’s recent folded photographic works extend his interest in notions of authorship, photographic agency, the relationships between observer and observed, and ideas of intimacy and love. Each scene captures a couple lying together, bodies entwined, in bed – the artist privy to an intense, personal scene of absorption. There is an evident trust between Knight and his subjects, who sleep gently, seemingly unaware of, or perhaps complicit in, his presence. The illusion is ruptured by the folding of the photographic print, which has the effect of sometimes forcing the couples closer together, other times slicing them apart. The fold intensifies the sense of intimacy and draws attention to the physical state of the photograph.

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Installation view of the series 'Milk Bars of Melbourne', 2010-13 by David Wadelton at the exhibition 'Melbourne Now'

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Installation view of the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13 by David Wadelton at the exhibition Melbourne Now
Photo: © David Wadelton

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David Wadelton. 'Milk Bar, Jenkens Avenue Frankston North' 2012

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David Wadelton
Milk Bar, Jenkens Avenue Frankston North
2012
From the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13
Photo: © David Wadelton

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David Wadelton. 'Milk Bar, Napier Street, Essendon' 2012

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David Wadelton
Milk Bar, Napier Street, Essendon
2012
From the series Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13
Photo: © David Wadelton

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For Melbourne Now, Wadelton contributes a series of recent photographs of suburban milk bars selected from his vast personal cache. Whereas these shots of corner-store facades – windows jammed with ice-cream, soft drink and newspaper logos, handpainted typography and scrawled graffiti – echo the Pop paintings that made his name, insofar as they combine ready-made commercial symbols on the same flat, pictorial plane, the photographs’ grey- scale palette and documentary presentation differ from the futuristic aesthetic of Wadelton’s canvases. While the paintings delight in global commercial imagery, Milk Bars of Melbourne, 2010-13, shows a local culture in terminal decline.

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Penny Byrne 'iProtest' (detail) 2012-13

Penny Byrne 'iProtest' (detail) 2012-13

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Penny Byrne
iProtest (details)
2012-13

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While at first iProtest, 2012-13, resembles a display of endearing souvenir-style figurines hanging on a wall, its potency is revealed on closer inspection. Each figurine is personalised with details relating to one of the many conflicts driven by mass protests around the world. Nationalism is referenced by faces painted with flags; acts of violence leave bodies dismembered and bloodied; and the cutest figurines are in fact riot police, wielding guns and dressed as clowns. The omnipresent symbol of Facebook is also ingeniously added to the work. Byrne’s crowd of modified figurines explores the way social media has become a significant tool for coordinating protests around the world.

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Julia deVille 'Degustation' (detail) 2013

Julia deVille 'Degustation' (detail) 2013

Julia deVille 'Degustation' (detail) 2013

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Julia deVille
Degustation (details)
2013

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Informed by a fascination with death, memento mori and Victorian jewellery design, deVille’s work relies on traditional techniques and involves a broad range of animals, precious and semiprecious metals and gems. The artist is a vegan and passionate advocate for the fair and just treatment of animals, and only uses animals that have died of natural causes in her work. By examining death in this distinctive way, deVille urges us to consider our own mortality and the beauty of death and remembrance. For Melbourne Now she has created an installation titled Degustation, 2013, which evokes an ornate Victorian-style dining room, filled with her sculptural pieces and works from the NGV collection.

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Mira Gojak 'Transfer station 2' 2011

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Mira Gojak
Transfer station 2 (foreground)
2011

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With Transfer station 2, 2011, Gojak creates a sculptural work of unfurling, freewheeling loops, shaky erratic lines and clusters of blossoming tangles that appears like a drawing suspended in space. A high-keyed palette of cobalt blues, soft pinks and fluorescent yellows activates heavier blackened thickets that punctuate perspectives of uninterrupted space. Suspended from the ceiling by a single line, Gojak’s sculpture is a not-quite-settled upon Venn diagram. Its openness is held still in a moment, together with all the scribbled-out mistakes, digressions and exclusions, stalling or directing the movement and exchange circulating around the forms.

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Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' 2013 (detail) with Elizabeth Gower's '150 rotations' 2013 (detail) on the wall behind (left)

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Daniel von Sturmer Paradise park 2013 (detail, foreground) with Elizabeth Gower’s 150 rotations 2013 on the wall behind (detail, left)

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The first version of 150 rotations was displayed recently in an exhibition, curated by Gower, that explored the appropriation and use of urban detritus as a visual art strategy by a variety of Melbourne artists. Further developed for Melbourne Now, Gower’s contribution now comprises 150 circular components, each made up of tea-bag tags, price tags and elements cut from junk mail catalogues, which colonise the wall like a galaxy of vibrant constellations. Akin to the light from long-dead stars, the familiar ephemera, which is usually thrown out, recycled or composted, now serves a new purpose and takes on a mesmeric, formal beauty.

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Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' 2013

Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' 2013

Daniel von Sturmer 'Paradise park' (detail) 2013

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Daniel von Sturmer
Paradise park
2013

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Von Sturmer’s Melbourne Now commission for kids, Paradox park, 2013, creates a space for enquiry and interaction with art, conceived with a child’s innate sense of curiosity and wonder. Paradox park comprises a large tilted plane with small circular apertures through which a child (or adventurous adult) can push their head in order to view small projections of animated objects atop and below the surface. By placing the viewer’s point of reference inside the work, von Sturmer posits experience itself as a creative act – a unique interplay between viewer and viewed.

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Melbourne Design Now Simone LeAmon (curator, exhibition designer) born Australia 1971 Edmund Carter (exhibition designer) born Australia 1983 'Design in everyday life' 2013

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Melbourne Design Now
Simone LeAmon (curator, exhibition designer) born Australia 1971
Edmund Carter (exhibition designer) born Australia 1983
Design in everyday life
2013
Supported by The Hugh D. T Williamson Foundation

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Melbourne Design Now is the first design exhibition of its kind to be shown at the National Gallery of Victoria. A presentation of localised creative intelligence in the fields of industrial, product, furniture and object design, this project comprises more than ninety design projects from forty designers, design studios and companies. Melbourne Design Now celebrates design’s relationship to everyday life and how contemporary designers are embedding unique and serial design production with ideas, meaning and emotion to resonate with the city of Melbourne.

The breadth of design projects in this ‘exhibition within the exhibition’ intends to communicate to the public that the work of Melbourne designers is influencing discourses, future scenarios and markets both at home and around the world. Ranging from cinema cameras by Blackmagic Design to the Bolwell EDGE caravan, eco-design education tools by Leyla Acaroglu to Monash Vision Group’s direct-to-brain bionic eye, and furniture made with ancient Australian timber by Damien Wright to biodegradable lampshades by LAB DE STU, these design projects consolidate Melbourne as one of the great design cities in the world today.

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Melbourne Design Now Gregory Bonasera 'Palace table' 'Derby pendant light' 2013 Kate Rohde 'Ornament is Crime vessels' 2013

Melbourne Design Now Gregory Bonasera 'Palace table' 'Derby pendant light' 2013 Kate Rohde 'Ornament is Crime vessels' 2013

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Melbourne Design Now

Gregory Bonasera
Palace table
Derby pendant light
2013
Kate Rohde
Ornament is Crime vessels
2013

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Gregory Bonasera is a ceramicist with an in depth understanding of the processes utilised in the production of ceramics; a methodical thinker who works more like an industrial designer than a potter to realise his creations and to advise and collaborate with other designers on their projects. Consistently adding new works to his range of innovative functional and sculptural ceramic wares, Gregory casts his creations in fine porcelain and bone china employing a hybrid of state of the art CAD technology with traditional 270 year old ceramic production methods. His works are strongly influenced by natural forms, science, biology, botany and geometry.

Kate Rohde’s jewellery and vessels are created in resin, a signature material that features extensively in her visual art practice. These pieces take a playful, decorative approach, often incorporating elements typical of Baroque and Rococo style, drawing particularly on the decorative arts and interior design of this era. The highly ornate nature reveals, on closer inspection, that much of the patterning is drawn from flora and fauna sources. The combination of the two intersecting interests creates a psychadelic supernature. (Text from the Pieces of Eight Gallery website)

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Installation view of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013

Installation view of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013

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Installation view of Jess Johnson Various titles 2013

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Johnson creates fantastic worlds in images that combine densely layered patterns, objects and figures within architectural settings. Cryptic words and phrases are part of her unique and idiosyncratic iconography. The artist’s drawing and installation practice is inspired by science fiction, mythological cosmology and comic books, and reflects a diverse interest in art, ranging from illuminated manuscripts to folk art traditions such as quilt making. Her contribution to Melbourne Now includes ten new drawings that depict the imagined formation of a future civilisation. These are displayed within a constructed environment featuring a raised podium, painted walls and patterned floor which, together with the drawings, offers an immersive experience.

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Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now

Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now

Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now

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Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now

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Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now reveals the complex web of personalities, factions and trajectories that make up Melbourne’s vibrant contemporary architectural culture. This project asks: What are the ideas and themes that inform Melbourne’s design culture? Who are its agitators and protagonists? How are emerging architects driving new ways of thinking? The project is in four parts:

  • A ‘super graphic’ introduction sampling Melbourne’s contemporary architectural culture
  • A projection space with architectural imagery curated to five themes: representation and the city; craftsmanship and materiality; art-engaged practice; stitching the city; and bio-futures/advanced architecture
  • An incubator/studio environment providing insight into the processes of six leading Melbourne architects: Cassandra Fahey, Make Architecture, March Studio, Muir Mendes, Studio Bird and Studio Roland Snooks
  • An intimate screening room with a video artwork by Matthew Sleeth

Sampling the City is curated by Fleur Watson, with exhibition design by Amy Muir and Stuart Geddes, projection and soundscape design by Keith Deverall, introductory narrative by Watson and Michael Spooner and built environment imagery by Peter Bennetts.

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un Magazine. 'un Retrospective' (installation view) 2013

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un Magazine
un Retrospective (installation view)
2013

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For Melbourne Now, un Magazine presents un Retrospective - a selective history of artists, writers and art practice in Melbourne since 2004, as featured in the back catalogue of the magazine. Taking inspiration and content from past issues, un Retrospective assembles recent local works of art alongside correlating text – whether original essay, review or interview – from the pages of un Magazine, highlighting the relationships between criticism and practice, writers and artists, that have been fostered in the publication. un Retrospective celebrates ten years of un Magazine and contemporary art in Melbourne while providing a point of historical context within the newness of Melbourne Now.

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Slave Pianos 'Gamelan sisters' 2013

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Slave Pianos
Gamelan sisters
2013

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Slave Pianos – a collaboration between artists, composers and musicians Rohan Drape, Neil Kelly, Danius Kesminas, Michael Stevenson and Dave Nelson – make historically grounded, research-based installations and performances utilising humour, immediacy and the conflation of ‘high’ and ‘low’ idioms to suggest connections and interrelations between the largely discrete fields of music, art and architecture.

For Melbourne Now Slave Pianos present Gamelan sisters, 2013, a self-governing electromechanical ‘slave’ gamelan, which allows audience members to select pieces from a repertoire of compositions arranged by Slave Pianos via a wall-mounted console alongside related scores. The Gamelan sisters instrument features in Slave Pianos’ space opera The Lepidopters, to be performed in Indonesia and Australia in 2014, which is based on a three part science fiction story set in Indonesia commissioned from American writer and art critic Mark von Schlegell. A comic depicting the first two parts of The Lepidopters, drawn by Yogyakarta-based artist ‘Iwank’ Erwan Hersi Susanto – a member, with Kesminas, of the Indonesian art-rock collective Punkasila – is also presented in the Melbourne Now Reading Room.

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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26
Nov
13

Exhibition: ‘Melbourne Now’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Part 1

Exhibition dates: 22nd November 2013 – 23rd March 2014

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This is the first of a two-part posting on the huge Melbourne Now exhibition at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. The photographs in this posting are from the NGV International venue in St Kilda Road. The second part of the posting features photographs of work at NGV Australia: The Ian Potter Centre at Federation Square. Melbourne Now celebrates the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne.

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Keywords

Place, memory, anxiety, democracy, death, cultural identity, spatial relationships.

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The best

Daniel Crooks An embroidery of voids 2013 video.

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Highlights

Patricia Piccinini The Carrier 2012 sculpture; Mark Hilton dontworry 2013 sculpture.

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Honourable mentions

Stephen Benwell Statues various dates sculpture; Rick Amor mobile call 2012 painting; Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser Melbourne Noir 2013 installation.

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Disappointing

The weakness of the photography. With a couple of notable exceptions, I can hardly recall a memorable photographic image. Some of it was Year 12 standard.

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Low points

  • The lack of visually interesting and beautiful art work – it was mostly all so ho hum in terms of pleasure for the eye
  • The preponderance of installation/design/architectural projects that took up huge areas of space with innumerable objects
  • The balance between craft, form and concept
  • Too much low-fi art
  • Too much collective art
  • Little glass art
  • Weak third floor at NGV International
  • Two terrible installations on the ground floor of NGVA

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Verdict

As with any group exhibition there are highs and lows, successes and failures. Totally over this fad for participatory art spread throughout the galleries. Too much deconstructed/performance/collective design art that takes the viewer nowhere. Good effort by the NGV but the curators were, in some cases, far too clever for their own (and the exhibitions), good. 7/10

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Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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“Although the word “new” recurs like an incantation in the catalogue essays many exhibits are variations on well-worn themes. The trump cards of Melbourne Now are bulk and variety… It’s astonishing that curators still seem to assume that art which proclaims its own radicality must be intrinsically superior to more personal expressions. Yet mediocrity recognises no such distinctions. Most of this show’s avant-garde gestures are no better than clichés.”

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John Macdonald. Review of Melbourne Now. Sydney Morning Herald, Saturday 11 January, 2014

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All photographs © Dr Marcus Bunyan unless otherwise stated. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. Please note: All text below the images is from the guide book.

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“A rich, inspiring critical context prevails within Melbourne’s contemporary art community, reflecting the complexity of multiple situations and the engaging reality of a culture that is always in the process of becoming. Local knowledge is of course specific and resists generalisation – communities are protean things, which elide neat definition and representation. Notwithstanding the inevitable sampling and partial account which large-scale survey exhibitions unavoidably present, we hope that Melbourne Now retains a sense of semantic density, sensory intensity and conceptual complexity, harnessing the vision and energy that lie within our midst. Perhaps most importantly, the contributors to Melbourne Now highlight the countless ways in which art is able to change, alter and invigorate the senses, adding new perspectives and modes of perceiving the world in which we live.”

Max Delany. “Metro-cosmo-polis: Melbourne now” 2013

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Laith McGregor. 'Pong ping paradise' 2011

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Laith McGregor
Pong ping paradise
2011
Private collection, United States of America

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The drawings OK and KO, both 2013, which decorate the horizontal surfaces of two table-tennis tables and contain four large self-portraits portraying unease and concern, are more restrained. The hirsute beards of McGregor’s earlier works have evolved into all enveloping geometric grids, their hand-drawn asymmetry creating a subtle sense of distortion that contradicts the inherently flat surface of the tables.

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Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' 2011

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Ross Coulter
10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)
2011
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' (detail) 2011

Ross Coulter. '10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1)' (detail) 2011

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Ross Coulter
10,000 paper planes - aftermath (1) (details)
2011
Type C photograph
156.0 x 200.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased NGV Foundation, 2012
© Ross Coulter
Last photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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With 10,000 paper planes – aftermath (1), 2011, Coulter encountered Melbourne’s intellectual heart, the State Library of Victoria (SLV). Being awarded the Georges Mora Foundation Fellowship in 2010 allowed Coulter to realise a concept he had been developing since he worked at the SLV in the late 1990s. The result is a playful intervention into what is usually a serious place of contemplation. Coulter’s paper planes, launched by 165 volunteers into the volume of the Latrobe Reading Room, give physical form to the notion of ideas flying through the building and the mind. This astute work investigates the striking contrast between the strict discipline of the library space and its categorisation system and the free flow of creativity that its holdings inspire in the visitor.

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Rick Amor. 'Mobile call' 2012

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Rick Amor
Mobile call
2012
Private collection, Melbourne

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Best known for his brooding urban landscapes, Amor’s work in Melbourne NowMobile call, 2012, stays true to this theme. The painting speaks to the heart of urban living in its depiction of a darkened city alleyway, with dim, foreboding lighting. A security camera on the wall surveys the scene, a lone, austere figure just within its watch. The camera represents the omnipresent surveillance of our modern lives, and an uneasy air of suspicion permeates the painting’s subdued, grey landscape. Amor’s reflections on the urban landscape are solemn, restrained and often melancholic. Quietly powerful, his work alludes to a mystery in the banality of daily existence. Mobile call is a realistic portrayal of a metropolitan landscape that opens our eyes to a strange and complex world.

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Steaphan Paton. 'Cloaked combat' (detail) 2013

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Steaphan Paton
Cloaked combat (detail)
2013
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

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Cloaked combat, 2013, is a visual exploration of the material and technological conflicts between cultures, and how these differences enable one culture to assert dominance over another. Five Aboriginal bark shields, customarily used in combat to deflect spears, repel psychedelic arrows shot from a foreign weapon. Fired by an unseen intruder cloaked in contemporary European camouflage, the psychedelic arrows rupture the bark shields and their diamond designs of identity and place, violating Aboriginal nationhood and traditional culture. The jarring clash of weapons not only illustrates a material conflict between these two cultures, but also suggests a deeper struggle between old and new. In its juxtaposition of prehistoric and modern technologies, Cloaked combat highlights an uneven match between Indigenous and European cultures and discloses the brutality of Australia’s colonisation.

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Zoom project team. 'Zoom' (detail) 2013

Zoom project team. 'Zoom' (detail) 2013

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Zoom project team
Curator: Ewan McEoin / Studio Propeller; Data visualisation: Greg More / OOM Creative; Graphic design: Matthew Angel; Exhibition design: Design Office; Sound installation: Marco Cher-Gibard; Data research: Serryn Eagleson / EDG Research; Digital survey design: Policy Booth
Zoom (details)
2013

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Anchored around a dynamic tapestry of data by Melbourne data artist Greg More, this exhibit offers a window into the ‘system of systems’ that makes up the modern city, peeling back the layers to reveal a sea of information beneath us. Data ebbs and flows, creating patterns normally inaccessible to the naked eye. Set against this morphing data field, an analogue human survey asks the audience to guide the future design of Melbourne through choice and opinion. ZOOM proposes that every citizen influences the future of the city, and that the city in turn influences everyone within it. Accepting this co-dependent relationship empowers us all to imagine the city we want to create together.

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Installation view of Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' 2012 (left) and Reko Rennie 'Initiation', 2013 (right)

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Installation view of Jon Campbell DUNNO (T. Towels) 2012 (left) and Reko Rennie Initiation, 2013 (right)

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Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' (detail) 2012

Jon Campbell. 'DUNNO (T. Towels)' (detail) 2012

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Jon Campbell
DUNNO (T. Towels) (details)
2012

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For Melbourne Now Campbell presents DUNNO (T. Towels), 2012, a work that continues his fascination with the vernacular culture of suburban Australia. Comprising eighty-five tea towels, some in their original condition and others that Campbell has modified through the addition of ‘choice’ snippets of Australian slang and cultural signifiers, this seemingly quotidian assortment of kitsch ‘kitchenalia’ is transformed into a mock heroic frieze in which we can discover the values and dramas of our present age.

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Reko Rennie Kamilaroi born in 1974 'Initiation' 2013

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Reko Rennie Kamilaroi born in 1974
Initiation
2013
Synthetic polymer paint on plywood (1-40)
300.0 x 520.0 cm (overall)
Collection of the artist
© Reko Rennie, courtesy Karen Woodbury Gallery, Melbourne
Supported by Esther and David Frenkiel

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Initiation, 2013, a mural-scale, multi-panelled hoarding that subverts the negative stereotyping of Indigenous people living in contemporary Australian cities. This declarative, renegade installation work is a psychedelic farrago of street art, native flora and fauna, Kamilaroi patterns, X-ray images and text that addresses what it means to be an urban Aboriginal person. By yoking together contrary elements of graffiti, advertising, bling, street slogans and Kamilaroi diamond geometry, Rennie creates a monumental spectacle of resistance.

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Installation view of Reko Rennie 'Initiation', 2013

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Installation view of Reko Rennie Initiation, 2013

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Janet Burchill Jennifer McCamley 'The Belief' 2004-2013

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Janet Burchill
Jennifer McCamley
The Belief
2004-2013

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Shields from Papua New Guinea held in the National Gallery of Victoria’s collection provided an aesthetic catalyst for the artists to develop an open-ended series of their own ‘shields’. The Belief includes shields made by Burchill and McCamley between 2004 and 2013. In part, this installation meditates on the form and function of shields from the perspective of a type of reverse ethnography. As the artists explain:

“The shield is an emblematic form ghosted by the functions of attack and defence and characterised by the aggressive display of insignia … We treat the shield as a perverse type of modular unit. While working with repetition, each shield acts as a carrier or container for different types and registers of content, motifs, emblems and aesthetic strategies. The series as a whole, then, becomes a large sculptural collage which allows us to incorporate a wide range of responses to making art and being alive now.”

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Janet Burchill Jennifer McCamley 'The Belief' (detail) 2004-2013

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Janet Burchill
Jennifer McCamley
The Belief (detail)
2004-2013

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Melbourne Now is an exhibition unlike any other we have mounted at the National Gallery of Victoria. It takes as its premise the idea that a city is significantly shaped by the artists, designers, architects, choreographers, intellectuals and community groups that live and work in its midst. With this in mind, we have set out to explore how Melbourne’s visual artists and creative practitioners contribute to the dynamic cultural identity of this city. The result is an exhibition that celebrates what is unique about Melbourne’s art, design and architecture communities.

When we began the process of creating Melbourne Now we envisaged using several gallery spaces within The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia; soon, however, we recognised that the number of outstanding Melbourne practitioners required us to greatly expand our commitment. Now spreading over both The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia and NGV International, Melbourne Now encompasses more than 8000 square metres of exhibition space, making it the largest single show ever presented by the Gallery.

Melbourne Now represents a new way of working for the NGV. We have adopted a collaborative curatorial approach which has seen twenty of our curators work closely with both external design curators and many other members of the NGV team. Committing to this degree of research and development has provided a great opportunity to meet with artists in their studios and to engage with colleagues across the city as a platform not only for this exhibition, but also for long-term engagement.

A primary aim throughout the planning process has been to create an exhibition that offers dynamic engagement with our audiences. From the minute visitors enter NGV International they are invited to participate through the exhibition’s Community Hall project, which offers a diverse program of performances and displays that showcase a broad concept of creativity across all art forms, from egg decorating to choral performances. Entering the galleries, visitors discover that Melbourne Now includes ambitious and exciting contemporary art and design commissions in a wide range of media by emerging and established artists. We are especially proud of the design and architectural components of this exhibition which, for the first time, place these important areas of practice in the context of a wider survey of contemporary art. We have designed the exhibition in terms of a series of curated, interconnected installations and ‘exhibitions within the exhibition’ to offer an immersive, inclusive and sometimes participatory experience.

Viewers will find many new art commissions featured as keynote projects of Melbourne Now. One special element is a series of commissions developed specifically for children and young audiences – these works encourage participatory learning for kids and families. Artistic commissions extend from the visual arts to architecture, dance and choreography to reflect Melbourne’s diverse artistic expression. Many of the new visual arts and design commissions will be acquired for the Gallery’s permanent collections, leaving the people of Victoria a lasting legacy of Melbourne Now.

The intention of this exhibition is to encourage and inspire everyone to discover some of the best of Melbourne’s culture. To help achieve this, family-friendly activities, dance and music performances, inspiring talks from creative practitioners, city walks and ephemeral installations and events make up our public programs. Whatever your creative interests, there will be a lot to learn and enjoy in Melbourne NowMelbourne Now is a major project for the NGV which we hope will have a profound and lasting impact on our audiences, our engagement with the art communities in our city and on the NGV collection. We invite you to join us in enjoying some of the best of Melbourne’s creative art, design and architecture in this landmark exhibition.

Tony Ellwood
Director, National Gallery of Victoria

Foreword from the Melbourne Now exhibition guide book

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Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

Destiny Deacon Virginia Fraser 'Melbourne Noir' (detail) 2013

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Destiny Deacon
Virginia Fraser

Melbourne Noir (details)
2013
Installation comprising photography, video, sculptural diorama dimensions (variable) (installation)
Collection of the artists
© Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney

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Adapting the quotidian formats of snapshot photography, home videos, community TV and performance modes drawn from vaudeville and minstrel shows, Deacon’s artistic practice is marked by a wicked yet melancholy comedic and satirical disposition. In decidedly lo-fi vignettes, friends, family and members of Melbourne’s Indigenous community appear in mischievous narratives that amplify and deconstruct stereotypes of Indigenous identity and national history. For Melbourne Now, Deacon and Fraser present a trailer for a film noir that does not exist, a suite of photographs and a carnivalesque diorama. The pair’s playful political critiques underscore a prevailing sense of postcolonial unease, while connecting their work to wider global discourses concerned with racial struggle and cultural identity.

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Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

Darren Sylvester 'For you' (detail) 2013

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Darren Sylvester
For you (details)
2013
Based on Yves Saint Laurent Les Essentials rouge pur couture, La laque couture and Rouge pur couture range revolution lipsticks, Marrakesh sunset palette, Palette city drive, Ombres 5 lumiéres, Pure chromatic eyeshadows and Blush radiance
Illuminated dance floor, sound system
605.0 x 1500.0 x 1980.0 cm
Supported by VicHealth; assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body

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For Melbourne Now Sylvester presents For you, 2013, an illuminated dance floor utilising the current palette of colours of an international make-up brand. By tapping into commonly felt fears of embarrassment and the desire to show off in front of others, For you provides a gentle push onto a dance floor flush in colours already proven by market research to appear flattering on the widest cross-section of people. It is a work that plays on viewers’ vanity while acting as their support. In Sylvester’s own words, this work ‘will make you look good whilst enjoying it. It is for you’.

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Assembling over 250 outstanding commissions, acquired and loaned works and installations, Melbourne Now explores the idea that a city is significantly shaped by the artists, designers and architects who live and work in its midst. It reflects the complexity of Melbourne and its unique and dynamic cultural identity, considering a diverse range of creative practice as well as the cross-disciplinary work occurring in Melbourne today.

Melbourne Now is an ambitious project that represents a new direction for the National Gallery of Victoria in terms of its scope and its relationship with audiences. Drawing on the talents of more than 400 artists and designers from across a wide variety of art forms, Melbourne Now will offer an experience unprecedented in this city; from video, sound and light installations, to interactive community exhibitions and artworks, to gallery spaces housing working design and architectural practices. The exhibition will be an immersive, inclusive and participatory exhibition experience, providing a rich and compelling insight into Melbourne’s art, design and cultural practice at this moment. Melbourne Now aims to engage and reflect the inspiring range of activities that drive contemporary art and creative practice in Melbourne, and is the first of many steps to activate new models of art and interdisciplinary exhibition practice and participatory modes of audience engagement at the NGV.

The collaborative curatorial structure of Melbourne Now has seen more than twenty NGV curators working across disciplinary and departmental areas in collaboration with exhibition designers, public programs and education departments, among others. The project also involves a number of guest curators contributing to specific contexts, including architecture and design, performance and sound, as well as artist-curators invited to create ‘exhibitions within the exhibition’, develop off-site projects and to work with the NGV’s collection. Examples of these include Sampling the City: Architecture in Melbourne Now, curated by Fleur Watson; Drawing Now, curated by artist John Nixon, bringing together the work of forty-two artists; ZOOM, an immersive data visualisation of cultural demographics related to the future of the city, convened by Ewan McEoin; Melbourne Design Now, which explores creative intelligence in the fields of industrial, product, furniture and object design, curated by Simone LeAmon; and un Retrospective, curated by un Magazine. Other special projects present recent developments in jewellery design, choreography and sound.

Numerous special projects have been developed by NGV curators, including Designer Thinking, focusing on the culture of bespoke fashion design studios in Melbourne, and a suite of new commissions and works by Indigenous artists from across Victoria which reflect upon the history and legacies of colonial and postcolonial Melbourne. The NGV collection is also the subject of artistic reflection, reinterpretation and repositioning, with artists Arlo Mountford, Patrick Pound and The Telepathy Project and design practice MaterialByProduct bringing new insights to it through a suite of exhibitions, videos and performative installations.

In our Community Hall we will be hosting 600 events over the four months of Melbourne Now offering a daily rotating program of free workshops, talks, catwalks and show’n’tells run by leaders in their fields. And over summer, the NGV will present a range of programs and events, including a Children’s Festival, dance program, late-night music events and unique food and beverage offerings.

The exhibition covers 8000 square metres of space, covering much of the two campuses of the National Gallery of Victoria, and moves into the streets of Melbourne with initiatives such as the Flags for Melbourne project, ALLOURWALLS at Hosier Lane, walking and bike tours, open studios and other programs that will help to connect the wider community with the creative riches that Melbourne has to offer.

Melbourne Now Introduction

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Alan Constable. 'No title (teal SLR with flash)' 2013

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Alan Constable
No title (teal SLR with flash)
2013
Earthenware
15.5 x 24.0 x 11.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Alan Constable, courtesy Arts Project Australia, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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A camera’s ability to act as an extension of our eyes and to capture and preserve images renders it a potent instrument. In the case of Constable, this power has particular resonance and added poignancy. The artist lives with profound vision impairment and his compelling, hand-modelled ceramic reinterpretations of the camera – itself sometimes referred to as the ‘invented eye’ – possess an altogether more moving presence. For Melbourne Now, Constable has created a special group of his very personal cameras.

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Linda Marrinon. Installation view of works including 'Debutante' (centre) 2009

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Linda Marrinon
Installation view of works including Debutante (centre)
2009
Tinted plaster, muslin
Collection of the artist
© Linda Marrinon, courtesy Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney
Supported by Fiona and Sidney Myer AM, Yulgilbar Foundation and the Myer Foundation

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Marrinon’s art lingers romantically somewhere between the past and present. Her figures engage with notions of formal classical sculpture, with references to Hellenistic and Roman periods, yet remain quietly contemporary in their poise, scale, adornments and subject matter. Each work has a sophisticated and nonchalant air of awareness, as if posing for the audience. Informed by feminism and a keen sense of humour, Marrinon’s work is anti-heroic and anti-monumental. The figures featured in Melbourne Now range from two young siblings, Twins with skipping rope, New York, 1973, 2013, and a young woman, Debutante, 2009, to a soldier, Patriot in uniform, 2013, presented as a pantheon of unlikely types.

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Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' 2013

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Brook Andrew
Vox: Beyond Tasmania
2013
Wood, cardboard, paper, books, colour slides, glass slides, 8mm film, glass, stone, plastic, bone, gelatin silver photographs, metal, feather
267.0 x 370.0 x 271.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Brook Andrew, courtesy Tolarno Galleries, Melbourne
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Andrew’s Vox: Beyond Tasmania, 2013, renders palpable as contemporary art a central preoccupation of his humanist practice – the legacy of historical trauma on the present. Inspired by a rare volume of drawings of fifty-two Tasmanian Aboriginal crania, Andrew has created a vast wunderkammer containing a severed human skeleton, anthropological literature and artefacts. The focal point of this assemblage of decontextualised exotica is a skull, which lays bare the practice of desecrating sacred burial sites in order to snatch Aboriginal skeletal remains as scientific trophies, amassed as specimens to be studied in support of taxonomic theories of evolution and eugenics. Andrew’s profound and humbling memorial to genocide was supported in its first presentation by fifty-two portraits and a commissioned requiem by composer Stéphanie Kabanyana Kanyandekwe.

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Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

Brook Andrew. 'Vox: Beyond Tasmania' (detail) 2013

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Brook Andrew
Vox: Beyond Tasmania (details)
2013

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Daniel Crooks. 'An embroidery of voids' 2013 (still)

Daniel Crooks. 'An embroidery of voids' 2013 (still)

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Daniel Crooks
An embroidery of voids (stills)
2013
Colour single-channel digital video, sound, looped
Collection of the artist
© Daniel Crooks, courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney
Supported by Julie, Michael and Silvia Kantor
Photos: © National Gallery of Victoria

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Commissioned for Melbourne Now, Crooks’s most recent video work focuses his ‘time-slice’ treatment on the city’s famous laneways. As the camera traces a direct, Hamiltonian pathway through these lanes, familiar surroundings are captured in seamless temporal shifts. Cobblestones, signs, concrete, street art, shadows and people gracefully pan, stretch and distort across our vision, swept up in what the artist describes as a ‘dance of energy’. Exposing the underlying kinetic rhythm of all we see, Crooks’s work highlights each moment once, gloriously, before moving on, always forward, transforming Melbourne’s gritty and often inhospitable laneways into hypnotic and alluring sites.

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Jan Senbergs. 'Extended Melbourne labyrinth' 2013 (installation view)

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Jan Senbergs
Extended Melbourne labyrinth
2013
Oil stick, synthetic polymer paint wash (1-4)
158.0 x 120.0 cm (each)
Collection of the artist
© Jan Senbergs, courtesy Niagara Galleries

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Senbergs’s significance as a contemporary artist and his understanding of the places he depicts and their meanings make his contribution to Melbourne Now essential. Drawing inspiration from Scottish poet Edwin Muir’s collection The labyrinth (1949), Senbergs’s Extended Melbourne labyrinth, 2013, takes us on a journey through the myriad streets and topography that make up our sprawling city. His characteristic graphic style and closely cropped rendering of the city’s urban thoroughfares is at once enthralling and unsettling. While the artist neither overtly celebrates nor condemns his subject, there is a strong sense of Muir’s ‘roads that run and run and never reach an end’.

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Patrick Pound. 'The gallery of air' (detail) 2013

Patrick Pound. 'The gallery of air' (detail) 2013

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Patrick Pound
The gallery of air (details)
2013

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For Melbourne Now Pound has created The gallery of air, 2013, a contemporary wunderkammer of works of art and objects from across the range of the NGV collection. There are Old Master paintings depicting the effect of the wind, and everything from an exquisite painted fan to an ancient flute and photographs of a woman sighing. When taken as a group these disparate objects hold the idea of air. Added to works from the Gallery’s collection is an intriguing array of objects and pictures from Pound’s personal collection. On entering his installation, visitors will be drawn into a game of thinking and rethinking about the significance of the objects and how they might be activated by air. Some are obvious, some are obscure, but all are interesting.

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Marco Fusinato born Australia 1964 'Aetheric plexus (Broken X)' 2013

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Marco Fusinato born Australia 1964
Aetheric plexus (Broken X)
2013
Alloy tubing, lights, double couplers, Lanbox LCM DMX controller, dimmer rack, DMX MP3 player, powered speaker, sensor, extension leads, shot bags
880.0 x 410.0 x 230.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Marco Fusinato, courtesy Anna Schwartz Gallery, Melbourne and Sydney
Supported by Joan Clemenger and Peter Clemenger AM
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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For Melbourne Now, Fusinato presents Aetheric plexus (Broken X), 2013, a dispersed sculpture comprising deconstructed stage equipment that is activated by the presence of the viewer, triggering a sensory onslaught with a resonating orphic haze. The work responds to the wider context of galleries, in the artist’s words, ‘changing from places of reflection to palaces of entertainment’ by turning the engulfed audience member into a spectacle.

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Installation view of Susan Jacobs 'Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors)' 2013 with Mark Hilton 'dontworry' 2013 in the background

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Installation view of Susan Jacobs Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors) 2013 with Mark Hilton dontworry 2013 in the background

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In her most recent project, Jacobs fabricates a rudimentary version of the material Hemacite (also known as Bois Durci) - made from the blood of slaughtered animals and wood flour – which originated in the late nineteenth century and was moulded with hydraulic pressure and heat to form everyday objects, such as handles, buttons and small domestic and decorative items. The attempt to re-create this outmoded material highlights philosophical, economic and ethical implications of manufacturing and considers how elemental materials are reconstituted. Wood flour for pig iron (vessel for mixing metaphors), 2013, included in Melbourne Now, explores properties, physical forces and processes disparately linked across various periods of history.

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' 2013

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976
dontworry
2013
Cast resin, powder
The Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne
© Mark Hilton, courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney
Photo: © National Gallery of Victoria

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dontworry, 2013, included in Melbourne Now, is the most ambitious and personal work Hilton has made to date. A dark representation of events the artist witnessed growing up in suburban Melbourne, this wall-based installation presents an unnerving picture of adolescent mayhem and bad behaviour. Extending across nine intricately detailed panels, each corresponding to a formative event in the artist’s life, dontworry can be understood as a deeply personal memoir that explores the transition from childhood to adulthood, and all the complications of this experience. Detailing moments of violence committed by groups or mobs of people, the installation revolves around Hilton’s continuing fascination with the often indistinguishable divide between truth and myth.

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' 2013 (detail)

Mark Hilton born Australia 1976 'dontworry' (detail) 2013

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Mark Hilton born Australia 1976
dontworry (details)
2013
Cast resin, powder
The Michael Buxton Collection, Melbourne
© Mark Hilton, courtesy Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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17
Oct
13

Exhibition: ‘Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th October 2013 – 2nd March 2014

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You saw it here first on Art Blart!

What a gorgeous exhibition. It’s about time Melbourne had a bit of style put back into the National Gallery of Victoria, and this exhibition hits it out of the park. Not only are the photographs absolutely fabulous but the frocks are absolutely frocking as well. Well done to the NGV for teaming the photographs with the fashion and for a great install (makes a change to see 2D and 3D done so well together). Elegant, sophisticated and oozing quality, this is a sure fire winner…. Review of the photographs to follow.

Marcus

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Many thankx to the NGV for allowing me to take and publish the photographs. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image. All photographs © Marcus Bunyan and the National Gallery of Victoria. May be used freely if permission is sought and proper accreditation given.

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Room 1
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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

installation-v1

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(L-R) Vogue March First 1926; Vogue November 15, 1925; and Vanity Fair June 1926

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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

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“The National Gallery of Victoria will showcase the glamour and modernity of the Art Deco period through the work of fashion’s most influential photographer, Edward Steichen, and stunning Art Deco fashion garments and accessories. The exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion is the first Australian survey of Steichen, widely considered to have created the first modern fashion photo. The exhibition features almost 200 of Steichen’s original vintage photographs, drawn from the vast archives of Condé Nast where he was chief photographer for their most prestigious magazines Vanity Fair and Vogue during the 1920s and 30s, alongside more than forty exquisite Art Deco fashion items from the NGV Collection and select private collections.

Tony Ellwood, Director, NGV, said that Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion is the first major Australian retrospective dedicated to Steichen’s iconic Condé Nast work.

“Steichen’s evocative images are regarded as among the most striking in early-to-mid-20th century photography and his fashion work in particular revolutionised the genre of fashion photography. This exhibition provides a rare opportunity to view such a large body of his work and to see up close the intricate details of outstanding Art Deco fashion items that highlight the interplay between fashion and photography,” said Mr Ellwood.

The exhibition presents Steichen’s pioneering modernist fashion photography and celebrity portraiture, produced during his fifteen year career as chief photographer for esteemed Condé Nast publications Vanity Fair and Vogue. During this period he put his exceptional talents and prodigious energy to work, creating a legacy of unequalled brilliance as he photographed the world of high fashion and stars of contemporary popular culture including Marlene Dietrich, Joan Crawford, Charlie Chaplin, Katherine Hepburn, Clara Bow, Louise Brooks, Greta Garbo, Gary Cooper, Winston Churchill and George Gershwin. Steichen’s images transformed fashion photography and influenced generations of photographers, capturing the sophistication of the newly liberated ‘modern woman’ and encapsulating the chic beauty and avant-garde style of the Art Deco movement. Renowned as an innovator and master of lighting, his practice bridged the transition from photography’s early soft-focus, pictorialist style to clean, crisp modernism.

Echoing the aesthetics of Steichen’s photographs, this exhibition will also celebrate the fashion borne of the period with over forty exquisite Art Deco garments and accessories by leading designers of the day including Chanel, Lanvin, Madeleine Vionnet, Madame Paquin and Callot Soeurs. The elegance of old Hollywood glamour and high end fashion will be seen through a range of pieces – including swimsuits, coats, evening gowns, beach pyjamas, dresses, hats, bags and shoes, as well as an early example of Chanel’s little black dress. Art Deco style developed in response to changing lifestyles and ideals following the First World War. Typically characterised by sleek, geometric lines, rich colours and luxurious adornments, these new forms represented a shift away from traditional values; in fashion, hemlines rose and hairstyles became shorter, culminating in the infamous mid-twenties flapper style.

Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion also displays rare copies of Vogue and Vanity Fair that demonstrate the way Steichen’s photographs appeared on the magazine page. Two catalogues accompany the exhibition: Art Deco Fashion, a magazine-style volume that charts the development of the modern silhouette and highlights some of the leading designers of the period, and Edward Steichen: In High Fashion – The Condé Nast Years, 1923-1937, a lavishly illustrated 288 page publication that focuses on Steichen’s legendary Vogue and Vanity Fair work.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria

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Room Two
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CALLOT SOUERS, Paris couture hours 1925 - 1937 Marie CALLOT GERBER designer France c. 1870 - 1927 'Dress' c.1925 silk, glass beads, metallic thread

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CALLOT SOUERS, Paris
couture hours
1925 – 1937
Marie CALLOT GERBER designer
France c. 1870 – 1927

Dress
c.1925
silk, glass beads, metallic thread

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Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

Installation photographs of the exhibition 'Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion' at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

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Installation photographs of the exhibition Edward Steichen & Art Deco Fashion at NGV International by Marcus Bunyan

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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11
Mar
13

Exhibition: ‘Thomas Demand’ at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 - 17th March 2013

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Sitting here in my non-airconditioned flat trying to survive Melbourne’s autumn heatwave is no fun; my mind has turned to mush. So instead of trying to write an in depth review of this exhibition I shall just make some salient comments, for fear my sweat would literally buckle Demand’s meticulously constructed paper models before he could photograph them.

Demand is firstly a sculpture, constructing studio-sized models of photographs that reference “source material in the archive that already has some fateful resonance,” (Robert Nelson, The Age, 12th December 2012) such as the control room of the Fukushima nuclear reactor, the Geneva hotel bath tub where the German politician Uwe Barschel found a brutal death – personally my mind went to David E. Scherman’s photograph of Lee Miller in Hitler’s bathtub (see below); scenes of nature such as Clearing (2003, below) or Grotto (2006, below) that are hyperreal simulacra of natural phenomena; and modular environments and objects, such as Copyshop (1999), Space Simulator (2003) and Bullion (2003, all below) that strip away the relational intimacy between man and environment by the removal of all labelling and tactility of surface. Demand then photographs his denuded “models” before destroying them, the photograph then becoming the soul evidence of their intrinsic existence (much like the documentary evidence of photographs of Land Art). Demand’s visualisation of the environment is triple coded (photograph, model, photograph), a hybrid tri-articulation that produces new identities that release energies of multiplicity, irony and destabilisation.

Robert Nelson observes in The Age that Demand’s world is paper thin and because the eye detects the forgery, “the famous icon of unthinkable fortune [Bullion] - which might have played a part in some famous heist or the security of a national economy – is also a lie, a tinsel falsehood of no substance… All of Demand’s pictures have an empty or hollow character, which defies the earnest weight of their associations.” Dan Rule insightfully notes that, “By removing the image’s reference or index, only to so painstakingly recast it, he [Demand] begs us to look and look again. These resolutely “unreal” images demand that we consider reality with much greater care.” (Dan Rule, The Age, 19th January 2013). Christopher Allen in The Weekend Australian (2nd March, 2013) states that Demand’s huge final prints, hidden under a layer of Perspex, “adds another level of truth and illusion that preoccupies Demand as it must any serious photographer today. In this case, the photographs can claim to be, for what this is worth, absolutely and literally true in their recording of their subject; it is only the subject itself that is entirely illusory and fabricated.”

Interesting comments all. Demand’s recasting of the relationship between image and referent (image and the object being photographed) is critical to his practice, but I am unsure that all photographers have to be preoccupied with the relationship between truth and illusion as Allen states. As my recent review of the exhibition Confounding: Contemporary Photography noted not all photographs have to confound the relationship between truth and illusion in order to be art. “Collectively, it is the ideas contained within the images in this exhibition that unsettle the relationship between the photograph and the world in the mind of the viewer, not their confounding.” As in the Jeff Wall Photographs exhibition, there is not much emotion in any of these images and perhaps this is an outcome of the long pre-photographic production process.

Demand’s recordings, re-orderings of a constructed reality are fabrications of the highest calibre, amazing to witness at first hand (is that really a model, how does he do that with paper and lighting?!), and yet one is left with a feeling that the work needed something more to go beyond this illusion, some layering that takes the viewer beyond the surface of the image, beyond the understanding of image / model / reality. I look at the photographs, I understand the skill, the imbrication of the process – I think that is the word I want, meaning the covering with a design in which one element covers a part of another – the looking again at a fabricated (our!) reality but the photographs still leave me a little cold of heart, of empty and hollow character. Perhaps that is the point, however it doesn’t make me want to look at the photographs over weeks, months and years and let them reveal themselves to me. Like the paper on which they are printed they are paper thin, one model wonders.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Copyshop' 1999

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Copyshop
1999
C-Print / Perspex
183.5 × 300.0 cm
Collection of John Kaldor, Sydney
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Kontrollraum / Control Room' 2011

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Kontrollraum / Control Room
2011
C-Print / Perspex
200.0 × 300.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Labor / Laboratory' 2000

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Labor / Laboratory
2000
C-Print / Perspex
180.0 × 268.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Space Simulator' 2003

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Space Simulator
2003
C-Print / Perspex
300.0 × 429.4 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Regen / Rain' (still) 2008

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Regen / Rain (still)
2008
35 mm colour film, sound, 4 min, looped
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Lichtung / Clearing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Lichtung / Clearing
2003
C-Print / Perspex
192.0 × 495.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Grotte / Grotto' (detail) 2006

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Grotte / Grotto (detail)
2006
C-Print / Perspex
Photograph: Marcus Bunyan

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Bullion' 2003

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Bullion
2003
C-Print / Perspex
42.0 × 60.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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David E. Scherman. 'Lee Miller in Hitler's bath, Hitler's apartment, Munich, Germany 1945' 1945

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David E. Scherman
Lee Miller in Hitler’s bath, Hitler’s apartment, Munich, Germany 1945
1945
From Lee Miller: A Life by Carolyn Burke
© Lee Miller Archives

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Badezimmer / Bathroom' 1997

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Badezimmer / Bathroom
1997
C-Print / Perspex
160.0 × 122.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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Thomas Demand German 1964- 'Tribute' 2011

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Thomas Demand German 1964-
Tribute
2011
C-Print / Perspex
166.0 × 125.0 cm
Courtesy Taka Ishii Gallery, Sprüth Magers Berlin London, Esther Schipper, Berlin, Matthew Marks Gallery
© Thomas Demand, VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn / VISCOPY, Sydney

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays.

National Gallery of Victoria website

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05
Mar
13

Review: ‘Jeff Wall Photographs’ at The Ian Potter Centre: NGVA, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 30th November 2012 - 17th March 2013

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“My work is a reconstruction and reconstruction is a philosophical activity. If I can create a drama that has philosophical meaning, that’s fine, or sometimes, it is not from meaning but a reconstruction of a feeling. It is best to capture in a photograph a feeling, an emotion, a look, a memory, a perception or a relationship.”

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Jeff Wall

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Stressed at the seams

The excruciating “conversation” between Jeff Wall and Thomas Demand in The Great Hall at the National Gallery of Victoria on November 28th 2012 seemed to run on interminably, yielding a couple of tiny gems but also a lot of leaden debate. I had higher hopes of the solo exhibition by Jeff Wall at NGV Australia. In some ways I was not disappointed, in other ways Wall’s calculating fields of existence certainly didn’t move my soul with any great conviction.

Initially, I was impressed perhaps even a little overwhelmed by the spacious hang, the placement of the mainly large, light box illuminated photographs and non light box photographs dotted amongst the galleries emphasising the inter-relationship between the images. The work in the exhibition includes large set-piece constructions, outdoor photographs of found environments, small, intimate conceptual works full of angles and colour and more recent ink jet print work. These “installations that happen to have photos in them” (Wall’s description) reflect the gigantism prevalent in much contemporary photography. In these large mise-en-scène you cannot fail to be impressed by the control the artist displays in the formal nature of their construction, the still-life tableaux representing the artist’s intention in a rather cold and remote way. As can be seen from the structural analysis of Polishing (1988) by Dr James McArdle and J.S.B. below, Wall is very clever in how he structures his shape-shifting photographs, how he seduces the eye into believing that everything is plausible within the formalist pictorial plane. But as McArdle observes,

“[His] formalism remains empty of connection to the subject, Wall denying any narrative representation… His distancing of the subject, his leaning on typecast (such as in the chicken plucking image) can be summed up in his method: staging, directing, controlling that sucks the real life out of the imagery and re-inflates it with bombast.”1

From his early, prissy double self-portrait to his laughing at, not with, the menial labourers in Dressing poultry (2007, below), the set-piece work does seem full of bombast (possessing a pompous and grandiloquent language; an obsolete material used for padding), but perhaps bombast is related to that standard postmodern language, irony. It certainly is a language where Wall denies any inherent narrative, where there is a “dis-identification of the figures in the pictures which becomes part of the aesthetic of the picture.”2 Wall says he is just depicting the figures, that they just become an effect of depiction (or representation, in other words). In this way Wall conditions our awareness of [this particular] space due only in part to their scale (McArdle). This grandiloquence, coupled with the luminance of the light box which creates the luminescence of the image, dazzles the eye but on closer inspection is a perhaps a psychological hall of mirrors. The shattering of this constructed illusion can be seen in the “seaminess” of the photographs. The media image of A view from an apartment (2004-05, below) gives it away: all trace of the join that is present in most of Wall’s large transparencies has been removed, when compared to my detail photograph of the image in the actual exhibition. The join gives lie, line, to the truth that here are photographs that we can believe in. The illusion becomes stressed at the seams but again, perhaps this join is just a trope that Wall has developed to compliment his visual language. Certainly, there is no reason why such large transparencies could not be printed in one piece and at a million dollars a pop he could surely talk to the manufacturer.

Scholars have noted that the phrase ‘Emperor’s new clothes’ has become a standard metaphor for anything that smacks of pretentiousness, pomposity, social hypocrisy, or hollow ostentatiousness and this is the case here. These photographs are like the Emperor’s new clothes, so caught up are we in the brilliance of their display we fail to notice that there is not much going on in terms of the actual “life” of the image (other than subsuming the life of up to 70 digital images to make one still, cold image). Wall’s photographs as performance, his theatre of disruption where the artist seeks to upset the veneer of the ordinary to blur the boundaries between what is probable or improbable, are undone by their existential isolation. I felt little empathy for any of the people in Wall’s tableaux vivants or for their imagined, non-narrative realities as Wall would have it. Perhaps I wasn’t meant to or, to be kinder, perhaps this is the strategy.

There was one exception: Untangling (1994, below) which is a cracker of an image. All the psychological and existential meaning comes pouring out here: an underground cave (Jung’s cave archetype, symbol of the unconscious), the male sitters profound mood of introspection, the skein of tangled rope which may represent the source of the Gordian Knot, used as a metaphor for an intractable problem (disentangling an “impossible” knot) – although I prefer the analogy of the Ouroboros, the snake devouring its own tail which often represents self-reflexivity or cyclicality, especially in the sense of something constantly re-creating itself, the eternal return, which emphasises the relationship between a person’s mind and their experience of reality, how the psyche shapes the environment in which they act, and the untangling of consciousness.

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While his work was cutting edge in the late 1980s – 1990s, containing something in the work that brought him to notice, today it evidences a cultural and visual aesthetic that already seems completely outdated (the Pet Shop Boys on a bad hair day). Through staring at a constructed atemporal reality – like a man dreaming, caught in a no-time – Wall has created a form of look but don’t touch voyeurism, a slightly bombastic narcissism based on the photographers’ own power. But perhaps this is the point. Perhaps the qualities that I have criticized in the artist’s work are the very qualities the he is pursuing. Wall might want a don’t touch voyeurism for example – possibly deny it even exists or give it another name – so that the work interrogates some aspect of alienation without ever naming it. This can be seen in his construction of the photograph Polishing where he represents a mundane act in a cheap hotel room, raising the performance up to the altar of high art while hiding its anomalous philosophical and physical distortions.

I think Wall is a clever person wanting to be contradictory and clever.

To some people the qualities evidenced in Wall’s photographs can be seen to be quite admirable: today we shouldn’t (always) have to seek resolution or meaning. But when Wall says in the quote at the top of this posting that his work is a “reconstruction of a feeling” then I wonder where this feeling has gone, or whether it existed in the first place, for reconstruction is a very strange word to use with regard to feelings.

While the artist can control the uniqueness of a particular image seen from the point of view of production, intention and encounter3 what he cannot control is the interpretation of his images by the viewer. With this in mind (very apt) this is what I don’t get from these images: they lack for me is the quality of being lyrical, an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way. The stress seams present in his photographs, be they physical (the actual print) or psychological (photographs like Doorpusher or A view from an apartment) don’t allow me emotional access to the work. Aiming for an investigation into the existential nature of being and the philosophical reconstruction of a feeling, Wall ends up stressed at the seams (even un/seamed, un/scene, un/seen) and leaves me spatially and emotionally unmoved.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment
2004-05
Transparency in light box 1/2
167.0 x 244.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with assistance from the American Fund for the Tate Gallery and Tate Members, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A view from an apartment' 2004-05 (detail)

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A view from an apartment (detail)
2004-05
Photograph: Marcus Bunyan

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Polishing' 1998

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Polishing
1998
Transparency in light box, 1/2
162.0 x 207.0 cm State Art Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia Purchased with assistance from the Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation, 1999
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image Dr James McArdle

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Jeff Wall 'Polishing' skewing

Image J.S.B.

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Structural analysis of Jeff Wall’s Polishing (1998)

“There is a perceptual discomfort in viewing this image on the wall that is not apparent in the desk-top experience of it. I’m referring to a weird skewing of the perspective of the room. Wall has tilted the monorail of his 8×10 camera down toward the corner of the room, making the left hand wall of the bathroom lean uncomfortably, more than does the patched join of the wall panels to the right. He has then shifted the lens left, thus positioning the one vertical (right behind the figure) to the right of centre. The bathroom door, draped with a towel, looks as if it is hanging off its hinges, at variance with the top of the entrance door which remains horizontal. Conventionally, an architectural photographer would square everything and Wall does that in Doorpusher which though shot from an extremely oblique angle employs a radical drop-front to correct the verticals.”

Dr James McArdle

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“”Firstly, the floor is not straight in the image. You can see how in my edit, I have rotated the image a little to make the floor straight: (you can see how much by the break in the picture rail see red arrow). JW being tricky and skilled. Now the amount of lean in wall could almost be achieved just by a camera pointing down. No weird camera movements – this is almost familiar. But the door leans more than the wall! Next, note the degree of convergence in blue lines compared to green lines. Therefore the blue angle is emphasized – somehow. Note different hang of towel in magenta compared to blue – therefore edited ~ somehow!

The grid is good because as an initial observation it shows how much distortion we are viewing. But it makes it difficult to see that the floor is not level. When the floor is straightened the lean on the left wall is not as much as it seemed. Wait! Things do splay out when the camera is pointed down – so maybe there is no Photoshop in this at all? But there is – the angles have been emphasised a bit (I believe digitally) and there are puns in the angle of the towel (sloping at a different angle) and the buttons on the couch (not sloping out at all).

Lets play with this a bit more. So just tilt the camera to slope the floor and emphasise the lean by using the tilt to straighten the verticals on one side - and now make this a bit stronger in Photoshop. And by judicious use of the furniture placement the slope of the floor can be partly hidden. I can imagine Jeff Wall saying to a crowd that there is no Photoshop in this – it’s just camera placement (including a tilt in the whole camera) and without duplicating the scene I can’t be sure – but I think he has stressed in Photoshop some things that are already there. Digital enhancement.

Finally we can say that the formal qualities of this image are a play upon what has been initially offered by the camera. Initially: The walls are sloping! So is it just optics, or camera angle or Photoshop? It’s all three but not as much Photoshop as initially thought. The floor is not straight, the camera angle has been changed and there has been some digital emphasis.”

J.S.B. (author of The Well Tempered View Camera)

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Many thankx to Dr James McArdle for the initial gridded image from the posting “Perspective blow up,” on his Camera/Eye blog (January 21st, 2013) where he argues that the skewing is all done with tilting and shifting of an 8 x 10 image view camera to the analysis by J.S.B in which he argues that the skewing is partially done through the architecture (the set), the camera and some Photoshop tweeking.

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Double Self-Portrait' 1979

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Double Self-Portrait
1979
Transparency in light box AP
172.0 x 229.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Untangling' 1994, printed 2006

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Untangling
1994, printed 2006
Transparency in light box, AP
189.0 x 223.5 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne Purchased NGV Foundation and with the assistance of NGV Contemporary, 2006
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Dressing poultry' 2007

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Dressing poultry
2007
Transparency in light box, 1/2
201.5 x 252.0 cm
Cranford Collection, London
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver' 1992

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Adrian Walker, artist, drawing from a specimen in a laboratory in the Dept. of Anatomy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver
1992
Transparency in light box, AP
119.0 x 164.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai)
1993
Transparency in light box, unique state
229.0 x 377.0 cm
Tate, London Purchased with the assistance from the Patrons of New Art through the Tate Gallery Foundation and from the National Art Collections Fund, 1995
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'After 'Invisible Man' by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue' 1999-2000

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue
1999-2000
Transparency in light box, AP
174.0 x 250.5 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Knife throw' 2008

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Knife throw
2008
Colour photograph, AP
184.0 x 256.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'The Destroyed Room' 1978

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
The Destroyed Room
1978
Transparency in light box, AP
159.0 x 234.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver' 1999

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Clipped branches, East Cordova St., Vancouver
1999
Transparency in light box, AP
72.0 x 89.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946- 'Diagonal Composition' 1993

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Jeff Wall Canadian 1946-
Diagonal Composition
1993
Transparency in light box, AP
40.0 x 46.0 cm
Collection of the artist
© Jeff Wall

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1. McArdle, James. Email to the author 22-01-2013

2. Wall, Jeff and Crombie, Isobel. “Jeff Wall Photographs: Knife Throw,” video on ArtDaily.org [Online] Cited 03-03-2013

3. Howarth, Sophie. “Introduction,” in Singular Images: essays on Remarkable Photographs. New York: Aperture, 2006, p.7.

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The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia
Federation Square
Corner of Russell and 
Flinders Streets, Melbourne

Opening hours:
10am – 5pm
Closed Mondays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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23
Feb
13

Review: ‘Confounding: Contemporary Photography’ at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 5th October 2012 – 3rd March 2013

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Thinking contemporary photography

At its birth in the 19th century, photography was seen as the ultimate tool for the representation and classification of the visual world.1 Photography recorded reality; a photograph was seen as a visual and literal truth of something that existed in the world. It re-presented the world to the viewer, telling something of the world, reflecting the world. A photograph provided a freeze frame – the snap of the shutter – of one point in time and space. People were astounded that their likeness and that of the world around them could be captured for all to see.

Technological advancements in the early twentieth century, such as faster exposure times and more portable cameras, transformed the potential of the medium to not only show things that escaped the eye but new ways of seeing them as well.2 The photograph began to reveal the personal dimensions of reality. It began to explore the intangible spaces that define our physical and spiritual relationship with reality. “Photographers and artists attempted to depict via photographic means that which is not so easily photographed: dreams, ghosts, god, thought, time” (Jeffrey Fraenkel The Unphotographable Fraenkel Gallery Books 2013). With the advent of modernism, they sought to capture fragments, details and blurred boundaries of personal experience.3 The indexical link photograph and referent, between the camera, the object being photographed and the photograph itself was being stretched to breaking point.

Think of it like this. Think of a photograph of an apple that a camera has taken. There is a link between the photograph and its referent, the photograph of the apple and the object itself (in reality, in the lived world). As a viewer of the photograph of the apple we are secondary witness to the fact that, at some point in time, someone took a photograph of this apple in real life. We bear witness to the eyewitness. Now what if I rip up the photograph of the apple and reassemble it in a different order? Is this still not an apple, only my subjective interpretation of how I see an apple existing in the world? Is it no less valid than the “real” photograph of the apple? What kinds of visual “truth” can exist in images?

Presently, contemporary photography is able to reveal intangible, constructed vistas that live outside the realm of the scientific. A photograph becomes a perspective on the world, an orientation to the world based on human agency. An image-maker takes resources for meaning (a visual language, how the image is made and what it is about), undertakes a design process (the process of image-making), and in so doing re-images the world in a way that it has never quite been seen before.

These ideas are what a fascinating exhibition titled Confounding: Contemporary Photography, at the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne investigates. In the confounding of contemporary photography we are no longer witnessing a lived reality but a break down of binaries such as sacred and profane, public and private, natural and artificial, real and dreamed environments as artists present their subjective visions of imagined, created worlds. Each image presents the viewer with a conundrum that investigates the relationship between photographs and the “real” world they supposedly record. How do these photographs make you feel about this constructed, confounding world? These fields of existence?

Thomas Demand’s Public Housing (2003, below) plays with the real and the fictional, presenting the viewer with an idealised vision of a public housing complex illustrated on a Singapore $10 note. Demand makes large models out of paper and cardboard in his studio and then photographs the result before destroying the basis of his performance, the model, leaving only the photograph as evidence of their existence, an existence that emanated from the imagination of the artist. This particular Demand is unusual in that it depicts the totality of an outdoor structure, for the artist usually focuses on details of buildings, plants and environments in mid to close up view. The flattened perspective, limited colour palette and absence of detail adds to the utopian nature of the work (almost like a photographic Jeffrey Smart), aping the aesthetic and social ideals of Le Courbusier. As John Meades notes, “From early in its history, photography was adopted by architects as a means of idealising their buildings. As beautiful and heroic, as tokens of their ingenuity and mankind’s progress, etc. This debased tradition continues to thrive. At its core lies the imperative to show the building out of context, as a monument, separate from streetscape, from awkward neighbours, from untidiness.”4

In Roger Ballen’s photograph Terminus (2004, below), one the more moody works in the exhibition, a heavy wooden board with a deflated leather bladder on top presses down on a human face. Although it is not a human face (it confounds!), it is the painted face of a mannequin which the viewer can only acknowledge after a jolt of recognition. There is a feeling of entombment, a palpable feeling of claustrophobia, as the meta/physical “weight” of the bladder (like the weight of a heavy meteorite) presses down on the half obscured, thin lipped, black eyed face. Similarly confounding are the two photographs by Eliza Hutchison called The ancestors (2004, below). Shot from the waist up, these photographs remind you of those old black and white Photo Booth snapshots that you used to get for passports (there are still two of those machines outside the Elizabeth Street entrance to Flinders Street railway station, standing there like forlorn sentinels of a by gone age), complete with nondescript curtain that you used to pull behind you. There is something “not quite right” about the people in the photographs but you can’t put your finger on it until the text panel, a little gleefully, informs you that the portraits had been shot upside down. Now you realise what is out of kilter: more cheek and jowl rather than cheek by jowl.

The exhibition makes a powerful point as Robert Nelson in his review of the exhibition in The Age newspaper observes: photography doesn’t necessarily have to be confounding to be art, to become enduring, it just has to have a decent idea behind it.

“I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”5

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The idea has always been the issue. Collectively, it is the ideas contained within the images in this exhibition that unsettle the relationship between the photograph and the world in the mind of the viewer, not their confounding. I don’t find any of these images contain much emotion (except possibly the Ballen) but the images are transformational because they fire up our imagination. Images speak not just of the world, but to the world; they challenge our beliefs, our politics and our daily practices. The camera’s single viewpoint, our single viewpoint, our field of existence has changed. People find themselves somehow, somewhere, not in a lived reality but in an imagined one.

Much is staged, scaled and variations in perspective are paramount. This affects the relationship between the viewer and the viewed for we can no longer take anything at face value. In a media saturated world full of images we begin to question every image that we see: has it been digitally manipulated, does it, did it actually exist in the world? These days “truth” in photography is an elusive notion and that might not be such a bad thing as people question the nature of images that surround them, their authenticity and their aura. In a media saturated world, in a world no longer of our making, seeing is no longer believing.

Dr Marcus Bunyan for the Art Blart blog

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Many thankx to the National Gallery of Victoria for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.

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Thomas Demand German born 1964 'Public housing' 2003

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Thomas Demand German born 1964
Public housing
2003
type C photograph
100.1 x 157.0 cm (image and sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2010
© Thomas Demand/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941 'Home' 1991

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Peter Peryer born New Zealand 1941
Home
1991
gelatin silver photograph
35.6 x 53.8 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Peter Peryer

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany 'The drummer' 2004

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Loretta Lux 1969 Dresden, Saxony, Germany
The drummer
2004
Cibachrome photograph
45.0 x 37.7 cm (image) 56.0 x 49.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, NGV Foundation, 2006
© Loretta Lux/VG BILD-KUNST, Bonn. Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia

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“On 5 October, the National Gallery of Victoria will present Confounding: Contemporary Photography, an exploration of the uncanny worlds created by human imagination, dreams and memories.

Drawn from the NGV’s collection, the fourteen works on display transform the strange, uncomfortable and awkward into plausible realities. Visitors will discover the gaze of unnerving children in the hyper-real work of Loretta Lux; be jolted upon realising the hidden reality of Wang Qingsong’s monumental tableaux; and wonder at the strange beauty in the carefully constructed cardboard world of Thomas Demand.

Susan van Wyk, Curator, Photography, NGV, said: “Like the recollection of a dream, the photographs displayed in Confounding seem to make sense, but do not sit comfortably in the world. There are subtle, slightly sinister elements within the images that suggest a mystifying alternative reality… Through a selection of works by Australian and international artists, including two new acquisitions by Thomas Demand and Roger Ballen, Confounding explores the unexpected with images that bridge the divide between real and fictional.”

Confounding will present works by contemporary photographers including Roger Ballen, Pat Brassington, Thomas Demand, Eliza Hutchison, Rosemary Laing, Loretta Lux, Patricia Piccinini, Peter Peryer, Wang Qingsong and Ronnie van Hout.”

Press release from the National Gallery of Victoria website

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Roger Ballen. 'Terminus' 2004

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Roger Ballen American 1950-, worked in South Africa 1982-
Terminus
2004
Carbon print
45.2 x 44.9 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Gift of Bill Bowness through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gift’s Program, 2012
© courtesy the artist and Stills Gallery, Sydney

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Patricia Piccinini. 'Protein lattice - subset blue, portrait' 1997

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Patricia Piccinini born Sierra Leone 1965, lived in Italy 1968-72, arrived Australia 1972
Protein lattice – subset blue, portrait
1997
from the Protein lattice series 1997
type C photograph
80.5 x 80.3 cm irreg. (image); 90.0 x 126.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of Optus Communications Pty Limited, Member, 1998
© Patricia Piccinini

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962 'Mephitis' 1995

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Ronnie van Hout born New Zealand 1962
Mephitis
1995
Gelatin silver photograph
47.2 x 32.6 cm (image), 50.5 x 40.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased, 1996
© Courtesy the artist and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.4 x 72.9 cm (image), 105.4 x 82.9 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965 'The ancestors' 2004

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Eliza Hutchison Australian born 1965
The ancestors
2004
Light-jet print
95.3 x 73.0 cm (image),105.3 x 83.0 cm (sheet)
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds arranged by Loti Smorgon for Contemporary Australian Photography, 2005
© Eliza Hutchison, courtesy Murray White Room

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1. Anon. “Flatlands: photography and everyday space,” press release from the Art Gallery of New South Wales website posted on Art Blart [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

2. Ibid.,

3. Ibid.,

4. Meades, Jonathan. “Architects are the last people who should shape our cities,” on The Guardian website, Tuesday 18 September 2012 [Online] Cited 19/02/2013

5. “First, do all confounded photographic images qualify as art? Or does a photograph have to be founding in a special way? And second, can a photograph be art without being confounding?

Bundling these questions together, I would say that being confounding is not a necessary property of art photography; and even when it’s present, it isn’t in itself a sufficient ingredient to guarantee enduringly valuable art. Photography doesn’t have to confound in order to be art, but it does have to have an idea in it. The idea is always the issue, whether it works by confounding us or not.”

Nelson, Robert. “Getting the picture can be confounding,” in The Age newspaper, Wednesday January 2nd, 2013, p.11.

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NGV International
180 St Kilda Road

Opening hours
10am – 5pm. Closed Tuesdays

National Gallery of Victoria website

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02
Jan
13

Melbourne’s magnificent eleven 2012

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Here’s my pick of the eleven best artists/exhibitions which featured on the Art Blart blog in 2012. Enjoy!

Marcus

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1/ Review: The work of Robyn Hosking, AT_SALON at Anita Traverso Gallery, Richmond

6th March – 24th March 2012

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Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker
2011
Mixed media

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Robyn Hosking
The Wing Walker (detail)
2011
Mixed media

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… My favourite has to be The Wing Walker (2011) as an irate Julia Gillard tries to get rid of Kevin Rudd once and for all, even poking him with a stick to push him off the edge of the biplane. Balanced on a slowly revolving turntable with the world at its centre, this political merry-go round is panacea for the soul for people sick of politicians. This is brilliant political satire. The planes are all ends up and even when Julia thinks she has got rid of Kevin there he is, hanging on for dear life from the undercarriage of one of the planes…

Reminding me of the fantasy creatures of Tom Moore, these whimsical manifestations deal with serious, life changing and challenging issues with purpose, feeling and a wicked sense of humour. I really enjoyed this art (and joy is the correct word) because it takes real world issues, melds fantasy and pointed observation and reflects it back, as the artist observes, in a funfair’s distorted mirror. Magic!

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2/ Review: Martin Parr: In Focus at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 6th March – 31st March 2012

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This is a fine exhibition of the work of celebrated English photographer Martin Parr at Niagara Galleries, Richmond, albeit with one proviso. The mainly large colour prints are handsomely displayed in plain white frames within the gallery space and are taken from his well known series: Last Resort, Luxury, New British and British Food. Parr’s work is at its best when he concentrates on the volume of space within the image plane and the details that emerge from such a concentrated visualisation – whether it be the tension points within the image, assemblage of colour, incongruity of dress, messiness of childhood or philistine nature of luxury.

And so it goes. The dirt under the fingernails of the child eating a doughnut, the lurid colours of the popsicle and jacket of the kid with dribble on his face, all fantastic… They are joyous paeans to the quirky, incongruous worlds in which we live and circulate. They evidence life itself in all its orthogonal absurdity.

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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Martin Parr
England. New Brighton.
From the series Last Resort
1983 – 1985
Pigment print
Edition of 5
102 x 127 cm
Image courtesy of the artist and Niagara Galleries, Melbourne

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3/ Review: Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder at Helen Gory Galerie, Prahran, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 14th March – 7th April 2012

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I have always loved the work of Nicola Loder ever since I saw her solo exhibition Child 1-175: A Nostalgia for the Present at Stop 22 Gallery in St Kilda in 1996. This exhibition is no exception. Loder is the consummate professional, her work is as imaginative and intriguing as ever and there has been a consistent thematic development of ideas within her work over a long period of time. These ideas relate to the nature of seeing and being seen, the mapping of identity and the process of its (dis)appearance…

Loder’s exquisitely sensuous description of disappearance allows us to see the phenomenal word afresh. I look forward with a sense of anticipation to the next voyage of discovery the artist will take me on.

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Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1 – 41 by Nicola Loder, installation photograph at Helen Gorie Galerie

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Nicola Loder
Tourist #5: Disappearing Project 1-41 (no 11)
2012
Polyester thread, muslin
86 x 69cm

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4/ Review: Jane Brown / Australian Gothic at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 25th April – 12th May 2012

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Jane Brown
Big Trout, New South Wales
2010
Museo silver rag print
59 x 46 cm

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Jane Brown
Adelong, New South Wales
2011
Fibre based, silver gelatin print
16.5 x 20.5 cm

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This is a good exhibition of small, darkly hewn, traditionally printed silver gelatin photographs, beautifully hung in the small gallery at Edmund Pearce and lit in the requisite, ambient manner. There are some outstanding photographs in the exhibition. The strongest works are the surrealist tinged, film noir-ish mise-en-scènes, the ones that emphasise the metaphorical darkness of the elements gathered upon the stage. Photographs such as Big TroutThe Female Factory, Adelong, New South Wales and Captain’s Flat Hotel, New South Wales really invoke a feeling of unhomely (or unheimlich), where nature is out of kilter. These images unsettle our idea of Oztraliana, our perceived sense of Self and our place in the world. They disrupt normal transmission; they transmutate the seen environment, transforming appearance, nature and form.

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5/ Review: Jacqui Stockdale: The Quiet Wild at Helen Gory Galerie, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 18th April – 19th May 2012

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Jacqui Stockdale
Rama-Jaara the Royal Shepherdess
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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Jacqui Stockdale
Lagunta Man, Leeawuleena
2012
Type C Print
100 x 78cm

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These are incredibly humorous, magical and symbolic photographs. A thought came into my mind when I was in the gallery surrounded by the work: for me they represented a vision of the Major Arcana of the Tarot (for example Jaguar Hombre could be seen as an inverted version of the Hanged Man with his foot in a figure four, the Hanged Man symbolising the need to just be in the world, yielding his mind and body to the Universal flow). The Major Arcana deal with the human condition, each card representing the joys and sorrows every man and woman can experience in a lifetime. In a way Stockdale offers us her own set of subversive Major Arcana, images that transgress the boundaries of the colonial vernacular, offering the viewer a chance to explore the heart of the quiet wild.

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6/ Review: Littoral by Kristian Laemmle-Ruff at Colour Factory Gallery, Fitzroy

Exhibition dates: 4th May – 26th May 2012

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It was such a joy then to walk around the corner from the CCP to the Colour Factory Gallery and view the exhibition Littoral by emerging artist Kristian Laemmle-Ruff. This is one of the best, if not the best, “photography” exhibition I have seen so far this year. As soon as you walk into the simple, elegant gallery you are surrounded by fourteen large scale horizontal photographs that are suffused with colour variations bouncing across the gallery – here a blue, there a green, now a lush orange palette. The effect is much like Monet’s waterlilies at the Musée de l’Orangerie in Paris; seated in the middle of the four curved paintings you are surrounded by large daubs of paint of various hues that have an elemental effect – resonances of earth, air, water, fire – on the viewer. The same affection of colour and space can be found in Laemmle-Ruff’s photographs.

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Olympic Stadium
2012
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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Kristian Laemmle-Ruff
Truck in Safi
2010
Type C print
100cm x 67cm

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7/ Review: Lost & Found: Family Photos Swept away by the 3.11 East Japan Tsunami at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 1st June – 15th July 2012

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What we are left with in these images are vestiges of presence, remnants or traces of people that have passed on. In a kind of divine intervention, these photographs ask the viewer questions about the one fact that we cannot avoid in our lives, our own mortality, and what remains after we pass on. We can never know these people and places, just as we can never know the place and time of our death – when our “time” is up – but these photographs awaken in us a subconscious remembering: that we may be found (in life), then lost (through death), then found again in the gaze of the viewer looking at the photographs in the future present. We are (dis)continuous beings.

There is no one single reading of these photographs for “there are only competing narratives and interpretations of a world that cannot be wholly, accurately described.” These indescribable photographs impinge on our consciousness calling on us to remember even as the speed of contemporary life asks us to forget. This ethical act of looking, of mourning and remembering, of paying homage to presence acknowledges that we choose not to let pass into the dark night of the soul these traces of our forebears, for each emanation is deeply embedded within individual and cultural memory.

These photographs are a contemporary form of Western ‘dreaming’ in which we feel a link to the collective human experience. In this reification, we bear witness to the (re)assemblance of life, the abstract made (subconsciously) concrete, as material thing. These images of absent presence certainly reached out and touched my soul. Vividly, I choose to remember rather than to forget.

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8/ Review: Berlinde De Bruyckere: We are all Flesh at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 2nd June – 29th July 2012

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The main work We Are All Flesh (2012) reminded me of a version of the game The Hanged Man (you know, the one where you have to guess the letters of a word and if you don’t get the letter, the scaffold and the hanged man are drawn). The larger of the two hanging pieces featured two horse skins of different colours intertwined like a ying yang paux de deux. Psychologically the energy was very heavy. The use of straps to suspend the horses was inspired. Memories of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp and The Godfather rose to the surface. My favourite piece was 019 (2007). Elegant in its simplicity this beautiful display case from a museum was dismantled and shipped over to Australia in parts and then reassembled here. The figurative pieces of wood, made of wax, seemed like bodies drained of blood displayed as specimens. The blankets underneath added an element of comfort. The whole piece was restrained and beautifully balanced. Joseph Beuys would have been very proud.

The “visceral gothic” contained in the exhibition was very evident. I liked the artist’s trembling and shuddering. Her narratives aroused a frisson, a moment of intense danger and excitement, the sudden terror of the risen animal

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Berlinde De Bruyckere
We Are All Flesh
2012
Treated horse skin, epoxy, iron armature
280 x 160 x 100 cm
Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth and Galleria Continua

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Berlinde De Bruyckere
019
2007
Wax, epoxy, metal, glass, wood, blankets
293.5 x 517 x 77.5 cm
Private Collection, Paris

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9/ Review: Light Works at NGV International, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 23rd March – 16th September 2012

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This is an intimate and stimulating photographic exhibition at the NGV International featuring the work of artists Mike and Doug Starn, David Stephenson, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Bill Henson, Adam Fuss, Simone Douglas, Park Hong-Chun, Eugenia Raskopoulos, Sam Shmith, Christoph Dahlhausen and Patrick Bailly-Maitre-Grand. It is fantastic to see an exhibition of solely contemporary photographs at the National Gallery of Victoria taken from their collection (with nary a vintage silver gelatin photograph in sight!), one which examines the orchestration of light from which all photography emanates – used by different photographers in the creation, and there is the key word, of their work. Collectively, the works seem to ooze a mysterious inner light, a facing towards the transcendent divine – both comforting, astonishing and terrifying in part measure.

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Hiroshi Sugimoto
Japanese 1948-, worked in United States 1972-
Winnetka Drive-In, Paramount
1993
Gelatin silver photograph
42.3 x 54.1 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the Bowness Family Fund for Contemporary Photography, 2009
© Hiroshi Sugimoto, courtesy The Pace Gallery, New York

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Mike Starn
American 1961-
Doug Starn
American 1961-
Sol Invictus
1992
Orthographic film, silicon, pipe clamps, steel and adhesive tape
175.0 x 200.0 x 35.0 cm
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Purchased with funds donated by the National Gallery Women’s Association, 1994
© Doug Starn, Mike Starn/ARS, New York. Licensed by VISCOPY, Sydney

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10/ Review: Gregory Crewdson: In A Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Fitzroy, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th September – 11th November 2012

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In his visual mosaics Crewdson engages our relationship with time and space to challenge the trace of experience. His tableaux act as a kind of threshold or hinge of experience – between interior and exterior, viewer and photograph. His photographs are a form of monism in which two forces (interior / exterior) try to absorb each other but ultimately lead to a state of equilibrium. It is through this “play” that the context of the photographs and their relationship to each other and the viewer are “framed.” This device emphasises the aesthetic as much as information and encourages the viewer to think about the relationship between the body, the world of which it is part and the dream-reason of time. This intertextual (n)framing (n meaning unspecified number in mathematics) encourages the viewer to explore the inbetween spaces in the non-narrative / meta-narrative,”and by leaps (intuitive leaps, poetic leaps, leaps of faith)” encourage escapism in the imagination of the viewer. It is up to us as viewers to seek the multiple, disparate significances of what is concealed in each photograph as “felt knowledge” (Walter Benjamin), recalling to mind the sensory data placed before our eyes, something that can be experienced but cannot be explained by man: “the single moment of the present amidst the transience of life and searching for some kind of eternal truth.”

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Installation photograph of the series Beneath the Roses from the exhibition Gregory Crewdson: In a Lonely Place at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP), Melbourne

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© Gregory Crewdson. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery

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11/ Exhibition: Janina Green: Ikea at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 28th November 28 – 15th December 2012

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Installation photograph of 'Ikea' by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

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Installation photograph of Ikea by Janina Green at Edmund Pearce Gallery, Melbourne

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Janina Green. 'Orange vase' 1990 reprinted 2012

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Janina Green
Orange vase
1990 reprinted 2012
Silver gelatin print on fibre based paper, handtinted with orange photo dye
85 x 70 cm

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Fable = invent (an incident, person, or story)

Simulacrum = pretends to be a faithful copy, but it is a copy with no original

Performativity = power of discourse, politicization of abjection, ritual of being

Body / identity / desire = imperfection, fluidity, domesticity, transgression, transcendence

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Intimate, conceptually robust and aesthetically sensitive.
The association of the images was emotionally overwhelming.
An absolute gem. One of the highlights of the year.

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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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