Archive for the Grown-up Art Category

Bitch in Slippers

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on April 7, 2012 by brunswick

Bitch in Slippers
Anne Noble, Lloyd Jones & Sarah Maxey
City Gallery, February 24th – April 6th 2012

This exhibition (which has just closed* at City Gallery) is titled after the practice of naming the huge industrial vehicles operating on Antarctic bases after various wives and girlfriends – a practice discontinued briefly after this particular somewhat-hilarious-yet-appalling nomenclature was applied to a bloody big crane, giving any woman in the area a pretty good indication of how things worked in the harsh, mostly-male environment of Ross Island.

The exhibition is made up of several sections, including a catalogue of impressive portraits of the vehicles used on McMurdo Station, photographed by Noble in 2008, and an epic text called Dear Misty, hand-lettered by Maxey along an entire wall of the gallery and addressed by Jones to a vehicle he obviously thought quite a lot of, in the same way that Robbie Burns liked haggis.

*Sorry about that.

Ever Green

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on April 4, 2012 by brunswick

Ever Green
A Light Box Project
Courtenay Place, April 3rd – August 6th 2012

Another frustratingly conservative exhibition in Wellington’s highest-profile public art space. There’s nothing technically wrong with Dieneke Jansen and Jenny Gilliam’s photographs of native shrubs, which have been carefully arranged so it looks as though they’re growing inside the enormous panels along Courtenay Place. It’s good to finally see an exhibition which considers the unusual proportions of the light boxes right from the start, instead of just awkwardly cropping an existing photo. Unfortunately the photos are not particularly interesting, and using the Latin names of the native shrubs as titles just looks pretentious.

The artist statement says the exhibition seeks to “engage with concepts of nature as a social construct and the mediated ways in which urban dwellers experience it”, which is all very laudable except for the fact that Wellington is not exactly a soulless urban concrete desert – the panels are already surrounded by bloody trees, and the fact that the real trees will lose their leaves in winter while the photos stay green is not quite enough to blow my tiny mind. If you want to experience evergreen nature in that particular part of Courtenay Place, it’s fairly easy to turn to the right and look at Mount Victoria – it’s teeming with it.

I understand that street art needs to be accessible, but too many of the Light Box exhibitions have played it safe, producing work which challenges and enlightens no-one. Compare it with the fine and daring sculptures in the City Gallery’s The Obstinate Object exhibition and you’ll see what I mean.

Out of the Dusk by Joanna Langford

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on March 20, 2012 by brunswick

Out of the Dusk
by Joanna Langford
Wellington Sculpture Trust’s Four Plinths Sculpture Project

This installation has been up for a month now, with two years to go. Will it survive that long? The plinth sculpture series got off to a strong start four years ago with Regan Gentry’s humorous wire tree sculptures, then stumbled with Peter Trevelyn’s sadly non-kinetic Mimetic Brotherhood installation. The latest set of sculptures (formerly known as The Quietening) are made from wire and tattered wisps of silage wrapping sealed atop the massive plinths inside glass boxes, and look like concept models from Avatar, or a home-made playset for the Sylvanian Families. Already the plastic is bleaching from exposure to the sun – what’s it going to look like by 2014?

First Contact by Michel Tuffery

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on March 14, 2012 by brunswick

First Contact by Michel Tuffery
NZ International Festival of the Arts
12th February – 18th March

It took me a while to get around to seeing this, which is ridiculous as it’s just down the road from where I live. Tuffery has designed a clever film projection (a collage of images from the discovery and inventory of New Zealand) which wraps around the benighted front of Te Papa. The performance lasts for ninety minutes and is supposed to begin at “dusk”, but in practice we hung around for nearly an hour after dusk until it began, and even then there was half an hour of rather dull ambient visuals to sit through before the film proper began.

One small problem… and it might’ve just been on the night I saw it, but where was the bloody sound? Without sound it was, well, pretty to look at, but sitting through ninety minutes was not something I want to repeat. There were a couple of  audience members watching it under ideal circumstances, but this involved being massively stoned and with a private iPod soundtrack of something groovy and lysergic.

Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Dresses

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on February 23, 2012 by brunswick

Unveiled: 200 Years of Wedding Dresses
Te Papa, 17th December 2011 – 22nd April 2012

An educational yet somewhat sparse exhibition assembled from the Victoria & Albert collection, which is appropriate seeing as dear little Vicky set the modern template for Western weddings. I probably wouldn’t have paid to see it, but that’s just me. There were basically two kinds of people here: design students checking out the asthenopia-inducing frock details, and retired couples gazing raptly at a video compilation of British royal weddings*. There was one other heterosexual male there apart from me, glumly surveying a case containing two snazzy frock coats – for a civil service, natch.

It was interesting to see how one of humankind’s oldest ceremonies (inflated and sanitized like a bleached soufflé by the Victorians, like everything else they got their hands on) has withstood the past two centuries of wars, recession and Lady Di. The bride ceased to be an chattel and began to be more of a fashion plate – is this progress? Well, she’s still an object, but she has more say in how she looks now.

This exhibition uses the same boxes as last year’s Early Encounters exhibition, which prevents the 1970s monstrosities from infecting the others. Actually, those are some of the more fun dresses – most of the rest are tasteful but a little dull unless you like acres of cream silk, and there’s a few too many space-fillers in the form of gigantic digital prints of glamour weddings. The most modern dresses feature some amazing fabric engineering, but are also utterly bonkers, like a meringue designed by H. R. Giger.

I wanted to see Dita Von Teese’s enormous purple dress (by Vivienne Westwood, and I didn’t need to check how to spell either of those splendid names). Alarmingly, Von Teeses’s dress comes with matching corset and lingerie, which conjours the sobering image of a priapic Marilyn Manson ripping them off with his teeth… but again, that could just be little me.

*Luckily they weren’t playing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony over the top of it.

Imaginary Geographies: the deflating conclusion

Posted in A Good Whinge, Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on February 21, 2012 by brunswick

Well, the new Imaginary Geographies panels have gone up in Courtenay Place. I sent in my submission three weeks ago but never received a word of acknowledgement from the organizers, although they added a thumbnail to the website. They also never said when they’d make their selection, although they must’ve done so almost immediately, because those big digital prints take weeks to produce and the whole thing comes down in April anyway.

So I found out by walking past them this afternoon.

They chose four images from three artists, and while three of the images are excellent and look really good blown up to three metres high, the fourth is a low-res screen capture from Google Maps with Street View and is possibly the laziest piece of modern art I’ve ever seen in my life.

But what would I know?

UPDATE: The organizers have sent contributors a copy of the press release announcing the “selected artworks”, a day after it was posted on the website and five days after the panels went up.

Prospect: New Zealand Art Now at City Gallery

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on February 12, 2012 by brunswick

Prospect: New Zealand Art Now
City Gallery 26th November 2011 – 12th February 2012

I got to this on the very last day! Worst reviewer ever. The big gimmick here is that there’s no labels on anything so it prevents preconceptions, a concept which apparently they fought hard for. The only problem with this is that most people won’t have preconceptions unless they know the artists, in which case they’ll recognize their stuff anyway, and most of the stuff on display means little without explanation.

In practice, you walk around the galleries clutching a map which lists the artist’s zones, and a separate pamphlet (beautifully printed in Christchurch) which has details of each work. This is a very irritating way to make a point about labels.

I was going to write in detail about each artist, but the exhibition’s closed, and I was just reading the pamphlet again, and while I like the exhibition on the whole, the pamphlet is so pompous and takes itself so seriously that it’s put me off, frankly. Worst reviewer ever.

Local Knowledge & Bedazzled at the Dowse

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on February 11, 2012 by brunswick

Local Knowledge: Dan Arps, Simon Faithfull, Veranoa Hetet, Mike Heynes, Julian Priest, Andrew Ross, Joe Sheehan, Ans Westra, Zheng Guogu and Fiona Jack
17th December 2011 – 23rd April 2012

Bedazzled: Royal NZ Ballet costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson
26th November 2011 – 4th March 2012

Lots on at the Dowse. Their latest pamphlet covers 28 events until April. The big ground floor exhibition at the moment is Local Knowledge, a collection of material loosely grouped under the subject of “place, time and what it means to be at home”. To be honest, most of this stuff is fairly unspectacular. There’s a display by Julian Priest of a new time zone created for the Dowse which is calculated by how busy things are inside, but the equipment was broken when I saw it. Zheng Guogu has created a personal world in Age of Empires, represented by a ten minute video which doesn’t move much. There’s an elaborate installation by Dan Arps constructed from junk brought in by the Dowse staff which you can walk through, but it just looks like recycling day. The one video installation which is interesting and actually works is UK artist Simon Faithfull’s 0˚00 Navigation film, which shows him doggedly walking along the Greenwich Meridian, no matter what gets in his way. There’s the usual tasteful Ans Westra photos, a selection taken in Lower Hutt, Petone and Naenae showing ordinary people from previous decades. As a whole it’s all a bit antiseptic with rare flashes of humour – a cassette tape carved out of jade, and a selection of Fiona Jack’s collection of amateur paintings of local war memorials.

Upstairs is Bedazzled, a large collection of the Royal NZ ballet costumes designed by Kristian Fredrikson from the 1960s to the 1990s. The costumes are from crowdpleasing productions (A Christmas Carol, Swan Lake, Cinderella) but the costumes are detailed and subversive – seemingly fragile assemblages of fine fabrics which had to look good from a distance and withstand the rigours of performance. There’s also an interesting selection of his sketches and colour tests.





Imaginary Geographies submission

Posted in Grown-up Art, Lovely pictures, Unwarranted criticism on January 31, 2012 by brunswick

I managed to rouse myself sufficiently to send a photo to the Imaginary Geographies lightbox exhibition:

The full-sized print is three metres tall! Towards the bottom, barely visible at this size, is an extremely game Anita photographing Neil Dawson’s ‘Ferns’:

The additional submissions they’ve received and the design brief are viewable here. Looking at the other entries, I think we have just a good a chance as anyone else at getting one of the four spaces. At least we’ve read the brief and our entry is the correct proportions, not just plucked from a portfolio. What do you think, dear reader?

Like many creative fields in New Zealand (and as opposed to, say, brain surgery), if you say you’re an artist, you’re an artist. I don’t have much to do with Wellington’s fine arts scene – it’s interesting to see that while there’s a large number of very talented people out there, there’s also one or two whose close friends have apparently never had the balls to tell them that they’re utterly, utterly dreadful at art, and they should give up and do something more constructive with their evident talent for self-promotion.

Crystal City: Contemporary Asian Artists

Posted in Grown-up Art, Unwarranted criticism on July 28, 2011 by brunswick

Crystal City: Contemporary Asian Artists
The New Dowse, Lower Hutt
16th July-16th October 2011

A mixed bag this, the sort of exhibition which has had a lot of thought and effort poured into it, but the results are strangely restrained and rather too dependent on technology for my liking. The artists involved have received some major international awards, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to a meaningful experience for the viewer.

The title comes from a hilarious looped video by Hye Rim Lee, featuring a computer-generated forest of rotating glass sex toys. Amazingly, it’s not at all rude – you can only tell what the objects are because they’re rotating. When we were there, a group of school kids were watching with enjoyment because of all the vibrating pink rabbits, which I’ve just found will set you back $60 at D-Vice. Later in Petone I passed an ad for the exhibition which featured a still from this film, and it looked perfectly innocent because it wasn’t moving.

There’s also a number of pieces from Hong Kong’s Pak Sheung-Cheun, which had some fun concepts behind it, but to be honest, Yoko Ono did it forty years ago. An entire empty white room is dedicated to amusing Zen-like instructions, printed on the wall.  I think he may have also read Lonely Planet’s Experimental Travel.

There was a rather elaborate setup (artist unknown, sorry) whereby an electrified koto triggers projected animation loops… while it was fun to pluck away at a real life koto (I found ‘E’! and ‘G’!) it was hard to tell what effect any activity had on the projection.

Anyway, thank goodness for the New Dowse and all it stands for. Thank goodness for any freely accessible resource which stimulates more than our pleasure centres.