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Tag Archives: Callum Morton

Models of Milk Bars, Shops and Galleries

A few thoughts about the history and aesthetics of artists making model buildings, shops, art galleries and other architecture in response to Callum Preston’s Milk Bar 2017.

Callum-Prestons-Milk-Bar-Icon-of-Suburbia

Callum Preston behind the counter of his Milk Bar (photo thanks to Callum Preston)

In tracing the art history genealogy of similar installations we could look back to the pop artist Claus Oldenburg’s 1961 Store. Store was a pop-up gallery in a lower east side Manhattan shop front where he sold roughly painted and moulded plaster versions of products from undergarments to cakes and pastries. Or more recently to Barry McGee (aka Twist), Todd James (aka REAS) and Stephen Powers (aka ESPO)  bodega-inspired installation, Street Market 2000 that was exhibited at the 2001 Venice Biennale.

Looking at local examples a different aesthetic and intentions are apparent. In Ivan Durrant’s Butcher Shop (1977-1978) a butcher shop window display of dead animals that was on permanent exhibition next to the entrance to the NGV’s restaurant. Although the square, tiled front of the shop with a window and door wasn’t precisely detailed the window display was uncannily accurate and gross.

Callum Morton Reception 2016

Callum Morton Reception 2016

Callum Morton’s work Reception 2016, is a one to one replica of the reception foyer of Anna Schwartz Gallery on Flinders Lane was complete with an animatronic model of gallery director, Anna Schwartz. Entering the gallery and moving through the real foyer to the replica in the gallery was uncanny. It is similar in aesthetic and subject to Dan Moynihan’s Lost in Space 2013. Moynihan’s two-third scale replica of the outside and interior of Neon Parc gallery on Bourke Street built in the front gallery space at Gertrude Contemporary created a similar mood. Two-third scale is uncanny because although you can fit inside you know that you are too large to be comfortable. Like Morton, Moynihan’s work is about architecture and the uncanny feeling. There was no art in either model of the art galleries.

What Preston’s Milk Bar offers is comfortable nostalgia. It is not uncanny, the wooden versions of the familiar products are hand-painted and flat. Perhaps I should be considering it in relation to David Wadelton’s series of black and white photographs, Milk Bars of Melbourne 2010-2013 that documents the terminal decline of these shops.

All my examples are the work of male artists, this trend is even more obvious if you consider the male street artists, Goonhugs for example, making smaller models of shops and other buildings. I haven’t included the Hotham Street Ladies icing sugar models because their work was about interior decoration rather than architectural space or shops. At least the men are making models rather than groping models.

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Morton’s Monument Park

One of the best public sculptures in Melbourne that you have probably never seen is Callum Morton Monument Park, 2015, on New Quay in the Docklands. It ticks so many of my boxes for public sculpture. You can sit on it, climb on it, walk through it, it is site specific seamlessly integrated into the paving. At one point it is just ordinary paving and then the paving becomes draped material covering monuments. The draped monuments form a square, a hub, for people to gather. Architecture or sculpture it is hard to see where one starts and the other ends at Monument Park.

Callum Morton, Monument Park, 2015

Callum Morton, Monument Park, 2015

What are these covered monuments before their unveiling? It is not clear, unlike Callum Morton’s earlier exhibition, ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ at Anna Schwartz Gallery (my review of ‘Neighbourhood Watch’), there are no plinths to provide clues. Monument Park has developed from the ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ series of wrapped versions of local public sculptures.

Given the recent violence over monuments to Confederate heroes in the USA perhaps it is better if these monuments were kept covered. As the First Dog in the Moon points out, Australia has yet to deal with its problematic monuments. I think that some of these monuments should be put in prison where they will no longer be looked up to. Morton manages a light reference to this discourse in cutting away at the interiors of his covered monuments. The bright colours of the exposed, geometric interior of the sculptures introduces splashes of bright colour to the area.

Callum Morton, Monument Park, 2015

Callum Morton, Monument Park, 2015

Wrapped sculptures have their own history in modern art in the work of Christo and, still earlier, Man Ray. These art history references adds to the quality of Monument Park without alienating the little children climbing on it. The mix of post-modern references and humour is typical of Callum Morton who originally trained as an architect before swapping to sculpture. His Hotel is a familiar sight to commuters on the Eastlink Freeway a public sculpture and is based on his early artworks influenced by architectural model making.

Callum Morton, Hotel, 2008 (1 EastLink)

Callum Morton, Hotel, 2008 (photo courtesy of EastLink)


Wrapped & Revealed

Callum Morton’s exhibition Neighbourhood Watch at Anna Schwartz Gallery is a lot of fun. Morton’s art is generally a lot of fun; Morton’s Motel is a familiar sight to drivers on the Eastlink Freeway and would also be familiar to listeners of the Triple M breakfast show where mistaking Morton’s Motel for the real thing has become a long running joke.

The game of Morton’s Neighbourhood Watch is a guessing game. If you have lived in Melbourne and are sighted you should be able to guess the identity of the wrapped statues. All the wrapped statues are familiar public statues that are located in Melbourne’s major streets and parks even if only their feet are visible underneath the brightly coloured plastic wrapping. What might also confuse the guess is that although the statues are a quarter of their actual size, the simplified plinths on which they stand have only be scaled down to half their size.

They are all memorial statutes but do we remember? The exhibition could have been extended into a social sculpture with a survey to find out which of these five statues were most recognised and which had been mostly forgotten.

I could go on about these wrapped statues, with reference to the work of Christo or Man Ray, but I think that I’ll use this to segue to another sculpture exhibition Revelations – Sculpture from the RMIT Art Collection at RMIT Gallery. RMIT’s art collection has the benefit that many of the best sculptors in Australia have at one time been students or staff or both. A lot of what I have to say about RMIT and sculpture can be found in my catalogue essay for Revelations “From Great Men to Landmarks”.

Revealing what is in RMIT’s sculpture collection makes an exciting sculpture exhibition that tells the history of sculpture in Melbourne from plaster casts of the Parthenon frieze, through modernism to contemporary sculpture. The exhibition also supplements the Inge King retrospective at the NGV (see my post) with more work by King and other members of the Centre Five group, so I would urge anyone going to the King exhibition to also see Revelations.

It is a great time to see sculpture exhibitions in Melbourne.


Drive Time Sculpture & Architecture

The international style of freeway design makes all the roads in the world look the same but Melbourne’s freeways no longer look like Jeffrey Smart’s modern and utilitarian Cahill Expressway. There are sculptures that can really only be seen from a car in Melbourne – EastLink Freeway has a $5.5 million public art collection.

Driving through Melbourne there is DCM’s City Gateway in Flemington with its a reference to the Vault. The big yellow beam at the start of the freeway is better known by other nicknames – “the cheese stick”. DCM is a Melbourne firm specializing in architecture and urban design and their work can be seen all over Melbourne from the new visitors centre at the Shrine of Remembrance to the Web Bridge in Docklands.

Noise reduction walls along the freeways have become works of architectural design. Wood Marsh, with Pels Innes and Nielson Kosloff, designed the noise reduction walls along the Eastern Freeway Extension in 1997. Other noise reduction walls designed by architects are the Geelong Road Noise Walls and the Bypass Soundwalls.

There is also the Craigieburn Bypass a giant rust-red corten steel arc sweeps across the freeway to create a grand visual gateway into northern Melbourne. This freeway sculpture consists of three long sculptural sound walls punctuated by a pedestrian bridge. Architects Tonkin Zulaikha Greer in collaboration with landscape architecture firm Taylor Cullity Lethlean and artist Robert Owen designed the Craigieburn Bypass.

The speed at which the view passes the sculpture was assumed to be walking pace but the modern viewer in a car travels much faster, so the sculptures have to be huge, engaging but not too distracting. I don’t drive a car, I ride a bicycle and the only sculpture that I see from that is Simon Perry’s Rolled Path or the MoreArts exhibition and generally I stop my bike, so I see sculptures at walking pace. Consequently I haven’t actually seen the sculpture along EastLink (can I do it with Google Maps?).

Lisa Young, Island Wave, 2003, Melbourne

Lisa Young, Island Wave, 2003, Melbourne

A traffic sculpture that I have seen is in the round about at the corner of Franklin and Queen streets – Island Wave (2003) by Lisa Young. It is a repeating series of white painted steel shapes following the perimeter of the round about. Each of the steel shapes repeats the form of a stylised cross section of a wave about to break. The steel sculpture on concrete footing was fabricated by Gilbro Engineering and installed by Famous Constructions.

The linear sculpture parks along  EastLink in Melbourne’s outer Eastern suburbs. It features four major works by notable Australian artists. In addition to these major artworks, ConnectEast also funded a collection of smaller scale pieces located along the EastLink Trail for the enjoyment of cyclists and walkers, like me.

Elipsoidal Freeway Sculpture by James Angus is between Wellington Rd and Corhanwarrabul Creek. 24 green, blue and white coloured modular ellipsoids of varying sizes cover a distance of 36 metres.

Public Art Strategy by Emily Floyd is a giant painted steel blackbird overlooking a yellow worm. It is located between Cheltenham Road and the Dandenong Bypass. The giant children’s toy image is typical of Floyd’s work as an artist, Emily Floyd Signature Work (Rabbit), 2004 a large black painted aluminium toy rabbit on Waterview Walk in the Docklands. At 13 metres high, 19 metres long hers is the smallest of sculptures along the EastLink Trail.

Hotel by Callum Morton is between Greens Road and Bangholme road. Callum Morton, an RMIT alumnus, represented Australia at the 2007 Venice Biennale and his art is about architecture (“how space is experienced in built environments”). Hotel is a large-scale model of a bland high-rise modern hotel and some of its windows are lit at night with solar power.

Resembling a fallen tree or tower of galvanized steel plate along the side of the motorway. Desiring Machine by Simeon Nelson is next to EastLink south of Thompson Road, near Boundary-Colman’s Road. This is not Nelson’s only sculpture designed for a roadside there is his The M4 Freeway Commission, Sydney 2000.

(See The Age from 2007 on the Eastlink sculptures.)


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