“Downtown: Arkley, Rooney, Ruscha”

Heide Museum of Modern Art

As this show demonstrated, Howard Arkley, Robert Rooney, and Edward Ruscha have been working through the paradoxical forms of the (sub)urban abyss for well over twenty years. These artists not only took the demon out of suburbia but, less obviously, made the familiar into something more than Pop defamiliarization achieved through repetition. The quality of emptiness in Rooney’s 19 deliberately clumsy conceptual-minimal photographs of a friend’s car parked in randomly selected locations, Holden Park 1 & 2, 1970, is also evident in Ruscha’s Twenty Six Gasoline Stations, 1962. This quality is the blank, Zen undercurrent originally announced by the Beats. Regional Minimalism and Conceptualism, whether on the West Coast or in Melbourne’s sprawling suburbs, incorporated the lessons of American Pop and “dharma bum” road movies in a weird, anti-imperial balancing act. Rooney and Ruscha’s refusal

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