Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Is there a Doctor in the house?

It wasn’t so long ago that the idea of university scholars spruiking art for auction house catalogues would have been shocking. Today such catalogues are one of the go-to places for readable art history by both academics and serious art writers. In the latest Art + Object catalogue Colin McCahon expert Peter Simpson makes a careful analysis of McCahon’s seventies works on Steinbach paper while discussing Rocks in the sky, series 2, No 2: Lagoon, Muriwai. You get info about the origins of the title, its place in the larger series, consideration of the use of Roman numerals and even a riff on what the subtitle might be pointing to. By the time he brings up the five wounds of Christ (another of McCahon’s key themes) you're with him wondering whether the large V shape could even be the tear of a spear wound. The A+O catalogue has also mustered Professor Laurence Simmons, Professor Emeritus Michael Dunn, Dr Oliver Stead and Dr Kriselle Baker. Bowerbank Ninow were playing the same game with their last photography catalogue including essays by Dr Andrew Paul Wood. He nails Ans Westra's sensibility noting that 'While Westra is not afraid to appeal to sentiment, she never romanticises human life.' Wood also drags up a great quote from American photographer William Eggleston talking to novelist Donna Tartt in Artforum from way back in 2001. Nice. University art history departments will now be lining up these catalogues on their library shelves for more than just the pictures.