MCA

What a difference a day makes! Yesterday at the Art Gallery of NSW I was entranced by a series of galleries filled by Mikala Dwyer. Today I was at the Museum of Contemporary Art, saw an installation by the same artist, and was left bemused, un-engaged. I was visiting with my mother and we spent a lot of time on this Untitled 1992-1994 – there seemed to be lots of recognisable bits, things that should be a hook. But in the end, beige. Just some stuff.

Mikala Dwyer
Untitled 1992-1994 (detail)

That’s mum in the distance, working hard at it. The artist certainly “made us look”, if that was the point.

Blue Peter Rabbits, so maybe a child’s room, domestic, personal, protective. A minor play with architecture – a column leaning on a trestle, another made of a stack of dinner plates (domestic??).

Mikala Dwyer

A series of tables (baby change tables?) the soft foam inside encased in sheets of perspex, the supports bandaged. A reversal of softness, protection, warm enfolding? Above some perspex containers of coloured liquid or gell. Some plastic ziplock bags of similar stuff was stapled to a column. Blank.

Mikala Dwyer

A bit more detail of the posts wrapped with sheets, electric blanket etc. Plates (?) and bed pans wrapped on the wall. One package had me thinking of Christo’s dead trees at AGNSW, which to me just accentuates the long past demise of the trees. Otherwise nothing.

Reading more at home, the gallery write up talks about child’s bedroom, the vulnerable body, comfort and healing. So we got some of it, we just didn’t feel it.

Perhaps partly because it wasn’t immersive, we weren’t entering its environment. The work is stretched along one side of gallery. Along the wall opposite are some strong works including Sally Smart’s The craftiest of eyes (borrowed dress) (last mentioned 26-Nov-2016). Dwyer’s work is “untitled”, unlike those I saw yesterday. The cheap quip is “perhaps the artist didn’t feel too involved in the end either, not even discovering a name”.

(Later edit – perhaps it was that the suggestions from Dwyer were too strong, but to me unclear. I wasn’t free to think my own thoughts, as in the AGNSW works, but I couldn’t enter her’s.)

Robert MacPherson
White/black (Arago)

Further along the same long wall was White/black (Arago) by Robert MacPherson. Austere, exploring what a painting is. Various mixes and finishes of black and white, each canvas apparently the dimensions that MacPherson could reach with hand and paintbrush. Pure minimalist aesthetic.

I find it satisfying – the considered experimentation, clarity of thought and means, theoretical concerns about the nature of art, yet the physical person of the artist so present. I’ll be referring back to this work too, when I finally get to writing about the Seidler houses.

Gordon Bennett
Number Nine

Gordon Bennett
detail

It’s not surprising Gordon Bennett’s work Number Nine caught my eye, given a longstanding interest in stripes (see research posts and paper written for college).

In this instance Bennett was claiming his place as an artist, no adjectives necessary, art about art, not boxed in by our preconceptions based on his Indigenous heritage – though I think it shows as integral to the man, in his choice of colour and possibly a shield-like motif. The paint is controlled, textured, tactile, on the surface of the canvas.

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