Anthony Byrt

  • Peter Robinson, Gravitas Lite, 2012, polystyrene, dimensions variable. From the 18th Biennale of Sydney.

    18th Biennale of Sydney

    Globalization and its consequences are standard biennial fare. What made the “18th Sydney Biennale: all our relations” different was its sheer optimism. Artistic directors Catherine de Zegher and Gerald McMaster clearly wanted to give audiences an experience of shared communicative spaces largely unburdened by prevailing, doom-laden views of our current state. Critics have trashed their vision for being too big, too unfocused, too cuddly. All of which is true, but overlooks the show’s ambition. De Zegher and McMaster attempted a huge and risky piece of curatorial orchestration, with each venue

  • Sriwhana Spong, Whether standing or sitting or lying or in some other position in the dark, 2011, still from a color HD video, 9 minutes 21 seconds. From “Prospect: New Zealand Art Now.”

    “Prospect: New Zealand Art Now”

    Every few years, Wellington’s City Gallery stages “Prospect” in an attempt to take the pulse of contemporary New Zealand art. For the survey’s fourth incarnation, curator Kate Montgomery made a small but significant change was made to the show’s subtitle, from “New Art New Zealand” to “New Zealand Art Now.” The tweak implied a more urgent engagement with the present. Montgomery had also learned from earlier versions, which were often noisy, overcrowded affairs. By contrast, her selection was extremely focused: sixteen artists, all but three born between 1974 and 1985, thus neatly qualifying as

  • Mikala Dwyer, The Additions and Subtractions, 2012, mixed media, dimensions variable. Installation view.
    interviews March 15, 2012

    Mikala Dwyer

    In the past few years, work by the Sydney-based artist Mikala Dwyer has shifted away from its feminist, post-punk inclinations and toward a focus on the occult. Here, Dwyer discusses her two current exhibitions, “Panto Collapsar” at Dublin’s Project Arts Centre, which is on view until March 31, and “Drawing Down the Moon” at Brisbane’s Institute of Modern Art (IMA). The latter is the first major survey of her “paranormal” works and can be visited until April 14, 2012.

    I’VE ALWAYS BEEN INTERESTED in exploring an “extra space,” something between two traditional spaces, like an extra dimension or

  • Phil Dadson, Osmosis, 2011, still from a color video, 6 minutes 15 seconds.
    picks February 09, 2012

    “Old Genes: Artists Reading Len Lye”

    New Zealander Len Lye’s Jazz Age films and kinetic sculptures were formative accomplishments in international modernism. The preservation—and reactivation—of Lye’s global legacy has been placed in the safe hands of New Plymouth’s Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, whose latest Lye-related exhibition shows that his buoyant, experimental spirit is alive and well. Curated by Tyler Cann, “Old Genes: Artists Reading Len Lye” presents four contemporary responses to the late artist’s work, interspersed with some of his own pieces. For example, in Phil Dadson’s video Osmosis, 2011, young people wearing

  • Dane Mitchell, The Smell of an Empty Space (Liquid), 2011, perfume, glass, mirror, clamps, 53 1/8 x 17 1/2 x 96 3/8".

    Dane Mitchell

    In 2009, Dane Mitchell was the victim of a peculiarly vicious attack by the New Zealand press after his piece Collateral, which was made that year and used packaging material such as brown paper, blue plastic strapping, bubble wrap, brown tape, and envelopes from other entrants’ works, won a prestigious art award. The mainstream media’s problem seemed to be that (a) Mitchell hadn’t made the piece himself and (b) he’d appropriated material from other artists. The hoopla was an unfortunate reminder that in this country, artists with a Conceptual approach often still face out-of-touch criticism

  • Left: Outside the Auckland Art Gallery. Right: Auckland Art Gallery director Chris Saines. (Photo: Anthony Byrt)
    diary September 07, 2011

    Conservative Estimates

    LAST MONTH’S Auckland Art Fair had been more impressive than I’d expected. So I was excited about two occasions last week in which Auckland’s leading institutions had the opportunity to show what they were made of: Artspace staged the first exhibition by its new, formerly London-based director, Caterina Riva; and the Auckland Art Gallery reopened after a $100 million revamp.

    The interaction between the two venues is a vital part of the local scene. For a long time, Artspace’s job was to hold hot coals to the AAG’s feet on behalf of New Zealand’s contemporary artists. Over the years, just about

  • Sarah Morris, SM Outlined (Initials), 2011, household gloss paint on canvas, 84 1/4 x 84 1/4".

    Sarah Morris

    Halfway through Sarah Morris’s film Points on a Line, 2010, a man signs a credit-card receipt in the Four Seasons restaurant in New York. He’s typical of the establishment’s diners: a wealthy suit who’s probably just enjoyed a decent lunch before heading back to the office for a languid afternoon. But rather than acting as a red flag to class warriors, Morris’s vision of the iconic dining room serves a structural or even architectural purpose, acting as a bridge between two seminal late-modern buildings: Philip Johnson’s Glass House in New Canaan, Connecticut (1949), and Ludwig Mies van der

  • Left: Amanda Wright and Auckland Art Fair Director Jennifer Buckley. (Photo: Ren Kirk) Right: Auckland's Viaduct Event Centre, site of the Auckland Art Fair. (Photo: Anthony Byrt)
    diary August 09, 2011

    Fair Weather

    Anthony Byrt at the Auckland Art Fair: “One of the most striking things about the fair was the local appetite for it...”

    LAST THURSDAY MORNING, Auckland woke up to the sort of blisteringly blue, cloudless sky that, after eight consecutive European winters, made me question (briefly) why I’d ever left New Zealand. But it’s not just that great Kiwi obsession—the weather—making my hometown feel so cheery: The city has been spruced up to host several matches during next month’s Rugby World Cup. Even without the rugby, it seems like the local council has finally realized that if Auckland is to change from South Pacific outpost into global city, it needs major investment. This year’s venue for the Auckland Art Fair,

  • *View of “Absalon,” 2011.


    It’s easy to misinterpret Absalon’s work: as a Minimalist pastiche, for example, or a Bauhaus homage, a faux-utopian solution to the problems of modern living. But KW’s retrospective of his output dismissed such clunky art-historical assumptions, concentrating instead on the artist’s deep, urgent need to find a way of both participating in society and sheltering from it. Absalon—born in Ashdod, Israel, and called Meir Eshel until he adopted his pseudonym in 1987—is known primarily for his “Cellules.” These small structures—stripped of all detail, rendered stark white inside and

  • Ricky Swallow, Make-Do Suite, 2010, patinated bronze, wooden table, 52 3/8 x 96 1/2 x 24 1/8".

    Ricky Swallow

    Ricky Swallow, who represented Australia at the 2005 Venice Biennale, is best known for painstakingly carved wooden sculptures that update the vanitas tradition with imagery such as serpents slithering through a bike helmet, a skull sinking into a beanbag, and a lone bird nesting in a sneaker. Although at thirty-six he is still relatively young, the success of these works has, to a large extent, typecast him. So it was striking that in his recent exhibition in London there wasn’t a piece of carved wood in sight. What initially seemed a radical departure, however, turned out to be pure

  • View of “Karin Sander,” 2011.
    picks April 13, 2011

    Karin Sander

    Karin Sander’s latest exhibition is the sort of show that sets skeptical hearts hammering. It is made of one material––trash, slowly accumulating in mounds on the floor. Plenty of art doubters will walk in and turn right around, wondering where it all went so wrong. But for Sander’s admirers, the exhibition demonstrates a rare gift: the ability to create minimal gallery interventions that have effects far greater than the sum of their parts.

    Sander has cut five holes in the floor of NBK’s offices above the gallery. The holes are located where wastepaper baskets would otherwise have been, and she

  • View of “Carmen Herrera,” 2011.
    picks April 11, 2011

    Carmen Herrera

    The Cuban-born, New York–based painter Carmen Herrera famously didn’t sell a work until 2004––when she was almost ninety. But in recent years, critics, curators, and collectors have been making up for lost time. Much has been made of Herrera’s associations with better-known artists: Josef Albers, Jean Arp, and Sonia Delaunay in Paris, for example, and Barnett Newman in New York. But while this is interesting background information, it doesn’t really help viewers to interpret or place her paintings, which, judging from the two canvases in this show, are outstanding––and significant.

    Herrera paints