Saturday, September 24, 2011

Penny Byrne at Sullivan and Strumpf - 24 Sept

Sneak peaks? Luckily for us the Penny Byrne exhibition at SSFA was already installed by Saturday morning (ahead of its official opening later this week) as some trans tasman scheduling would've kept us away next weekend. Disappointed not to meet Penny and hear about this latest show which picks up stylistically where her last left off ...

Plausible Deniability deals with contemporary political issues and sprinkles through a couple of random pieces to lighten the mood. I walked past the biggest one immediately as it was so much larger than her earlier works that I thought SSFA has installed a window for a different artist. 'Crude' is an interesting work that comments on oil dependence, although as a political message I am a little over resource depletion. It would also be pretty hard to live with. It's POA and my bet is that this goes to an institution - she has been pretty busy on the museum scene and you'd need some space to make this statement. 'Leaking like a SIEV' is another one of her big boat pieces chock a block full of vintage trinkets, I thought she has something similar at the MCA (although the MCA website is pretty crap so I couldn't confirm that memory fragment). It's the most expensive piece here so I didn't really get a good look as I was naturally trying to keep toddler hands away from it (they need some signs - you break it, you bought it). I was far more comfortable looking at 'Arab Spring, Summer? Autumn? Winter?', another great big work comprising 28 russian dolls that had been painted black save for the face, suggesting a burqa. I thought it was great she was branching out of porcelain but was told she has been doing these for a while although I can't recall one in her last show. This was one of a couple of works that commented on the recent arab revolts. 'In happier times (Gaddafi's Gal Guards Guarding Gaddafi)' caught the eye - a detail from it is pictured above, I'd love a little Gaddafi souvenir although I am not sure that story has run its course yet. The last in the arab theme was the Tahrir square souvenirs where there are at least 20 similar vintage porcelain souvenirs repainted in the colours of the egyptian flag. I like how Penny does these souvenirs (we got a Gitmo one at her last show), both the political angle and the fact that having a bunch of work available for sub $1k makes it easy for collectors to get on board the Byrne train. The Mrs is already on the Byrne train but wants to move up to a nicer carriage and has her eye on the Bird Flu statue and the Venus de Hoodie. We'll see how that plays out. All in all a great show, although something you should definitely see without toddlers. I love the fact that the she is dealing with contemporary issues so these vintage pieces, made contemporary now will again revert to become historical items.

Points. 3 for Gaddafi - I have a bit of a uniform obsession and the sash really does it for me. 2 for the former russian dolls (above), my daughters favourite and a great idea for a craft project. 1 for the Tahrir square souvenirs - given how the markets are going right now I am sure these will fly off the shelf. My only request for next time would be for Penny to take on West Papua. Also a little shout out to the group show upstairs. A couple of nice Lindemans but my eye was caught by the two new artists - Tony Albert and Leah Emery. Really glad that Tony is now represented by a Sydney gallery (although not so happy his prices have hit the big time) and Leah's pieces look promising - they are much smaller than you think they would be (which is great when you are running out of wall space). Looking forward to seeing those two in 2012.

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