Rex Butler

  • Robert Smithson, Blind Angel, 1961, oil on canvas, 44 × 53".

    Thomas Crow’s No Idols

    No Idols: The Missing Theology of Art, by Thomas Crow. Sydney: Power Publications, 2017. 144 pages.

    ALTHOUGH THIS BOOK—accurately described as a “polemic”—is written with a sense of the shortcomings of contemporary art discourse, the starting point of its questioning is a blind spot at the advent of art history: We have too easily taken for granted the “secularization of all the Crucifixions, Madonnas, miracle-workings and Bible stories that make up such an enormous proportion of Western art before the modern era.” In the comparatively recent shift to looking at “religious behaviour

  • “Everywhen: The Eternal Present in Indigenous Art from Australia”

    "Dreamings: The Art of Aboriginal Australia,” held at the Asia Society in New York in 1988, was a key exhibition in demonstrating that Aboriginal art was not “primitive” but modern. This show goes one step further in arguing that Aboriginal art is not modern but contemporary. “Everywhen,” a neologism adopted from anthropologist William Stanner, is a way of taking the Dreaming—the cultural and spiritual worldview of Aborigines—out of the past and placing it in the present. The show includes Pintupi artists such as Mick Namarari Tjapaltjarri, the Anmatyerr

  • Robert MacPherson, Scale from the Tool, 1976, acrylic on nineteen canvases, each 69 × 8 1/4 × 1 1/2". From the series “Scale from the Tool,” 1976–77.

    Robert MacPherson

    At the opening of “Robert MacPherson: The Painter’s Reach” (curated by Ingrid Periz with QAGOMA’s former curator of Australian art Angela Goddard), the eminent retired museum director Daniel Thomas described the artist’s work as “humorous.” It’s not the first word most of us would initially apply to MacPherson’s oeuvre—even to the austere wordplay in his most recent projects based on street signs and biological classification, let alone his early reflections on painterly mark-making. But Thomas had a point. MacPherson’s art is leavened by a humor we might ultimately want to call “Australian”:

  • Scott Redford, Surf Painting/Black Palms, 2001, resin, decal, fiberglass, and acrylic on foam, 48 1/4 x 73 1/8".

    Scott Redford

    It was hard to know in the end how to take “Scott Redford: Introducing Reinhardt Dammn,” the Queensland Art Gallery’s 2010 summer exhibition. Although the gallery undoubtedly intended to mount a retrospective of the work of Scott Redford, this Gold Coast–born gay Pop bricoleur had for his part decided to devote half the show to the work of his recently invented heteronym, Reinhardt Dammn, “a 22-year-old surfer/artist/singer who lives at Tugun.” (For the Gold Coast, think Miami Beach; for Tugun, the least stylish suburb in Florida.)

    Dammn allows Redford to play dumb, or at least to avoid the

  • 6th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art

    Since 1993, the Queensland Art Gallery’s Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art has been the most important art show regularly held in Australia. With this latest version, it has become the best. Installed in the Queensland Art Gallery and the cavernous spaces of the new Gallery of Modern Art on the banks of the Brisbane River, the Sixth Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, or APT6, is a grandiose aesthetic statement that makes it clear that Asian art has definitively arrived—but, paradoxically, only because it is now indistinguishable from Western art and because, perhaps, no one

  • Dave Hullfish Bailey

    It’s a sunny autumn afternoon in Brisbane, Queensland, in the north of Australia. The weather never gets too cold up here; overcoats are rarely worn. The prosperous, up-and-coming city is served by ferries that ply the Brisbane River, which in the steamy summer months can resemble the muddy, slow-flowing Mississippi.

    On May 9, between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm, the ferries running to the University of Queensland deviated from their path and paused for a moment, facing the opposite bank, where they were greeted by a small group of Aborigines. The action was unannounced and almost indiscernible; for