Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Yinka Shonibare MBE at Anna Schwartz - 20 July

I took all my junior critics out to see this show at Anna Schwartz's Sydney outpost. Luckily for me I took them in two separate outings as the works are so appealing to children there was a big risk of touching.  This is on until 11 August and gets my solid recommendation for a visit. Given the gallery is located at Carriageworks you can also nip around the corner and indulge in a bit of train spotting if your 3 year old is into that sort of thing (mine is). On to the show ...

Invasion, Escape: Aliens do it right! is a really interesting group of work. There are a couple of alien statues crafted from his trademark dutch wax cloth. We loved these. My junior critics are reasonably familiar with Yinka's work given we have his dollhouse (complete with toy furniture sporting his trademark dutch wax cloth).  Two of the aliens happen to be flying arty UFOs (see above), again with dutch wax cloth wings. Then there is a big black wall with these round works of varying size that mostly frame some cloth again with various star wars type toys sticking from the edges (see below for a detail of one of them). They are quite surreal and a shame that it is all one job lot as I could kinda go for one of those but never fear as it does look like a good craft project for the junior critics who were trying to recognise some of the toys ("Look, Buzzlight Woody!"). The last thing is a collection of drawing / collages that give Yinka's take on Australian history and recent events focussing on immigration, illegal immigration and aboriginal rights (the US government classified me as a 'resident alien' when I was over there so I get the symbolism).  I quite liked the collages (which again used a bit of that dutch wax cloth) but loved the way he had framed them in yellow, black and red frames to make a sort of Aboriginal flag motif on the wall (and if you haven't realised it yet I am pretty big on flags). I would also highly recommend reading this SMH review as it was quite illuminating, I had thought it a bit naff how Shonibare also includes the MBE after his name but it seems he is making a political statement, so maybe that makes it okay? It also tells the story of how the dutch cloth represents globalisation (because the Dutch took the batik from indonesia, made it in holland and then sold it in Africa) far more fluently than I could be bothered to.

Points: I will go for the Alien Toy Painting for the 3 points.  In my mind this was a little less showy than the alien sculptures and was a better medium for the dutch wax cloth which I really like. To me, Yinka will always be the guy using the cloth, in the spirit of artist Vuk Vidor (who did the art history work Koons owns kitsch, Pollock owns drippings etc although I think another YBA artist did the same thing), Shonibare owns dutch wax. 2 points for the flag drawings en masse (see photo below, on Anna's website you only see each drawing one at a time) and 1 point to the Alien man on his flying machine (If I had let my kids award the points the actual alien creatures would've scooped the pool).  Highly commended also goes to the biennale work out at Carriageworks at present, but more of that when I actually get out to the island.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Work of art - the next great artist?

The answer to that question is probably not, but it is a lot of fun.  If you don't know what I am talking about it is a US reality tv series where they get some emerging artists compete to win 100 grand and a show at the Brooklyn Museum.  Series 1 screened over here on the Studio channel on Foxtel in May but it is back on again in repeats - episode 2 is this Saturday so set your IQs to tape.

I won't spoil the ending but encourage anyone interested in the visual arts to watch.  There are some big name judges and guest artists involved.  I just love getting to watch Simon de Pury on the small screen.  Simon is a deadset legend and runs my favourite New York auction house, Phillips de Pury, which used to have (and maybe still does, I haven't been since 2008) a great space in the meatpacking district.  I am usually barking epithets in a german swiss accent days later after hearing his one liners.  His presence is worth tuning in alone but highlights were Andres Serrano (of piss christ fame) in episode 4 and David LaChappelle in the season finale (episode 10).  There are some great lines that any art student needs to write down.  How's this, "I'm not responsible for your experience of my work".  I think I am stencilling that over something I own ...

Points:  3 to co-host Simon de Pury, 2 to contestant Miles and 1 to Serrano (who also had a great line about shocking vs bland art that I did not write down but will when I catch the repeat*).  I wish Studio would go ahead and screen series 2, otherwise I have to actually work out how to use my apple tv which is sitting in its box still!

* Postscript: "I like to make pieces that make people feel something. Any reaction is better than indifference." Andres Serrano.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Variable Truth at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art - 10 July

Okay, quick show of hands. Who has heard of this place? I hadn't but it is now firmly on my radar and their next show with Ken + Julia Yonetani looks like a cracker.  But first things first, the Variable Truth.  This show "examines alternative aesthetic and conceptual trajectories in contemporary art based upon close readings of Australian art and social history".  Phew, I reckon whoever came up with that copy must do pretty well in those 25 words or less comps.  

On to the show.  I am a big fan of neon so quite liked Brooke Andrew's Flowchart which linked up old photos with neon lines.  I can't really recall if anything else was downstairs so lets move on up.  It is a nice little space upstairs and you won't get lost.  All up about 7 or 8 different artists up here.  The marble flags of Alexander Seton's are hard to miss on the way in but it is the Tony Albert installation that really steals the show (image above).  There are two large Be Deadly posters that may or may not be ones I saw at the open studio but they have that same feel.  Each has been worked up with some additional collage detailing and they are hung on a wall that has been wallpapered with the posters he had made for the indigenous art fair in Cairns.  Great look and something I would definitely love to have at home, kids playroom here we come!  I am a big fan of text in art and like how Tony keeps coming back to some of the same phrases.  On the left he has the 'I Am, You Are, We Are' from the used in some many advertisements that he has added the 'Am I, Are You, Are We' questions to (for those who don't watch that much telly, the answer to the question is Australian, or as Tony would say Australien).  I think I have seen this in one of his velvet pieces as well and it does make you rethink the first statement.  Looking closely at the works you can also find his 'Pay Attention' and 'Stick With Love' phrases there as well.  It was on one of the vintage playing card sculptures that I first became aware of the full quote "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear" from Martin Luther King Jr and it I think it particularly apt for Tony's works.  According to the gallery director these are both from private works already so see them now before they go away for good.  Michael Lee and Melissa Howe had some model making going on in their works but they didn't really pull me in.  I think I have seen Greg Semu's work at a museum in New Zealand and it is confronting enough that 4A decided to keep it behind curtains.  It would be tough to live with but is great in a gallery context.

Points:  Easy one here, 3 to Tony.  Great way to display the works using the Be Deadly posters as wallpaper.  I am kicking myself for not picking up a dozen at the open studio but it has given me an idea and I have the seeds of a cunning plan germinating (more on that later).  2 to Brook Andrew for the neon and 1 point to the Director of 4A, Aaron Seeto, who was the consummate host.  Introducing himself and chatting freely about putting on the show.  I was very impressed with him and am meaning to listen to the podcast of his views on this show which is meant to be on the 4A website somewhere.