Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The good, the rad and the ugly

If you want a real hit of NZ art you need to get yourself to Auckland and the AAG. We've never been big fans of the new building but now some thoughtful and entertaining shows are taking advantage of what is often a confusing series of galleries, staircases and corridors. There’s a lot of work on display and you can't get away from the fact that the Auckland Art Gallery collections are the most impressive in the country and they are able to dig deep into our culture. The provincial problem remains of course but it's probably time to accept we tell our own stories best and enjoy the bits and pieces that are airlifted in every now and then. That aside, the Auckland curatorial team is obviously taking on a far more disciplined approach about the way it is stages and interprets its holdings to the public. 

Take the collection of works on paper that can serve as background notes to Lisa Reihana’s hugely successful In pursuit of Venus (infection). Rather than Joseph Dufour’s hand-painted wallpaper and associated prints being subsumed by the contemporary work, they are presented on a separate floor on their own terms - to be discovered rather than explained away.  So whether you see this handsome grouping before or after the Reihana work, it retains its own richness and independence making a response to both more complex. There are also some excellent juxtapositions to clearly show how influences have seeped in or sometimes overwhelmed our artists. And there's some humour too. Now it's been done it feels kind of obvious to put Michael Stevenson's savage satire of Jörg Immendorff and the result of the German artist's stay in Auckland but don't remember it having been done before. 

As for the jewelry show Wunderrūma, good on the two guest curators giving over space to rarely seen works from the Gallery’s collection, but when they started to hang them higgledy-piggledy on the walls, someone should have stepped in and said, “No, enough’s enough.”

Images: top, Ronnie van Hout and Kate Newby. Middle left, the Englishness of New Zealand art and right, Michael Stevenson and Georg Immendorff. Bottom WTF.