Whose got the funk? Joanna Langford, Peter Madden, Rohan Wealleans, curated by Emily Cormack, have the funk. And they are not afraid to show it off in public. I mean, we all got that funky mish-mash of stuff. We’ve put it together, collected it and carefully arranged it. And we croon over its beauty; it is too precious to throw out, like a foil chocolate wrapper. Emily Cormack describes the exhibition as “a highly subjective language to describe personal mythologies.” But most of us don’t show off this funky stuff in public. A few boho-artist types do but mostly it looks like crazy junk.
Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are some of the exceptions along with and Bruce Conner and Bootsy Colins. It took me a few days to distillate my experience of the exhibition, My Own Private Idealogue at Gertrude Contemporary Art Space. In many ways it was similar to so many exhibitions that I’ve seen recently, artists creating their own miniature worlds full of tiny details. Scatter style with collages made found materials. But this had something more, more personal, more obsessive, more funk. Funk was first used to describe art in the 1960s in San Francisco (Peter Selz, Funk, University Art Museum, University of Calif., Berkeley, 1967).
Joanna Langford has The Before Lands (2009) in the front room. A huge tower supplied with power cables from small adjacent towers. There are lots of tiny stairways and ladders leading up the different levels of the tower. The whole thing is delicately constructed with recycled shopping bags, bamboo skewers and cardboard. The whole construction is lit with tiny 12-volt lights.
Peter Madden and Rohan Wealleans are in the main gallery. To enter the main gallery you pass through Rohan Wealleans’s Bead Curtain (2008) made from bits of dried acrylic paint with layers of different colours. And then things really got funky.
Peter Madden’s Sleep with Moths (2008) is a black skeleton with black twigs growing out of its bones turns into a bush covered in paper butterflies. Peter Madden also makes beautiful delicate collages that float on layers of perspex.
New Zealand artist Rohan Wealleans was the funkiest of the lot of them. Wealleans creates personal totems, ugly but arresting images. His Orange Shark Jaw Sculpture (2008) creates a round, orange-painted, fibreglass body for a shark jaw. It is like the funky animal creations of American funk ceramicist David Gilhooly. Others like the hieratic postured of Maid (2004) suggest so many stories and explanations.
There was so much of it, the mess, the excess, coming from all directions and I knew that it was good.