Critics’ Picks

Robert Klippel, No. 874, c. 1990, plastic and transparent synthetic polymer resin, 5 1/2 x 4 15/16 x 2 1/8".

Robert Klippel, No. 874, c. 1990, plastic and transparent synthetic polymer resin, 5 1/2 x 4 15/16 x 2 1/8".


“Klippel/Klippel: Opus 2008”

National Gallery of Victoria
180 St. Kilda Road and Federation Square
August 7–November 2, 2008

Robert Klippel was the most important sculptor working in Sydney during the postwar period, but the key formative years of his career were spent in London (during the late 1940s), then in New York and Minneapolis (during the late ’50s and early ’60s, respectively). Thoroughly conversant with the artistic currents swirling around him during that time, he eventually returned to Australia having synthesized AbEx-sculptural and Pop-art influences into complicated, calligraphic assemblages made of found materials such as typewriter and machine parts. Later in his career, he typically assembled painted, often gargantuan wooden forms that he gathered from a derelict engineering complex. Klippel died in 2001. Meanwhile, his son, Andrew Klippel, had become a well-known music producer, songwriter, and composer; he was cofounder of early-1990s act Euphoria (its hit single was “Love You Right”), later producing Human Nature and Jocelyn Brown, then forming dance bands Elastic and AK Soul.

Uniting both Robert's and Andrew’s work, this perfectly curated exhibition is spread across three rooms—the first nearly pitch-black, the second blindingly white, the third a somber gray (in which the show’s only monolithic sculpture is centered). The show pairs a good number of Klippel père’s mysterious, diaristic miniatures, made toward the end of his life, with a soundscape composed by Andrew that evokes an ECM recording’s electronic ambience. The tiny sculptures conjure both David Smith's volumetric drawings and Eduardo Paolozzi’s Pop concatenations, renovating that surrealist heritage with acidic artificiality. Andrew’s music—located in the first of the three exquisitely installed rooms—creates an eerily appropriate mise-en-scène. It pairs a piercing, even uncomfortable aural assault with precisely and deliberately judged unmemorability.