Critics’ Picks

Kylie Banyard, Ruth, 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 33".

Kylie Banyard, Ruth, 2017, oil and acrylic on canvas, 46 x 33".


Kylie Banyard

Galerie pompom
2 / 27-39 Abercrombie Street, Chippendale
January 18–February 12, 2017

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 celebrated male artists of the famed art school but on its female cohort, many of whom are unidentified. For instance, Anni #1 (all works 2017) is a sparsely painted portrait of textile artist and printmaker Anni Albers absorbed at her loom, and Ruth shows the under-recognized sculptor Ruth Asawa on her back, tending to one of her tubular wire pieces. In all the works here, Banyard employs appropriation to great effect, enlivening her sources through careful color combinations and subtle erasures.

Particularly in the large-scale paintings, Banyard’s enthusiasm for her subjects is obvious, portraying teachers and students working together, including on the preliminary construction of an early version of one of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes (Group work) and in a photography class held in a cabbage patch (Photography and Cabbages). Suggesting that the job of all good art schools is to foster a community of artists to engage in serious play, the show reminds us that process-based, interdisciplinary, and communitarian ideals became central to fine-arts education in the second half of the twentieth century, setting a laudable standard that seems increasingly out of reach today.