While many Australians flee the city for the beach each summer, those with more sun sense might prefer to visit the National Gallery of Victoria’s upcoming exhibitions. In line with the NGV’s goal to show more local art, these exhibitions feature many of our home grown artists alongside key international artists. With a contemporary focus, Unnerved: The New Zealand Project and Endless Present: Robert Rooney and Conceptual Art will provide a thought provoking refuge from the heat, as will The Naked Face: Self Portraits, a collection of self portraits from the last 500 years.
It’s refreshing to see the Australia/New Zealand rivalry finally being put to one side (at least in the art world) with the NGV’s Unnerved: The New Zealand Project featuring 26 emerging and established New Zealand artists and curated by Jane Devery. Darkness and anxiety permeate this collection of works that explore social, political and cultural issues from all facets of contemporary New Zealand society. The works span a number of mediums including painting, photography, sculpture, installation, drawing, film and video from artists such as Lisa Reihana, John Pule, Gavin Hipkins, Anne Noble, Ronnie van Hout, Shane Cotton and Julian Hooper. Highlights include the life size sculptures of Michael Parekowhai and a series of haunting photographs by Yvonne Todd.
With many pieces being viewed by the public for the first time Endless Present: Robert Rooney and Conceptual Art features works by Melbourne artist Robert Rooney alongside pieces from his own collection of art, gifted to the NGV. The title Endless Present refers to Rooney’s use of repetition and personal ritual in his own photography, his photographs of sun drenched Melbourne streets are thought provokingly beautiful and far less likely to give you sunburn than the real thing. The exhibition features works by international artists Allan Kaprow, Ed Ruscha and Sol LeWitt, alongside Australian artists Ian Burn and Dale Hickey who exhibited at avant-garde Melbourne gallery Pinacotheca in the 1960s and 1970s. Letters, sketches, short films, photographs and journals illuminate some of the fundamental ideas behind conceptual art, where process reigns over aesthetics. Rooney’s collection began in the early days of his career, where he picked up little known works soon after their creation from now major artists. His dedication and passion for conceptual art is made clear as you view this immense and varied collection.
The Naked Face: Self Portraits features 150 self portraits from Australian and international artists of the last 500 years. Curated by Dr Vivien Gaston, the exhibition aims to explore social and art history through the artist’s perception of self. The works selected are not only self portraits but studies of the artist’s connections to others and the world around them – exaggerating their social status, illustrating their artistic talent, portraying popular culture and documenting their lifestyle. The Naked Face demonstrates a dramatic change in self-imaging over time through a variety of mediums including painting, drawing, printmaking, photography and fashion by artists Hugh Ramsay, Mike Parr, John Brack, Peter Booth, as well as international artists such as Rembrandt, Edward Steichen, Cindy Sherman and Coco Chanel. On at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, The Naked Face: Self Portraits will provide broad appeal to viewers, rainy day or not.