Tag Archives: Utopian Stumps

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.


Art Gallery Bumpf

At James Makin Gallery the gallery attendant hands me a price list, a postcard and a folded card color catalogue, more bumpf. At Utopian Stumps I was handed a “room sheet” – a price list, in other words. I must say that I do use the price lists; I scribble my notes on them when looking at the exhibition as it saves me from copying down names of artists or titles of art works.

But now all this art gallery bumpf is building up in a pile in the corner of my office. It hangs like snowdrifts on my bookshelves. There is a massive pile in my intray, like a massive snowdrift of room sheets, catalogues, postcard invite, business cards, threatening an avalanche onto Dignity, the cat. I have resolved to clean it up. I take one at random from the pile; Dignity sensing imminent disaster leaves the room. The pile remains in place.

What is this A4 page about? It doesn’t even have the gallery name on it – that goes straight into the recycling bin.

There is so much of this art gallery bumpf. The ecological impact of this material is often ignored in considering the artist’s environmental footprint. My advice to artists and galleries is to save a forest and do it all electronically. Use Facebook and email invites, PDF catalogues, artist and gallery websites. PDF catalogues are in many ways superior to printed paper catalogues because they are economical, document the exhibition equally well, require less space to store and increases the difficulty of forgery (such as the forgeries retrospectively documented by additions to catalogues as in the case of John Drewe.) However, the archival value of PDFs have yet to be proved.

I sort through more of the pile. There are all these business cards; this one says – “artist and interior decorator” – that doesn’t sound good.

The tangible item of a gallery catalogue can be a beautiful publication in itself, a well written thought provoking essay about the artist and more images. Those ones go in the files or even on the bookshelf. I screw up another “room sheet” and get Dignity to chase the ball of paper under the coffee table.


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