Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi presents three new exhibitions, each of which revisits an aspect of art history that has been overlooked or forgotten but which is ready for reacquaintence and reappraisal.
Bruce Barber Performance Scores
Curated by Stephen Cleland
Bruce Barber: Performance Scores approaches the first decade of work by Canada-based, New Zealand-born artist Bruce Barber, produced during a highly experimental period of global art practice in the 1970s. Unusually for Barber’s practice, it foregrounds the textual and printed matter underscoring the artist’s live activities, rather than their photographic documentation, in order to make a larger case for the relevance of this material within the conceptual and performance-based art of the era.
The exhibition focuses on the period 1970 to 1980 and features letters, instruction sheets, and detailed diagrammatic plans. Accompanied by selective historic video documentation, the project poses questions regarding the status of these paper artifacts: do they simply notate Barber’s concepts for yet-to-be realised performances, or are they self-contained art works in their own right? What relation do they have to those past live events and do they now serve as latent historic records or active propositions for future reenactments? Working from the fact that Barber has resisted restaging his performances and has only in recent years begun to present their photographic documentation, the exhibition treats these ‘performance scores’ as unsettling representations that recode the conventions of architectural drawing and musical notation with more subjective forms of spatial and temporal mapping.
From 1970-1975 Barber was based in Auckland and attended Elam School of Fine Arts where, working with the influential teacher Jim Allen, he developed an ambitious body of performance works. In these early activities he often subjected himself and his collaborators to challenging exercises: such as being blindfolded whilst navigating the rim of an extinct volcano (Mt Eden Crater Performance, 1973) or carrying a fish through a complex obstacle course with a bucket over his head (Bucket Action, 1974). Barber described these performances as ‘endurance-based’ due to the strenuous nature of the activities and their extended duration. From 1976, after his move to Halifax, Canada, where he studied and then joined the faculty of the Nova Scotia School of Art and Design (NSCAD), a hotbed for conceptual art in the 1970s and early 1980s, he honed his gallery-based performances and continued to develop a series of ‘audience arrangements’ that signaled a growing interest in the social dimension of his performance-based practice.
Bruce Barber lives and works in Halifax. The curator acknowledges the generous support of the artist and our additional lenders for this project: Michael Lett, Auckland and the E H McCormick Research Library, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
Fragments of a World: Artists Working in Film and Photography 1973–1987
Curated by Sandy Callister
Fragments of a World brings together a selection of films and photographs by Janet Bayly, Minerva Betts, Rhondda Bosworth, Jane Campion, Alexis Hunter, Joanna Margaret Paul and Popular Productions produced between 1973 and 1987. The exhibition borrows its title from a book published in 1976 surveying the emerging contemporary art medium of photography, which took a gendered approach to its subject and featured the work of 31 women artists. The aim of the exhibition is to examine a particular form of imagemaking that opens up thinking about the intersection of feminism, new technologies, and a disruptive epoch. The selected artists all demonstrate their embrace of and struggle with established conventions and hierarchies in the art, film and photographic worlds. Employing strategies such as staging, repetition, reconstruction, assemblage and blurring, they test new technologies, slipping between categories to reframe everyday experiences with disruptive purpose, yet avoiding overt politics. Experimenting with the new media of their time, these artists foreshadow how technologies now mediate our desires and inner thoughts; they are eloquent harbingers of our Instagram era.
Traces of the Wake: The Etching Revival in Britain and Beyond
Curated by David Maskill and his ARTH 403 students
Traces of the Wake brings together more than 60 original prints from private and public collections by British, Australian, French and New Zealand artists working between 1850 and 1930 who were at the vanguard of what has come to be known as The Etching Revival. David Maskill and his Honours’ students have delved into this neglected period, when printmakers produced finely crafted prints for an eager market of fine art connoisseurs and a middle-class hungry for traditional subjects in a world that was rapidly changing. The exhibition is structured around the works of three master etchers—Rembrandt, Charles Meryon, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler—who were invoked by the Etching Revivalists as source and inspiration. It examines ‘traces’ of their legacy in the subjects, styles and processes that were carried over in the practices of British artists such as Muirhead Bone, David Young Cameron, and Francis Seymour Hayden; Australians such as Lionel Lindsay and Mortimer Menpes, and New Zealanders: Harry Linley Richardson, Trevor Lloyd, Mina Arndt, and Frederick Vincent Ellis.
The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring essays by each student that elaborate on the exhibition. This has been generously supported by Woolf Photography.
The Adam Art Gallery gratefully acknowledges the support and assistance of staff of the lending institutions: Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Alexander Turnbull Library, Sarjeant Gallery Te Whare o Rehua, and Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki.
OPENING WEEK EVENTS
Friday 2 October 2015, 6pm: Exhibition opening. Professor Frazer Allan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor Engagement at Victoria University of Wellington opens the exhibitions. The winner of the annual Chartwell Trust Student Art Writing Prize is announced. The opening is sponsored by Spade Oak Vineyard and Tuatara Breweries.
Saturday 3 and 10 October, 2pm: Students are presenting floor talks on works in Traces of the Wake.
Sunday 4 October, 10am: Curator Sandy Callister and artists Janet Bayly and Rhondda Bosworth conduct a conversation in Fragments of a World.
Thursday 8 October, 5.15pm: David Maskill presents a seminar in the Art History in Practice Series.
Press release here