Wes Hill

  • QUANTUM HUM

    JAPANESE-BORN MAMI KATAOKA, chief curator at Tokyo’s Mori Art Museum since 2003, is the artistic director of the 2018 Biennale of Sydney, the first Asian curator to be appointed to the role in the event’s forty-five-year history. While her selection reflects the undeniable influence of Brisbane’s Asia Pacific Triennial (inaugurated in 1993) on the national scene, this turn to Australia’s neighboring regions feels so overdue that praising it here hardly seems justified.

    Kataoka has named her iteration “Superposition: Equilibrium & Engagement”; the attendant curatorial rationale (presented in a

  • Gerhard Richter

    For an institution with a reputation for blockbuster exhibitions and kid-friendly programming, the Gallery of Modern Art made an unusual choice when it decided to mount a Gerhard Richter retrospective—his first in Australia. This was a measured affair, in contrast with the almost concurrent survey of the works of Yayoi Kusama, whose loud colors and easy interactivity were more faithful to the GoMA brand. Centering on the idea that Richter’s fascination with the iconographic resonance of painting and photography has itself become iconic, “The Life of Images” shows how Richter has spent a

  • picks December 08, 2017

    “Something Living”

    Philip Guston is the point of inspiration for this spirited group exhibition—specifically, his painting East Tenth, 1977, which this gallery shrewdly acquired in the early 1980s. Typical of his rather solemn, idiosyncratic experiments from this period, the work features a grimy New York sky above cartoon bottles, red-brick walls, and shapes reminiscent of Guston’s earlier Ku Klux Klan–type profiles. While the curatorial premise, detailed on a gallery wall, is fairly pedestrian—that contemporary artists have continued Guston’s obsession with “formless matter” and “living presence”—it becomes

  • picks June 01, 2017

    Sarah Contos

    In the work of Sydney-based artist Sarah Contos, mystery and camp are treated with an Old Hollywood glamour that Warhol would have been jealous of. Having had a career as a set designer, Contos is now essentially a sculptor; however, also included in the show are three outstanding screen prints—Before Transcending Moonlight (Gloria # 1), Eclipsing Hollywood (Gloria # 2), and 20th Century Sunrise (Gloria #3) (all works 2017)—each featuring a publicity headshot of the actress Gloria Swanson from a different phase in her career. Best known for her role as the pitiful, forgotten silent movie star

  • picks March 24, 2017

    Julie Fragar

    Julie Fragar’s paintings have long documented her intellectual restlessness in thick paint and subdued hues. However, increasingly, her works have taken shape around the imagined narratives of others. In this restrained and absolutely compelling exhibition are seven small oil paintings on paper that were made in response to the artist’s observations of Supreme Court trials in Brisbane, where Fragar currently lives. Each piece, created entirely from memory, reflects on a particular case that she saw unfold over time, and the works’ intimate scale focuses attention not on the sensationalism of

  • picks January 26, 2017

    Kylie Banyard

    Kylie Banyard’s previous work mostly consists of nostalgic scenes from American counterculture, focusing less on historic pioneers than on alternative forms and technologies connected to radical visual practice in the 1960s and 1970s. Comprising four framed paintings and five painted banners, this exhibition sees the artist transform her typically muted creative environments into sites of joyful contemplation. Using black-and-white photographs as source material, which were taken at Black Mountain College between 1933 and 1957 and which Banyard found online, she has concentrated not on the

  • picks December 09, 2016

    Viktor & Rolf

    Since launching their couture house in 1998, Dutch fashion designers Viktor Horsting and Rolf Snoeren—also known as Viktor & Rolf—have been lauded for their imaginative womens-wear lines and runway performances that so often directly respond to the conventions of the high-fashion industry. Here, over forty of Viktor & Rolf’s most iconic haute-couture and ready-to-wear pieces are displayed on headless mannequins standing on low-lying plinths. Interspersed with these displays are miniature versions of their designs on porcelain dolls, one of which is a robot that walks, waves, and turns on a

  • picks October 04, 2016

    Lewis Fidock

    In its persuasive mix of poetic imagery and realist methodologies, Lewis Fidock’s first solo exhibition at this gallery cannot help but invoke the legacy of Surrealism—and, in particular, the movement’s capacity to be reinvented with each generation. The centerpiece here is a small and enigmatic sculpture, Brain (all works 2016), comprising five legs of a rubber octopus that have emerged from an L-shaped trough, as if seeking traction on the gallery floor. The work, replete with fake water and real cobwebs, resembles an object from an amusement park while also recalling the films of Jean Painlevé,

  • picks July 25, 2016

    Darren Sylvester

    Darren Sylvester’s photographic and installation-based work transforms irony into sincerity, conflating commodity fetishism and ethereality in a way that recalls Jeff Koons’s well-honed aesthetic. The centerpiece here, from which the exhibition’s title is derived, is a more than ten-foot-wide photograph, Broken Model (all works 2016), which depicts a collapsed female model on a glittered stage, cared for by another model while three others stand in the background. Re-enacting a scene from Jean Paul Gaultier’s final womenswear show in Paris in 2014––where Canadian model Coco Rocha contrived a

  • picks May 31, 2016

    Noel McKenna

    By turns naive and discerning, Noel McKenna’s work is well known in Australia for its examination of the minutiae of suburban life. Based in Sydney since 1981, McKenna originally hails from Brisbane—a city that has only recently outgrown its reputation as a large country town—and a regionalist or “outsider” viewpoint is central to his work, which combines shrewdly observed scenes of everyday life with the aesthetics of amateur painting, replete with awkward three-dimensional perspectives, subdued colors, and idiosyncratic fixations. In his latest exhibition (which consists of fourteen small

  • picks October 31, 2014

    Mierle Laderman Ukeles

    Mierle Laderman Ukeles’s first solo exhibition in Australia restages a 1998 exhibition held at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York. This iteration, curated by Krist Gruijthuijsen, features documentation of twenty-one works, installed across two large museum galleries, which showcase the artist’s performance-based practice through photographs, announcements, and typed instruction pieces typical of early Conceptual art. One work, comprising twelve photographs and two sheets of text, depicts the artist scrubbing the exterior steps of the Wadsworth Atheneum in the performance Washing, Tracks,

  • picks November 25, 2013

    “Voice and Reason”

    “Voice and Reason,” a collection-driven group show that concentrates on aesthetic exchanges between indigenous and nonindigenous Australian artists, extends this gallery’s focus on cultural integration, a mission it has pursued since the inauguration of the Asia-Pacific Triennial in 1993. Although the exhibition’s title and premise awkwardly cast indigenous Australian art in terms of vernacular culture—in contrast with the reason-oriented West—the show itself is subtler, employing astute spatial arrangements that contest past ethnographic representations of aboriginal culture.

    The first two

  • picks March 05, 2013

    Song Dong

    The Chinese artist Song Dong’s eclectic output can sometimes project indifference, but it can also be surprisingly intimate. “Dad and Mum, Don’t Worry About Us, We Are All Well” explores Song’s relationship with his deceased father, and serves as a reader of sorts for “Waste Not,” a concurrent exhibition at Sydney’s Carriageworks comprising over ten thousand neatly arranged objects collected by the artist’s mother during the last five decades of her life. Whereas in “Waste Not” Song provokes consideration of time and accumulation via a reflection on his mother’s hoarding complex, his exhibition

  • picks December 05, 2012

    Peter Tyndall

    Peter Tyndall has long been recognized as a seminal contributor to the development of postmodern art in Australia. Curated by Doug Hall—a former director of the Queensland Art Gallery—this uncluttered exhibition provides a historical overview of Tyndall’s career, and it eschews the venerative undertones that would have accompanied the same exhibition in a state- or federally run space. Unfussily displayed, each of Tyndall’s paintings—twenty-two in total—hang from two short pieces of string attached to the gallery walls, in a manner that emulates his frequently used graphic symbol of a frame

  • picks September 12, 2012

    “Everything Falls Apart, Part II”

    This final installment of a two-part exhibition centers on contemporary artworks that have largely been made in response to the breakdown of political and ideological structures. Addressing the nature of political conflict, here Vernon Ah Kee, Zanny Begg & Oliver Ressler, Jem Cohen, Tony Garifalakis, and Merata Mita reflect on tensions endemic to a diverse range of local and international settings. Ah Kee’s four-channel video installation Tall Man, 2010, is a standout work in the exhibition, documenting the dissent of indigenous citizens in Palm Island, off the coast of Australia, after the 2004

  • picks May 24, 2012

    Wim Wenders

    In films such as Paris, Texas (1984), The End of Violence (1997), and Palermo Shooting (2008), Wim Wenders presents seemingly frivolous characters who slowly reveal their intricate life stories amid picturesque surroundings. Some of these environs now take center stage in “Places, Strange and Quiet,” which consists of over sixty photographic works that were taken between 1983 and 2011 in countries around the world. Having established a reputation for his idiosyncratic treatments of the road-movie genre, here Wenders similarly deals with images of itinerancy, capturing transient moments in peculiar

  • picks February 10, 2012

    Thomas Baldischwyler

    For Thomas Baldischwyler, painting is more an unrestrictive mode of practice than a medium. In his latest solo exhibition, his work encompasses figurative and abstract painting, fluorescent lights, readymade sculptures, and collages––all of which have a distinctly formal emphasis. This project takes its title, “The Truth About the Colonies,” from a well-known anticolonialist exhibition organized by Surrealists and French Communist Party members in Paris in 1931. Yet in this context, the title suggests a dichotomy between sociopolitical responsibility and formal experimentation in art, while also

  • picks November 29, 2011

    Paul Laffoley

    The term post-critical has been thrown around in recent years to describe the ideals of hybridity and inclusivity governing much contemporary art. In this context, the exclusive category of “outsider artist” appears antiquated and counterproductive. Reflecting on this contemporary scenario, curators Udo Kittelmann and Claudia Dichter initiated a project space in Berlin’s Hamburger Bahnhof dedicated to artists who have been largely excluded from the mainstream art world. In the second exhibition in their program, titled “Secret Universe II,” the forty-year career of the Boston-based artist and

  • picks October 19, 2011

    Plamen Dejanoff

    Plamen Dejanoff’s latest exhibition features work from his ongoing project “The Bronze House,” which the artist began planning in 2006 and which revolves around the construction of functional bronze houses throughout the Bulgarian city of Veliko Tarnovo. Consisting of architectural prototypes, sketches, paintings, lighting designs, and a section of one of the bronze houses itself, this exhibition’s function is notionally to inform viewers about the overall project. That said, the works on display are so captivating as standalone artworks that their eventual realization as architecture almost

  • picks August 18, 2011

    Matt Mullican

    Showcasing his forty-year career in an extraordinary range of media, Matt Mullican’s retrospective assails viewers with the structured disorder for which he is known. The exhibition’s title, “Organizing the World,” is somewhat misleading, given that his “sign systems,” as he calls them, are arranged eclectically and elude straightforward comprehension. Mullican’s work essentially explores the way that signs, including language, can obscure the role that intuition or self-generated knowledge plays in one’s navigation through life. This paradoxical position is intensified by the sheer range of