Darcy Lange: Study of an artist at work

24 March - 13 May 2007

Vern Hume, Aerial Top Dressing, Taranaki, 1974, Darcy Lange

Darcy Lange installation viewDarcy Lange installation viewDarcy Lange installation viewDarcy Lange, A Documentation of Bradford Working Life, UK, 1974 Darcy Lange, A Documentation of Bradford Working Life, UK, 1974Darcy Lange, Waitara Freezing Works, Taranaki, 1974Studies of Teaching in Four Oxfordshire Schools, UK, 1977Darcy Lange, Study of Three Birmingham Schools, UK, 1976

Darcy Lange: Study of an artist at work surveyed the ground-breaking video, film, sculpture and photographic work of New Zealand artist Darcy Lange (1946-2005), focussing on the artist’s seminal documentary studies of people at work.

The exhibition highlighted Lange’s innovative use of video. One of the first video artists to record in real time, using the ‘long take’ technique, Lange’s novel use of video methods places him at the forefront of video art practices at that time, both in New Zealand and internationally. He saw his videos as research studies, rather than finished products, and sought to stimulate active relationships between himself as artist, the subjects of his documentaries, and gallery viewers. As a consequence, his work is a vital contribution to the history of conceptual art practice.

Darcy Lange began to record the everyday life of people working in factories, mines and schools in England in the early 1970s. Returning to New Zealand in 1974, he continued to engage with this theme, documenting workers in the Waitara Freezing Works and on Ruatoria sheep farms, as well as recording significant footage of events surrounding the assertion of Maori land rights during the late 1970s and early 1980s.

As exhibition curator Mercedes Vicente notes, Lange’s empathetic observations of ‘people at work’ can also be contextualised within a rich history of social documentary photography and film, which includes the work of 1930s American photographers Dorothea Lange and Walker Evans, or filmmaker Frederick Wiseman, a contemporary of Lange.

Vicente says: ‘Lange had a remarkable early career; he enjoyed the recognition of critics and curators as well as his artist peers. He was very much part of the 1970s international avant-garde and video art scene in London and New York, however he remained a marginal figure in New Zealand.’

This exhibition redresses this imbalance, bringing the work of this important artist to a wider New Zealand audience. Darcy Lange: Study of an artist at work will be a unique opportunity in Wellington to view this pioneering artist’s dynamic work.

This was a Govett-Brewster Art Gallery touring exhibition curated by Mercedes Vincente.


A substantial catalogue on the work of Darcy Lange was produced in conjunction with this exhibition. Published by the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, it includes essays by Mercedes Vincente, Guy Brett, Benjamin H.D. Buchloch, Lawrence McDonald, John Miller & Geraldene Peters, Pedro G. Romero, and Dan Graham.