brisbane

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

Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art

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.

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”: self-deprecating, egalitarian, born of a sense of distance from established cultural centers and a feeling that one will never belong. It’s a form of deadpan colonial revenge, pricking metropolitan pretensions by way of parody, played out with all of the ungainly grace of a Buster Keaton.

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