Category Archives: Art Galleries & Exhibitions

In the Post

Mailbox Art Space, formerly Mailbox 141, in Flinders Lane is the perfect location for this mini retrospective of Pat Larter’s mail art from the mid 1980s. Mail art was an international, underground art movement from the 1960 to the 1990s. It was the analogue equivalent to the internet driven, artistic side of street art.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Pat Larter, Untitled Mail Art (Art Risk Pat) c.1980, Screen Print on Paper, 29 x 24 cm. © Courtesy the artist’s estate.

Mail art incorporated aspects of print art, conceptual art and in Pat Larter’s case performance/body art. “Sex drama artist” is the text on one of Pat Larter’s publications. Another image is titled “‘artist action’ swinging the bag”. Photos of Pat wearing a bra with scurried faces sewn in the cups. In another photo she sits in a stiff parody of a poor porn pose, wearing fake breasts and fake vulva.

I like Pat Larter’s anti-erotic, laugh at pornography, making art from slippage between the public display of what is usually consumed privately; it is a more realistic approach than the current neo-con attitude. Pat Larter’s attack on the boys club of mail art, her ‘Female art’ rubber stamp is a pun on male art. There is a photograph of the ‘Female art’ stamp on Pat’s shaved armpit.

Pat Larter uses several print techniques include rubber stamps, photocopy, photographic and Print Gocco.

The mail boxes in the lobby of 141 Flinders Lane are full of zines, rubber stamps, props from photos and a some ceramic objects; a breast, a penis and an apple core. This exhibition shows that even a very small artist run space can host a significant retrospective exhibition.

For more on Pat Larter:

“Pat Larter from Kitchen to Gallery” by Joanne Mendelssohn

“In defence of bad taste: the art of Pat Larter and Lola Ryan” by Gemma Watson


Body of Work

When I arrived at Dark Horse Experiment Casey Jenkins, dressed in her metallic jumpsuit and high leather boots, was talking to a friend and having a smoke out the front of the gallery. It was at the end of her lunch break and she soon returned to start her work in the gallery.

Casey Jenkins, Body of Work

Casey Jenkins’s Body of Work is a three week durational, community-engagement performance artwork. Jenkins really works the idea of ‘work’ and ‘body’ and to some extent it worked.

Work is an important subject for a contemporary artist to examine; it defines us and in some cases, shapes our bodies. There are so many issues about work, from identity and gender to comparative rates of pay, that it was hard to find a focus in Jenkins, Body of Work.

Jenkins was setting different pay rates on days, this ranged from a negative fine of $1,200 (the amount street artist, HaHa was fined for about an hours work) to $1,586,852 p/h (the amount Mark Zuckerberg accrues per hour). These extreme differences did give Jenkins a couple of days off in the three weeks.

The difference between this work and reality tv shows, like World’s Toughest Jobs, is the gallery and the employers.

The gallery for Jenkins this was more of an installation, the antique punch clock, typewriter, the workbench, the bed. Sometimes she was hooked up to microphones to amplify her heart beat as she worked and the labour was screened live during working hours via the CCTV cameras. In someways the windowless gallery space appeared as a dystopian work environment with objects arranged for display rather than function.

The choice of jobs for Jenkins was more of an interaction with the employer. It required the engagement with people, provoking the public to invent short jobs that required no skills and could be done in the gallery space. In this respect both the jobs and the employers were less real than on a reality tv show. The poverty of the public imagination explains much of Jenkins work: sex acts, body painting and erotic polaroid photographs to compile tax receipts. Jenkins said many of these employee relationships were idealised, representing how the participant would like their boss to behave.

I wonder what would have happened if nobody had employed her? Is there much use for unskilled labour these days? I left the gallery as Jenkins got back to her ‘work’ updating someone’s Twitter account.

Jenkins has been a lot of news articles about the piece in The Guardian and The Melbourne Broadsheet. Jenkins is not a stranger to publicity the SBS2 The Feed’s report ‘Vaginal Knitting’ on her earlier work Casting Off My Womb has be viewed on YouTube 6,481,137+ times.

I have a growing interest in tenacious, hard-working performance artists. I have been seeing a lot of performance artists work hard recently from Amy-Jo Jory breaking rocks in Listening to Stones II and Matto Lucas working out in Endomorph, with dreams of becoming a Mesomorph. Maybe this is sympathy, because of they are amongst the losers in the art world along with art critics. Probably more due to being particularly impressed by local performance artworks by Stuart Ringholt, Michael Meneghetti, Peter Burke and others further away, like Tania Bruguera.


Hearing Disconnections

Academic and multimedia artist, Dr Trish Adams wanted to share her own experience of hearing loss in art. Disconnections are two works incorporating video and audio elements. She warned the viewers/listeners that this might not be a pleasant experience and the intent was to create a degree of anxiety and discomfort.

Trish Adams, Inaudible City

Trish Adams, Inaudible City

In the first video, Inaudible City is a large-scale projection of video sequences with four audio options with four sets of headphones. Each of the headphones simulated a type of hearing loss; loss of low and high frequencies, loss of both and tinnitus. On the video there are scenes from St. Kilda Road and the Yarra River; the sound focuses on the highlighted visuals, the familiar sound of a tram going past or a banner flapping in the wind. Now I would recognise the sound of a tram under any conditions but other sounds, like the banners or the river, lost a much of their individual character and just became noise.

The second video, Fractured_Message, is a slice of life piece of a young man asking for directions to the bus stop. It is a familiar scenario, even if you can hear you might have experienced something similar when you don’t speak the language. The viewer placed in front of the portrait-style video cannot easily understand the attempt at communication due to an inaudible and slightly distorted soundtrack. When I concentrated I could understand him.

I wanted to experience Disconnections because it was away from the usual art gallery scene on a Thursday night at the HEARing Cooperative Research Centre in Carlton. And, because I am personally interested in what is it like to have a hearing disability? Not that I have a hearing disability, apart from occasional  This is remarkable after all the years of playing in bands, going to gigs and raves, mind you I was wearing ear protection most of the time. However, my wife has a hearing disability and after the second work I understood what she means when she tells me that she gets tired of concentrating on listening to people.

It is hard to imagine how your life might change with diminished hearing. Yes, sure you would get hearing aids but that wouldn’t be everything, how would it impact on social interactions? There would be changes in your social interactions, perhaps also loss of confidence. Remember to wear ear protection.


Space and Waves @ Tinning Street

Tinning Street presents Tateru, an exhibition of sculpture by Paul Gorman and Takahiko Sugawara.

Paul Gorman is exhibiting several photographs. Why is a sculptor exhibiting photographs? Although the photographs are not simply documentary images of Gorman’s sculpture, they do document ephemeral sculptural moments, moments of space and form. Ring of Confidence is a time-lapse photograph of the movement of light around a tree creating a sculptural form. This is why, in art-speak refers to contemporary sculpture as ‘spatial practice’ because it is art that uses three dimensional space.

Paul Gorman Home Built; Lego House (1,II, III)

Paul Gorman Home Built; Lego House (1,II, III)

Home Built; Lego House (1,II, III) are three simplified blocky familiar forms cast in bronze. It is Gorman’s sculptures of houses in his exhibition really hit me because I was thinking about the suburbs with all the neighbourhood events on the day I visited. (For more about that day read my post Neighbourhood.) Although Jason Waterhouse has covered similar territory with sculptures, Gorman brings his lyrical and critical thinking to the subject.

Takahiko Sugawara, Wave (detail)

Takahiko Sugawara, Wave (detail)

The dozen sculptures of Takahiko Sugawara are post-minimalist, made up of small wooden pieces that brought together create complex rhythmic waves like a composition by Steve Reich. These are mostly wall works and a couple of small free standing block sculptures that take the post-minimalism back to a minimalist cube.

Apart from variations in size or shape Sugawara’s sculptures are of such an even quality that my attention was drawn to a large wall piece, Circles wondering why it didn’t work as well as the others. It’s flatter and the roughly circular pieces of pinewood are a less definite form. Putting these together lacked both the rhythm and the geometric complexity of Sugawara’s other sculptures.

Although both Gorman and Sugawara’s sculptures are very different they find a harmonious combination in this exhibition. Both Gorman and Sugawara are members of the committee of the Contemporary Sculptures Association.


Desire Lines @ Brunswick Arts

On Friday night there was an opening at Brunswick Arts Space, an artist-run-space. In the main gallery there is a group exhibition, “Desire Lines” with thirty-five works by Jo Waite, Leon Van De Graaff, Alex Clark, Martin Nixon, Jess Parker, Sarah Howell, David Blumenstein, Michael Fikaris, and many other artists. ‘Desire lines’ are informal paths that people make to get where they want to go.

The exhibition was mix of contemporary art, psychogeography, illustration, comics and zines that all remember and record Brunswick. It might sound like an odd mix but the local details illustrations of the suburb in the pages of comic books are a rich vein of psychogeographical research. There is a whole wall of art work for comic books that illustrate this point, like Martin Nixon’s “The way to the entrance to the entry to Squishface” (Squishface is an open comic artists studio in Brunswick). Melbourne underground comics have a long tradition of mapping the city, going back to, as far as I can remember, Yell Olé! by Brendan Tolley and Bernard Caleo where the heroes battled the architecture of the city.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

The most comprehensive and democratic map of Brunswick ever constructed.

At the opening the focus of attention and discussion was an open collaboration on a wall sized map of the suburb: “The Most Comprehensive and Democratic Map of Brunswick Ever Constructed.” Everyone at the opening was writing and drawing on it, adding their landmarks and details. The local artists are aware how much Brunswick is changing as apartment blocks are built around the gallery in the former factory space.

It was good to see Victor Gris, the curator of the Counihan Gallery in Brunswick, at the opening, not just personally but also that he is engaged with the local art community.

In the upstairs gallery was Denise Hall’s series of five paintings “Creature”. Hall’s expressionist paintings with a limited palette have been torn apart and reassembled, like the butchered meat they depict.


A Hipster Conversion

I love the way that real estate agents describe the city. “In the heart of Brunswick bridal district.” There is a poetry to their succinct phrases flavoured with slight exaggerations. “For Lease, A Hipster Conversion” sign on the factory in Albert Street that previous was the studio of 3 Phase Design. “Ideally suited for cafe/restaurant/brewery” the sign continues, describing the range of larger hipster businesses. Hipster fashion boutiques, coffee shops and barbers would be looking for smaller premises.

DSC00202

This is not a sign of the apocalypse. I don’t object to the gentrification of a suburb, but I prefer the hipsterfication because it improves cycling and other things. It is interesting that ‘hipster’ has entered real estate agent’s vocabulary. (See my post on Hipsters.) The long term industrial decline in Brunswick and Coburg, two suburbs in the north of Melbourne, left vacant many shops and factory spaces that were used as art galleries and studios.

I thought that the sign would be a good a way of introducing a list of art galleries in the area that no longer exist; I couldn’t list all the artist’s studios in the area, like 3 Phase Design, as that would be a very long list. For the all the local art historians; this is probably not an exhaustive list and corrections and additions are welcome. It does not include all the pop up gallery spaces that had one or two exhibitions nor business, such as cafes or bookshops that exhibit art.

696

696

696, 696 Sydney Road, from 2008 to 2009 street art shop and alternative commercial art gallery that stocked one off artist creations along with spray paints and magazines. It had a small back room exhibition space with bi-weekly exhibitions and events. 696 also had one-night only exhibitions in “the Yard” in the backyard. Toby and Melika went on to establish “Just Another Agency” representing illustrators and organising exhibitions. 696 then became 696 Ink, a tattoo parlour with exhibitions of pop surrealism. Some of the street art the 696 commission can still be seen in the alley way along one side of the shop.

Circus Gallery in North Coburg (2004-2008), a single room shop front gallery that has to be the most northern art gallery ever in Melbourne. It was up the hill from the old Kodak factory in North Coburg amongst a culture of old shops. The shopfront room alternates as a studio space for Andrew May and an exhibition space; a heavy curtain is drawn across the front window to make it a studio. The gallery had the Starving Artist Prize; the cost of entry for the prize was a can of food and the winners received the cans of food.

Eisenberg Gallery – The Victorian Museum of Experimental Art was at 126A Nicholson St. in East Brunswick on the intersection of Nicholson and Harrison streets. It was an artist run initiative that ran for a few years in a former shop space. The small space was not open but visible from the street through the large shop windows. Exhibitions changed regularly but mostly they were seen by the passing drivers stopped at the lights.

Dudespace was an ordinary private suburban house at 22 Cassels Road, Brunswick. Run by Geoff Newton who went on to open Neon Parc in the city. The house would become an art gallery when a t-shirt bearing the word “Dudespace” hung out the front. The exhibitions in a room in the house would only last a day and featured some notable artists including Juan Ford in 2006.

Pan Gallery was a small commercial gallery in the corner of a pottery supply shop specialising in ceramics that closed in 2011. (See my blog post.)

Ocular Lab, 2003-2010 an artist run initiative, meaning “a site for experimental and alternative models of artistic representation and activity that encouraged the development of professional practice” in a converted shop space in Brunswick with an external ‘billboard’ space.

OM Gallery, was well located opposite the Brunswick Town Hall and ran for many years. It was both a photographic studio and rental exhibition space in a converted factory.

Rinaldi Gallery on Victoria St., Brunswick was an attractive single shop front white room gallery with some one-off designer furniture and objet d’art also for sale. It was run by a very tasteful Italian woman for several years and exhibited serious emerging and mid-career artists.


Slap Pals Potato Art

I love exhibition where I leave with free numbered artwork, even if I had to stamp and tear it out from the pad myself. It is more efficient that way.

Slap Pals, Sacked 2, video still

Slap Pals, Sacked 2, video still

“Slap Pals present Slap Pals get sacked – an art improvement program” in George Paton Gallery at the Union House, University of Melbourne. The art improvement program that Slap Pals is talking about, is not about improving the quality of the art but the efficiency of producing art. The exhibition text is a parody of contemporary corporate language and has the best written room sheet that I have read in years.

It is also a potato based exhibition opening a day late for St. Patrick’s Day. The potatoes used in the show was supplied by their sponsor Georgie’s Harvest at South Melbourne Market. There are many potato references in the exhibition including potato battery power and potato prints but You, Tuber, a beautiful and sickening work, uses both a YouTube tutorial on tuba playing and colour mashed potatoes. And Slap Pals know that video art projections are an efficient means of filling a gallery space.

“Ever feel like you’re being cheated?” Joe Strummer asked the audience at the Roundhouse, London on the 23 September 1976.

Sure we all might feel like we are being cheated but who is doing the cheating is the real question. Are Slap Pals cheating at creating art? Is Joe Strummer cheating the audience by asking that question instead of The Clash belting out another song? It is not as if the combined activities of Jeff Koons, Tracey Emin, Damien Hirst and every other contemporary artist that you might hate, caused the global financial crisis. That was done by very different people, who made vastly more money.

Do I make myself clear? It is a parody, a shock, a punk action and shooting the messenger is never solution when you listening to the message. “Ever feel like you’re being cheated?” Is this efficiency really an improvement? Is your manager talking complete bollocks? Fantastic work Slap Pals, who ever you are; you should get the sack in the next efficiency drive.

In the entrance gallery at George Paton Gallery there is Nik Lee’s “Polo for NASA: Listening to Lorde @ UniLodge”. Nik Lee’s sense of humour expressed in cryptic assemblies of commercial objects. His rearrangement of readymades creates a funky futuristic rootless world with strong sculptural qualities.


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