Yvonne Todd: Creamy Psychology – Exhibition Review

By Grace Hunt

December 06 ‘14 – march ‘15

I visited Yvonne Todd’s “Creamy Psychology” at City Gallery the day before it was being downsized; in total there was around 150 photographic works by Todd, the first time the City gallery has given over so much space to one artist. The first thing I noticed about this exhibition was the sheer amount of work By Todd that was on display, I found it to be kind of overwhelming and lost interest relatively quickly because lots of her photographs depict very similar things (Heavily made up women in a commercial photographic setting with something slightly off kilter seemed to be a reoccurring motif). I would’ve liked to revisit this exhibition when it was downsized to see if it made any difference for me.

I then noticed the presentation of these images differed from the more traditional way in which photographs are hung; many were hung in clusters at differing heights. I presume that this was a conscious choice to hang them in such a way was to further emphasize the off-kilted nature of the photos, however I found it to be more of an annoyance than anything because it meant I had to the images longer to figure out what was “off-kilter” about them and wondered if it was really necessary.

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What I enjoyed most about this exhibition was being able to have small glimpses into the behind the scenes of Todd’s photos, on the second floor of the City Gallery there was a collection of vintage gowns owned by Todd that were alongside some of the photos they were used in. There was also a collection of her workbooks with tests and ideas before they had come to fruition on display. I personally enjoyed this bit the most because I am intrigued by the work that goes into creating photographic works, I think that the effort put in to photography is often overlooked because of how instantaneous the final product is.

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Mongrel Mob Portraits – Exhibition Review

Mongrel Mob Portraits|Jono Rotman|City Art Gallery Wellington|14 March – 14 June

By Laura Duffy

The exhibition consists of large photographic prints of Mongrel Mob members in frames, occupying three rooms upstairs in the City Art Gallery Wellington.

When entering I received a shock at the intense energy coming from these portraits. As there is a wall separating the entrance and the staircase, I felt a little enclosed which added to the intensity of the photographs. The middle section, where the audience enters, holds massive, slick, and extremely confronting portraits of members of the Mongrel Mob in a traditional portrait style – naturally lighting and naturally posed. The room to the left holds a photograph of a 1970s photograph and a collage, both keeping consistent with the large clear photographic prints. The room to the right holds more large prints with one being a photo of a Mob family, a father and two boys.

Although I have never had any problem encounters with the Mongrel Mob, I come from the east coast where they are quite prominent. Every time had an encounter I’ve automatically avoided eye contact at all costs. It is an interesting, slightly terrifying experience being able to look into and study the face of a gang, which represents awful things. Looking at the tattoos on their faces I can’t help but feel like they’ve received a misguided wrong impression of what mana is.

Thinking that they are warriors, but warriors of what? It forces me to think about why would someone go so far as to permanently ink their skin with the name of a gang that stands for evil. Forcing The Mob to be at the forefront of every interaction in their lives. I found it interesting that the names of the men on the wall text, none of them used their family names, all replaced with “rogue” “notorious” or their city, removing their history. I assume these men have had awful lives to push them into such a drastic lifestyle, that the system has failed them. They are disconnected and outsiders of the community. For this reason I think they’re really interesting to bring into a public art gallery.

The exhibition has received negative attention in the media as one of the men photographed is on trial for murder, the media concentrated on the fact that the victims father thought it was disrespectful to show his photograph.

I’m torn because I don’t want to give these men any personal gratification in the fact that they’re obviously scaring me – in this sense, the entire exhibition pisses me off. I’m happy that the audience for this is Wellington rather than the East Coast because I think it would’ve read differently with more gang affiliations as well as victims of The Mob. In New Zealand we have gang problems, and we can’t look away forever, a discussion around why this is occurring and what can be done to help needs to be had. I think that this exhibition is a interesting starting point to that conversation.

Crossings – Alberto Garcia-Alvarez – Exhibition Review

 By Kerry Males

 

Alberto Garcia-Alvarez has an exhibition called “Crossings” located on the top floor of the City Gallery in Wellington, from the 14th of March to the 14th of June 2015. Alvarez was born in Barcelona, studied in Spain then moved to New Zealand and worked at Elam School of Fine Arts in Auckland for 20 years. His early works consisted of large abstract-expressionist paintings that are influenced by line, form and shape. Alvarez is more widely known for his mural “up” in Auckland that is made of 295 ceramic blocks placed into a grid format, called “Collective Mind”. Alvarez also has worked in other mural commissions made from mosaic, tapestry and stained glass. However this exhibition consisted of a series of wooden constructions with a range of sizes and forms. Before you enter the room you are greeted by a small wooden structure that looks similar to a red, white and blue Nike tick. 

 

Inside the exhibition you are surrounded by a range of similar looking structures that have been painted in some form of Mondrian influence. Naturally I was drawn to a large block structure that is formed by much smaller black pieces. With further inspection of the large block structure, I found that the presentation of the work was slightly under- par. After moving on to the other structures I found it a little upsetting that a lot of the wooden structures are painted with little effort and some of the wooden pieces are cut slightly messy. I was expecting the structures inside the exhibition to be just as visually pleasing as the structure on the door. However the exhibition is called “Crossings”, not “Painted Wood” and Alvarez does note that his wooden constructions are influenced by the idea of crossing, like when the points of the objects intersect or when a section of the object crosses over another section. I found these series of works may have been more closely related to his early painting works in which he would cut his canvases to reveal the underlying structure of the painting.

Mongrel Mob Portraits – Jono Rotman

By Kane Laing

Every once in a while an artwork, artist or exhibition pops into the mainstream media’s view, usually because of some controversy or how expensive some piece of art is. The latest to pop up is Jono Rotman’s Mongrel Mob portraits. It is a stunning exhibition in The City Gallery with beautiful large-scale prints and a tight and effective edit, there are less than 15 images in the whole show. The high quality of the photographic portraits coupled with the human-size images is compelling and engaging, as is the photographer’s subject.

The subject of this exhibition is The Mongrel Mob, which is undoubtedly a recognizable part of New Zealand culture, and it is something that is surrounded by fear and hate. It is fascinating to see individuals from an exclusive part of our society presented to the public in this way, especially with the saturation of imagery worn on the clothes and skin of the gang members. But what is this exhibition achieving or trying to achieve? What is the real effect of staging such an exhibition?

A friend of mine who works at the city gallery had a member of the public ask “What do you think of these dropkicks?”, right off the bat the distaste towards these individuals is obvious and clear. In the news, controversy has sprung up around a particular individual who was on trial for murder, saying that it was disrespectful to the victims to glorify the man in such a way. In the exhibition catalogue book Dr Ranginui Walker writes “These portraits challenge us to ask: what are the hidden and untold stories that underlie them?”. In essence this is what the question the exhibition is attempting to evoke. Rotman is trying to photograph a maligned people in a respectful and neutral manner. I believe that the humanity of the subjects is what shines through in these portraits and it does offer an opportunity for reflection on what lies underneath our facades.

However, there is no denying the culture these individuals represent. A culture of crime, murder, teenage prostitution, drugs and violence. A world hidden to most people in New Zealand and a world still hidden in this exhibition. We know the second-hand stories about the Mongrel Mob, the stories we bring into the exhibition to relate to the images we see. Is that dangerous? Is this exhibition a fetishization of our gang culture for middle class white people (aka gallery-goers) to get their fix on? How many people from cultures such as the one in the exhibition’s subject go to art galleries? And is this exhibition inherently glorifying this gang culture? I don’t know.

What is underlying these questions and this exhibition is the fact that all behaviours and cultures are learned and are a product of environment. What is it that produced this culture? Is the violence and gang structure taken from maori tribe culture? Or are the swastikas, imagery, drug culture and violent behaviour learned from the western colonial culture? These questions and debates are really important for our society, and I wonder if this exhibition does enough to support it.

Installation view at Gow Langsford Gallery, Auckland. Photo: Tobias Kraus

‘In Review’ – Review Review

By Kane Laing

In Review – City Gallery

March 1, 2015
(an art review) by Sharon Lam

Trying to discover my next review topic, I wondered if it was possible to review a restaurant as an art exhibition and i wondered about the tropes of art reviews and art galleries. We only understand these things through conventions. I was then shown a review of the city gallery that nicely embodied these thoughts; In Review: The City Gallery by Sharon Lam.

“Immediately upon entry, an artist approached us and requested that we surrender our backpacks and coats—we were shocked! Although we were prepared for controversial avant-garde pieces, to be confronted so early on threw us off! Upon debaggaging our items, I felt my own personal baggage lightening, which I found worrying and alarming. “

This is obviously no ordinary review, it is a piece of creative writing pretending to be an art review, even going as far as to appear in Victoria University’s student magazine Salient. It’s beautiful.

On face value it is a silly spoof of art reviews and the conventions in contemporary art galleries, and it’s got some great lines that are pretty accessible for any one who has ever visited an art gallery. Perhaps it never aspired to be more than a comedy nugget, but underneath it does expose the conventions and tropes of art galleries and art reviews with their particular language and jargon.

If it wasn’t for the existence of the conventions there would be no comedy, the secret to good comedy is to point out reality and make the audience take a look at its absurdity. Conventions are helpful in creating context, which is important and if we had no conventions everything would be abstract and we’d get nowhere. But it is important to be critical of conventions as we can become complacent and take them for granted or without question, which does not help to produce an engaged, educated and progressive society. But comedy and satire are great tools in understanding conventions, they are accessible re-presentations of reality. In the case of this review it is maybe nothing critically ground-breaking, but it’s funny! I often feel like the most effective and on-point part of a news-paper is its political cartoons. But maybe that’s just me.

As sacred as art can be, we should never lose the ability to laugh at it and poke fun at something our culture (or high-culture) holds in such high regard in our culture.

Nice review, i give it 5 stars.

5 stars

(screen capture from Salient website)

http://salient.org.nz/2015/03/in-review-the-city-gallery/

http://citygallery.org.nz/