Tuesday, May 17, 2016

12 cool things Kiwi (visual) artists have achieved in the past year

The other day a headline in the NZ Herald caught the attention: '12 cool things artists have achieved this year'. Of course when you clicked through the artists involved were musicians and not of the installation, photographic, painting or sculpture variety. So here’s a 12 cool things they have achieved in the past year.

Billy Apple at 80 finally got his long overdue survey show at the Auckland Art Gallery. Did that mean he'd then sit back and take it easy? Not a chance. Apple is always ticking off items on a list of shows and projects that stretches into the future as well as getting to most of the key art events in the city.

Ruth Buchanan turned artist/ curator in Berlin with a series of thoughtful and witty interventions into a private collection being exhibited at the Hamburger Bahnhof. In the overall project A-Z The Marzona Collection Buchanan made changes and additions to the sections J, L and K in the alphabet-based show.

Simon Denny has to be included. He had a very good year but who’d have thought that MoMA, having purchased his sculptures last year, would make another large purchase from his Venice show.  As they say, the first purchase is representation, but if they come back for more, it’s serious attention.

Lisa Reihana proved that history can pull crowds with her large-scale video installation in Pursuit of Venus [infected] based on nineteenth century wallpaper. It got her the Venice gig, it's in contention for the Walters Prize and already some significant art museums have shelled out big bucks to buy their very own copy of the work.

Michael Parekowhai certainly kept his cool over the last 12 months. And that despite the politicians of Hamilton and some vociferous people in Auckland ranting on about how his public sculptures were a waste of money no matter who pays for them. They'll be the same people in a few years doting on their grandkids playing in the waterfall of the Hamilton one and looking through the windows in the Auckland one.

Judy Millar who somehow manages to live in Europe and New Zealand at the same time also seems to be able to work at both a major and intimate scale. Not only did she produce the huge architectural scale sculpture The Model World at Te Uru, she also managed to illustrated a kids' pop-up book of the same name.

Dick Frizzell continues to be the whirlwind of New Zealand art marketing. He's always there in some media release or other weighing in on a contentious issue, launching a product or gifting works to this charity or that. Is this cool? Maybe not exactly, but it is impressive.

Len Lye continues to be the only artist in NZ ever to reach out from beyond the grave and continue to ghostwrite new works via a ouija board of governors. If that’s not cool, nothing is.

Li-Ming Hu used DIY cut-out masks and Vimeo to shift a few boundaries and crack us up at the same time. Her take on the team who ran Gambia Castle was a knowing mix of hilarity and edge.

Francis Upritchard’s exhibition at Monash University (MUMA) in Australia was a remarkable survey of her work from art school days to the present. Some of the museum based work of the early 2000s looks as fresh as the day it was made (and the poster is beautiful too). The exhibition is now showing at the City Gallery in Wellington. And Auckland, will it be showing in Auckland where all the people are? Er, no.

Fiona Connor
has been based in LA for a while now and for the last year has been running her own apartment gallery featuring a strong showing of artists from New Zealand. Laurel Doody has now wound up its gallery phase but not before getting some serious critical attention in the city.

Luke Willis Thompson took a whole lot of people for a ride in New York City, well a walk in fact. His contribution to the New Museum’s 2015 Triennial was to invite visitors to step out into the city on a choreographed walk. Often unsettling, it continued Thompson’s investigation into cultural relationships, power and space.