I arrived in Melbourne, Australia at the perfect time to get a snapshot of what’s going on in contemporary art in this bustling, cosmopolitan city. Two of Melbourne’s premier art institutions – the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) and the Ian Potter Center were dedicated to the Melbourne Now exhibition “celebrating the latest art, architecture, design, performance and cultural practice to reflect the complex cultural landscape of creative Melbourne.”
A colored-mirror skyline fragment greeted visitors at the waterfall entrance to the NGV. Once inside, a cleverly designed igloo-like structure demonstrated what one could do with plastic planters filled with plants at different stages of growth (below).
I followed the path of the exhibition into a very large video gallery where Aussie humor was on full display. Take George Egerton-Warburton’s video entitled Why are you wearing athletic gear if you’re not playing any sport today? In a Calder-like mobile, a screen displayed the artist’s feet in sneakers walking through the streets of Melbourne, while on the other end of the mobile, the artists suspended his sneakers by their shoelaces.
I was also mesmerized by Charlie Sofo’s video ‘33 Objects that can fit through the hole in my pocket’. I watched as combs, lighters, pens, snakes, keys, notebooks, etc. slithered down the artist’s pant leg. I can’t explain it, but I really liked this work!
There were several contemporary Aboriginal artists represented as well, and the shield as object was evident is several works. One of the Melbourne Now exhibition workshops offered to the public was a native demonstration of how to make a cloak out of possum skins!! You can hear possums scampering about on urban rooftops ever since they were placed on the endangered species list several years ago.
I enjoyed several interactive works such as a wall of postcards printed with the public’s suggestions for how to develop Melbourne in the future, and another installation that comprised a circular wall that from a distance looked like trees and nests and flocks of birds. On closer inspection the entire scene was created by tiny blackbird stickers that the public were encouraged to build upon. I even got to relive my youth with a fabulous remake of a disco-era dance party (see images of these installations below).
Linda Marrinon’s plaster and cast figures referenced Hellenistic and Roman sculptural periods, but her individual figures were most decidedly anti-heroic – Winter bride, Twins with skipping rope and Voltaire were some of the titled sculptures.
There were few paintings on exhibit, Linda Forthun’s Bright Lights being among the few: A large canvas of Melbourne’s skyline painted in her signature style using stencils, and overlays.
In case one starts getting too serious about the art, that Aussie humor will turn up again when least expected, like when I was looking for the Ladies room…