Category Archives: Art Galleries & Exhibitions

Types of Art Galleries on Flinders Lane

There are a variety of galleries along Flinders Lane; if you want to see a variety of different types of galleries then walking down this lane is an education. These types of galleries vary on the way they select the art and are funded. Most of the galleries, look similar, white walled rooms in converted buildings. Only the powerful Anna Schwartz Gallery is in a contemporary purpose-built building.

Craft Victoria 2

When visiting the galleries on Flinders Lane I like to get out at Parliament Station and start with Craft Victoria because this means that I will be walking downhill rather than uphill. Craft Victoria’s exhibitions are regularly amongst the better contemporary art exhibitions that I see. Craft Victoria is a government funded gallery; it is funded by all three levels of government, federal, state and local along with corporate sponsorship and membership of the professional craft association. It also has a gift shop with a fine selection of high quality local craft products.

45 Downstairs is a not-for-profit theatre and gallery space that was founded by Mary Lou Jelbart and Julian Burnside in 2002. Exhibitions are by application and it is funded by rental of the space and donations.

Mailbox Art Space is an artist run space is a series of mailboxes that have been converted into one of Melbourne’s smallest art spaces. Exhibitions are based on an application and it costs nothing to exhibit.

There is also community access gallery on one wall of the upper floor of the City Library. Exhibitions are based on an application by “artists in the early stages of a professional art career”. It costs $800 to exhibit in the gallery for the month, substantially lower than other far less attractive rental spaces in Melbourne, as the costs of the space are mostly funded by the City of Melbourne.

Flinders Lane Gallery 2

The majority of galleries in Flinders Lane both historically and currently are commercial galleries, like Arc One, Anna Schwartz and Flinders Lane Gallery. These galleries select their artists from a stable of artists that the gallery represents. Flinders Lane Gallery opened in 1989 and is the oldest of the exiting galleries on the lane. It represents “emerging, mid-career and Indigenous Australian artists”.

When I last walked along Flinders Lane last weekend Arc One and Flinders Lane Gallery were both having shows from their stockroom, group shows of the artists that they represent. It is always interesting to see a commercial gallery’s stockroom for the same reason that a stockroom show is interesting. Australian Galleries used to have a whole building in Collingwood devoted to their stockroom but it has now closed. In contemporary galleries a stockroom may not be a drab utilitarian store room, Fehily Contemporary has an attractive upstair’s ‘stockroom’ that would put to shame many people’s lounge rooms.

For more on different there is my earlier post on types of art galleries.


Vacancy @ No Vacancy

It was the worst exhibition that I have seen for a very long time. Of course I have seen some bad art in my time, many more simply poor exhibitions, but at the far extremities of the bell curve, which ever way you go, examples become rarer. This exhibition was so far off so many critical scales that it is hard to measure back from any benchmark; no talent, no content, no point, no…

Spenceroni’s Hello Play at No Vacancy is a crass, crap collection of swiggles that makes Ken Done look sophisticated. I look at art as a very broad category but this could barely even count as design.

Why aren’t I writing about some other, better exhibitions? There are plenty of average exhibitions on. I could be reviewing Made In House, “works of Redbubble’s Artist in Residence” at No Vacancy’s other space in Fed Square.

Most of the artists, photographers, painters, illustrators, commercial, amateur, are working on something called culture. Their average individual efforts are tears in the rain, significant to them and those who share that moment, but only a drop in the ocean of culture. I am writing about this exhibition because it is not average, it is extremely bad.

A selfie-wall, WTF! All that I can think is that this smug, social-media-friendly, creep ticks all the boxes for being a narcissist who thinks that some suckers will buy his shoddy stuff. Spenceroni has made it easy for the suckers with multi-level marketing of multiple editions from the wrapped letterpress cards at $7 to the acrylic paint on paper, framed in hardwood frame, 800 x 1050 mm for $1450. According to his blog he has been working on this for six months; I hope that he is very lazy and wasn’t working full time on it.

I try to be sympathetic to young artists with their first exhibitions. Mostly when I’m critical of an artist I mean the best, I want to help them with tough love. With zombie artists I just wish that they would stop. I rarely want to destroy their soul but I doubt that Spenceroni has a soul. This is his first exhibition and I hope that it will be his last.


Collingwood Gallery Crawl

Who is this beautiful woman decked out in exotic jewellery standing in front of a ceramic skull surrounded by snakes and sea shells? I know that face. The b&w photograph captures her powerful beauty, a mature beauty that admits death. It is Janet Beckhouse photographed by Christopher Köller in an exhibition at Strange Neighbour.

Christopher Köller, Trust, 2008

Christopher Köller, Trust, 2008

On Thursday afternoon I went on a gallery crawl around Fitzroy and Collingwood with Matto Lucas, who writes Melbourne Art Review. We met up at the Centre for Contemporary Photography (CCP). I thought that the main exhibition might tie in various interests that I have about sculpture and photography but it had the least interesting photography exhibition that we saw all afternoon.

As well as Köller’s photographs at Kick Gallery we saw Bon Mott’s powerful and impressive photographs and video of her performance: It Wasn’t the First, it Wasn’t the Last.

At Fehily Contemporary we saw Camille Hannah oil paintings on perspex, Skin Flick, generate a feeling of dynamic glowing beauty. The sense of light is comparable to old master paintings but also owes much to the calligraphic energy of the brushstroke.

We were wandering around galleries more or less at random. I have a mental map of galleries and Matto has his cell phone. There are all kinds of art galleries in the area from shopfront to warehouse conversions, from the institutional CCP to the commercial to small galleries, like Off the Kerb and Little Woods, where drawings dominated.

We were about to walk past Collingwood Gallery, as we had Hogan, when Matto recognised the artist, Magupela. If you just wanted a lively informal colourful painting to hang your house that would give you years of enjoyment without becoming stale then Magupela’s Flight to my dreams would be a good exhibition to see. I write this to raise the question of what do you want from art.

We looked in at the launch of UnMagazine. The last issue of UnMagazine was unreadable, not just because of the text but also bizarre layout on coloured paper. The current issue looks a lot more readable. There were a lot of people at the launch but we didn’t want to sit through a panel discussion as we had started drinking at Mr Fluffy’s at five and now just wanted to continue, so we moved on to the exhibition opening at James Makin Gallery.

At James Makin we discovered the current location of Lindberg Gallery, it is at James Makin. This is the third location that I remember for Lindberg. Now L and M share the building and swap between the larger and smaller gallery spaces. In larger gallery, M this time, there is Fabrizio Biviano’s paintings of matchbooks in a cool painterly pop art style. In the smaller, L this time, Eugenia Raftopoulos’s Feminine Masquerade, a series of paintings of strategies for depicting obscured female faces. Matto pulls out his camera and starts to do his thing for the Melbourne Art Review.

Matto Lucas photographs Eugenia Raftopoulos

Matto Lucas photographs Eugenia Raftopoulos


Memories of David Bowie

I remember that David Bowie Is… a touring exhibition from the Victoria and Albert Museum that will be at ACMI in Melbourne from 16th July and 1 November. Not that I’ve seen the exhibition, I remember seeing the exhibition in the film. My brain felt like a warehouse… the lyrics sheets of familiar songs, the photographs, models of stage sets, over 50 costumes, memorabilia and lots of videos.

Installation Shot courtesy David Bowie Archive (c) V&A London

Installation Shot courtesy David Bowie Archive (c) V&A London

Russell Briggs, Head of Exhibitions & Collections at ACMI described the media preview as “a Russian doll, a film of an exhibition of a biography…” There are a lot of Russian doll aspects to anything about Bowie, the actor playing an alien rock star, as you unpack one doll it is revealed to contain another and another. And David Bowie is hyperreal, he is more real in simulacra than actually.

During the film I remember thinking that blockbuster exhibitions and stadium rock have a lot in common and even with the audience for the exhibition capped at 200 visitors per hour the experience will be similar. Do I want another experience like Bowie’s Serious Moonlight concert in a packed (40,000+) at VFL Park, the Waverley Football stadium? From my position in the stands I saw most of it on the big screen, so maybe it would have been just as good to have watched it on TV. Andrew Peacock, the then Liberal opposition leader was also in the audience and Bowie was going through a 50s retro phase. Even though they are on the cutting edge there is something conservative about successful trend spotters, like Bowie.

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997. Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3, © Frank W Ockenfels

Original photography for the Earthling album cover, 1997. Photograph by Frank W Ockenfels 3, © Frank W Ockenfels

The exhibition does over hype Bowie and it would like you to forget that Bowie with Mick Jagger ever sung a cover of “Dancing in the Streets”. I’d like to forget that too but having seen it I can’t. After watching David Bowie Is… (the movie) and during the writing of this post I avoided listening to any classic Bowie hits and restricted myself to an aural diet of his soundtrack for Labyrinth, the Laughing Gnome and Rubber Band. I started to wonder if Bowie hadn’t changed the whole history of the novelty song; taking it from a statistical minority of pop songs to the majority.

But remember that with all this novelty Bowie demonstrates the art/politics of constructed identities. The constructed identity is opposed to both the idea of a given or a natural identity and this is a very important contribution that liberated many people. The diversity of Bowie’s artist practice, from actor to visual artist defies assumptions about work and identity, but also a celebrity art practice in the role of producer/director and collaborator. But does this qualify as genius?

The discourse on this subject and the greater discourse around Bowie is another layer of Bowie’s much vaunted collaborations. The absence of Bowie is significant, the long periods between albums, the points where his only presence is in the public discourse about his career. Along with the exhibition there will be a two day symposium on The Stardom and Celebrity of David Bowie, presented in partnership with The University of Melbourne and Deakin University with the support of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation.

David Bowie Is… would like to define how David Bowie will be remembered, a creation of art and design. I expect that in 2050 a scholarly book on the history of a century of rock music will be published but how many references to David Bowie will there be in the index? It depends on the way that author tells the history. If the book is about popularity, the mass effect of rock music or icons of rock then there may be a many references to Bowie. If the book is about the development of rock then there may less; there is only one reference to Bowie in the index of Greil Marcus’s Lipstick Traces.


Scartato, the Ultimate Trashman

A human rubbish pile slowly walks through the outer suburban landscape of Melbourne, Australia. It is Scartato by artist Michael Meneghetti, a performance work that blends environmental issues with endurance, psychogeography and body art. ‘Scartato’ means ‘discarded’ in Italian.

Michael Meneghetti, Scartato (photo by Melissa Edwards)

Michael Meneghetti, Scartato (photo by Melissa Edwards)

Meneghetti is a hard working Australian performance artist. He creates works that require endurance and extreme physical activity. His performances sculptural qualities of altering his figure and the way he moves through an environment with stilts or by carrying heavy things like wooden stocks or a large BBQ, see my post on Performprint.

Scartato was a physical challenge to see how much rubbish he could find and he attach to his body before he couldn’t move. To start in a normal human form that grows larger and is slowly transformed and obscured by rubbish. Each piece of rubbish was attached to his body with packing tape as he “gradually transforming into a human monument of litter.” Michael Meneghetti explained, “Collecting rubbish with packing tape felt very innate somehow. Packing tape is a very playful medium, I especially enjoy the sound it makes.”

I ask Meneghetti how he become interested in ‘fly-tipping’ (illegal rubbish dumping)?

“I have always been fascinated and repulsed by our pollution, especially the kind people make when dumping on the fly. The project really started when I took a series of photos of my Uncle’s piles of rubbish a few years ago, then as I began travelling I started thinking about the kind of art I could make on the road.”

Over six hours Meneghetti collected close to two cubic metres of discarded materials. The rubbish weighed around 80 kilograms (176 pounds) in total very close to his own bodyweight. “I was a little shocked how much rubbish is around.”

I had to ask if he had encountered any mattresses, or larger items?

“Surprisingly I did not, I found a few strange things, but plastic drink bottles and junk food wrappers are probably the most common items discard onto the street. Every piece of junk has a story.”

And what was the strangest object that you found while doing Scartato?

“I found lingerie, a telephone, a dead dog, a wig, christmas decorations, nothing overly wacky, it was all rather conservative trash.”

(photo by Melissa Edwards)

(photo by Melissa Edwards)

Scartato was divided into three, two hours expeditions exploring his local neighbourhood. I asked Meneghetti what he did to prepare?

“Warm-up stretches were perhaps the most important steps to prepare for this performance.” Meneghetti’s path was determined by the rubbish he knew about and what he found. He didn’t have to walk very far as he lives close to the freeway. “Each expedition began from my house and gradually I would gravitate towards the more industrial areas and finally hit the nature reserves. On one occasion, I walked around the back of the Altona Cemetery, collecting a lot of post-memorial debris blown over.”

Meneghetti lives in Melbourne’s outer industrial suburb of Brooklyn (not to be confused with the NY suburb of the same name). It is the most polluted suburb in the state and it can smell awful; described in detail in this Environmental Protection Agency report about the Brooklyn Odour meeting on 15 November 2007. Michael told me that: “I feel from living out here that sometimes I live in that Mad Max realm, where society is on the top edge, just before the fall.”

Michael Meneghetti likes the immediacy and portability of performance art. “ I see performance as my own private opera presented publicly that enable me to explore a range of ideas face to face with the audience.”

In conjunction with his performance art Michael Meneghetti also curates videos for various organisations including: Melbourne’s Federation Square, Excerpt Magazine, and Propaganda Window,  a peer-funded public art project that ran from 2008-2012 as a dedicated video projection space on the external windows of Melbourne gallery, Dark Horse Experiment. So Scartato concluded with a video of the work projected across three shop front windows in the Eames Avenue shopping strip in Brooklyn with local music outfit, The Renovators providing a live soundtrack.

(photo by Melissa Edwards)

(photo by Melissa Edwards)


Zombie Artists

It is an ugly scene, something out of a horror movie, going on in gallery after gallery. Zombie artists slowly staggering blindly around banging their heads against the walls. As the blood and brains run down the walls the impeccably dressed gallerista numbers and each catalogues mark while a freelance curator provides a commentary about truth in materials in these futile gestures.

Vittoria Di Stefano, A certain kind of failure, 2015 (photo courtesy of Tinning Street)

Vittoria Di Stefano, A certain kind of failure, 2015 (photo courtesy of Tinning Street)

Of course, after a life time of study and a future teaching high school students in order to pay off your huge student debt, you too might want to bash your brains out on the next brick wall. The subtext of their ‘artist statements’ is clear: “brain, brains, brains…”

The aquariums used as transparent glass plinths were the best part of Vittoria Di Stefano’s “Alien Artefacts” at Tinning Street. Soap, plaster, brass, plasticine, PVC tubes, concrete, wax are amongst the materials that Di Stefano works and reworks.

The titles of Di Stefano work are inter-changeable and read like a cut-up art student essay. “The object becomes a prompt. A hazardous experience. That shape is impossible without those connotations. It needs that desire. The process of thinking.”

Where Di Stefano art this going after the gallery? To another gallery; I guess that I don’t need to see Di Stefano’s up coming exhibition at Blindside. But in the long run where is her art going and why should I care? Should I mindlessly celebrate the great continuum of art and creativity as a mystical experience? Should I studiously tick boxes in a pedagogical critical appraisal?

This is not personal and I don’t hate Di Stefano’s art, it didn’t even particularly bore me. This is not about her studied anaesthetics. I felt nothing when I saw her Alien Artefacts, she had managed to perfectly alienate me. Di Stefano’s art is not unique. It is typical of an existential crisis in post-industrial economies, a pointless activity in a professional cycle of consumption and debt.


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


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