Monday 30 July 2012

Go to it

After going to the opening on Friday night and Marcus Moore's floortalk on Saturday, I'm still wrapping my head around Peripheral Relations: Marcel Duchamp and New Zealand Art 1960-2011 at the Adam Art Gallery.

My first impression is that it is a sophisticated, incredibly considered, and surprisingly (I don't know why 'surprisingly', but it was apparently not what I was expecting) elegant exhibition. My second impression is of nostalgia - not on Moore's part, but my own. I suddenly feel old enough to have history.

Standing between Julian Dashper's Untitled 6-25 on one side of the upper Chartwell Gallery and Giovanni Intra's 365 Days over the void, I felt enveloped in old friends. Both the works themselves (I'm old enough to play 'Remember when we saw that at ...') and the artists. It struck me later in the weekend that although I never met Intra, I have soaked up so many people's strong and fond and sad feelings for him, that I respond to seeing his work in the same way that I do Julian's - appreciation and attention for the art, but also this heart-clench moment for the person. It is a little like seeing Len Lye's Roundhead in the stairwell - slim and delicate and a fist through the heart. That work has always simply said 'Love' to me.
All this makes me wonder how people who don't have these histories and connections perceive a show like this. It is nearly impossible to put myself in their headspace (although increasingly I try).

However. This is beside the point. What I really wanted to do was flag the three-part lecture series by Wystan Curnow that is being staged across Wellington this week. I only found out about it by accident, so just in case you haven't heard:

We’ll Take Manhattan, New Zealand Artists in New York, 1957-1972 

For at least three decades following the end of World War Two, global developments in visual arts were dominated by one city: New York. But not all those developments were the work of native New Yorkers, or Americans. In three lectures, over three nights, in three different venues, Wystan Curnow will examine the New York experience of three artists to ask whether their work belongs to the history of New Zealand art or America’s or to some combination of the two.

Colin McCahon
6.10 – 7.30 pm, Tuesday 31 July
Victoria University of Wellington - Murphy Lecture Theatre MYLT 101

Len Lye
6.10 – 7.30 pm, Wednesday 1 August
City Gallery Wellington - Adam Lecture Theatre

Billy Apple
6.10 – 7.30 pm, Thursday 2 August
Massey University - Te Ara Hihiko, New College of Creative Arts Building

Poking around looking for these event listings, I stumbled over three pieces Curnow wrote in 1977

The New York Scene 1977 
The New York Scene 2
Thinking about Colin McCahon and Barnett Newman

They are so surprising and so fresh. Abstract painting is no stick to beat McCahon with, nor is McCahon a stick with which to beat abstraction. I still have so much history in front of me to dive into.

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