The end of this year brings the usual round of art student graduate exhibitions. And this year a few art sales.
I am disappointed that I missed the RMIT sculpture graduate’s show. I did see at 1st Site RMIT University printmaking graduate exhibition. There is a huge variety of print making techniques from digital prints to linocuts. Lilly Dusting’s etchings “Plate 6” are beautiful delicate views of the bottom of china plates complete with paper sticker and makers marks. In a different direction Kim Hudson’s screenprints “With love to the ones I love” is a punk freak-show, graphically crude but effective.
I also saw at No Vacancy the RMIT Graduate Photography Exhibition. There was very little to get excited about unless you were recruiting a photographer for an advertising agency. Most of the photographers appeared very focused on their careers.
In a sign of the global economic recession this year Mahoney’s Gallery is having a sale. I have never seen a sale at an art gallery before. The red sale signs are out the front and prices have been drastically marked down. Most of the art on sale are prints and photographs from their stockroom. The sale was not listed in Art Almanac; it has not been widely advertised. I have heard that there are other galleries recently having sales, from the Harrison Gallery in Sydney to 696 in Melbourne.
It is a myth of the art market that art does not devalue; it was another myth that house prices don’t devalue that lead to the current economic crisis. Art prices did decline during the Great Depression and it is likely that art prices will fall again in this international recession especially for the very expensive contemporary art. At the moment there are bargains in the art market and on the stock market for those who can afford it.
After this round of exhibitions most of Melbourne’s art galleries will close down until the end of the year. And there is still enough strength in Melbourne’s art market that next year more gallery spaces will open.
“Advance/Retreat” is an exhibition at Westspace curated by Brad Haylock and Mark Richardson. “Three experiments in transdisciplinary collaboration” occupy Westspace’s three gallery spaces.
In the middle of the first space, shut off by a chain-link steel gate, a large plant sits in a garbage bag a single root trailing to an empty glass.
The next space subtly vibrates both visually and aurally with fishing-line running in almost invisible vertical stripes across the white walls. (Coincidently my father used a similar arrangement of fishing-line to trap bats in order to study their homing abilities.) This is accompanied by an elegant video of male and female hands collaborating to string the fishing-line. And a sound piece that all worked together in a successful harmony.
The final space contains a scatter style installation by so many artists that it would be hard to imagine them all working together in the small space. “Working space” is a reference to the title of a book by Frank Stella.
“Advance/Retreat”is about lines: minimalist lines, vibrating lines, and dividing lines. Lines area major component of art, from visual lines to written lines, but that does not make them interesting. Lines might be essential for art but I don’t suspect that good art is about the essentials. Searching for creativity in artist-run-initiatives appears to be endless exercises rather than new experiments.
I don’t know if the number of collaborating curators, artists and designers (15+) added to the quality of this small exhibition. I can see the strategic advantage to the collaboration. Collaborations like this allow the artists to record more exhibitions on their CV and spread themselves thinner. However, collaboration should not be a goal in and of itself as it is simply a means of working.
Daniel Dorall, Ruth Fleishman, Cecilia Fogelberg and Tim Silver have all exhibited at Blindside before. But this time they are showing the B-side of their artistic practice.
“B-side” is an almost redundant term referring to songs released on the 7” single records. Wikipedia lists several types of material found on B-sides http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B_side including different version (e.g., instrumental version) of the A-side or another track, a song not considered good enough for the album and a song that was stylistically unsuitable for the album. Or as B-side’s curator Andrew Tetzlaff describes it as the “edges of art practice.”
Daniel Dorall has a corrugated cardboard maze for the visitor to navigate before they can access the rest of the gallery. This is a very different scale of work from Dorall’s usual architectural models and is clearly a B-side of his art practice.
Ruth Fleishman is best known for her digital environments but in B-side she returns to traditional mediums with her Cacophony installation. Cacophony is a diorama of a play world influence by her work with children it is both grandiose and funky.
Cecilia Fogelberg’s “Three-Dimensional Sketchbook” is a B-side of her sculpture practice, as a sketchbook is preparatory material rather than finished work. Fogelberg’s ‘sketchbook’ is a collection of objects and a beautiful artist book that catalogues the collection.
Tim Silver is primarily a sculptor and photography is B-side of his art practice. Like an instrumental version of the same song, Silver’s photography has a similar theme of decay to his sculpture but this time played in lenticular prints of fire. Lenticular prints are a familiar novelty item; producing images that have an illusion of depth or movement when viewed from different angles. And novelty is another feature of the B-side.
Novelty and fun, rather than major works of art are the objectives of the B-side exhibition. The opening at Blindside on Thursday night felt very packed due to Dorall’s maze taking up most of the floor space. A temporary fence partitioned off Fleishman’s diorama to prevent it from being crushed by the crowd.