Like Mike

The exhibition, “Like Mike” pays homage to Australian artist Mike Brown (1938 – 1997) and looks at his diverse influence on other local artists. The National Gallery of Victoria had a Mike Brown retrospective in 1995 but a retrospective can only look back but an artist like Mike Brown also has an impact on the future. “Like Mike” is more of a prospective exhibition. And given the variety of art that Mike Brown created it needs to be a diverse exhibition.

It is a very ambitious exhibition that spreads across five Melbourne galleries: Neon Parc, Sarah Scout, Utopian Stumps, Charles Nordrum Galleries and the Linden Centre of Contemporary Art. And features the work of 33 emerging and established artists along with some work by Mike Brown.

The overall curator for this massive exhibition is Geoff Newton. I asked Newton why Mike Brown? “The practice has so much going for it in freedom of expression,” he replied. Newton is an incisive critic of his own work pointing out the holes in the exhibition. There is no graffiti, a major omission when Mike Brown was painting the walls of Fitzroy long before the current generation of street artists. And there are no indigenous artists represented.

The 100 page catalogue is an extensive work in itself, featuring images from the artists involved in the exhibition along with a bit of text. Geoff Newton said that he wanted the catalogue to be image heavy unlike the book by art historian Richard Haese, Permanent Revolution: Mike Brown and the Australian Avant-Garde 1953-1997, (Miegunyah Press, 2011)

I saw some of the exhibition Neon Parc, Sarah Scout and Utopian Stumps. I was unable to see the Linden Centre of Contemporary Art because they had shut their doors without explanation after the police raid on Saturday 1st of June (see my post Police Raid Gallery).

Neon Parc has an all women show, giving a feminine perspective on Mike Brown’s influence, with an intense hanging of 30+ works in the small gallery.

The exhibition at Sarah Scout looks at the body and references to pornography. It features familiar work by Pat and Richard Larter and, for me, the unfamiliar work of Claire Lambe and Nell.

Utopian Stumps takes on Mike Brown’s interest in abstraction. I particularly enjoyed seeing the work of John Nixon in this context.

These exhibitions provided both a deeper understanding of Mike Brown’s work and his current influence in Australian art. Ireverant, irritating and diverse… like Mike.

About Mark Holsworth

Arts administrator, artist, musician, philosopher and writer. Writes Black Mark - Melbourne Art and Culture Critic. View all posts by Mark Holsworth

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