Melbourne

View of “Dale Frank,” 2015. Photo: Zara Sigglecow.

View of “Dale Frank,” 2015. Photo: Zara Sigglecow.

Dale Frank

Neon Parc | Bourke Street

View of “Dale Frank,” 2015. Photo: Zara Sigglecow.

In his latest show, Dale Frank, an Australian artist with an extensive exhibition history at home and abroad, fuses his signature pooled-resin painting techniques with eye-popping optical experiments, assisted readymades, mass-market decor, and mirrored and distorted surfaces, demonstrating, once again, his genius for creating fiercely casual acts of visual impetuosity.

Frank’s career began with a bang. In the late 1970s and early ’80s he staged brash, confrontational performances and undeniably striking exhibitions in Australia, Europe, and the US. By the mid-’80s his deftly pitched quasi-expressionist paintings and drawings—fluid, swirling, biomorphic abstractions, for the most part—also summoned Pop and Surrealist legacies with their lowbrow seductions and almost comical allusions to Rorschachian symbolism. Then, and until fairly recently, Frank concentrated mostly on likably bilious mixed-media collages and assemblages along with large-scale paintings composed predominantly of slow-drying puddles of syrupy, translucent color. Elegant despite their literal tackiness, these works encapsulate the artist’s uncanny knack for binary intensification, conflating, as they do, high and low cultural referents and good- and bad-taste systems, and all through the interplay of agency and chance.

Pooling and biliousness were still prevalent in this show, but in combination with new elements and processes: warped reflective surfaces thickly coated with pigmented varnishes and, in experiments hazardous to both health and art, lighter fluid and other petroleum-based solvents that variously mutate, damage, or degrade their supports. Offsetting the soiled glare of these wall-bound works were such sculptural delicacies as The Bust (all works 2015), an exquisitely sweet piece of classical finery taking the form of a white-Belgian-chocolate fountain. Nearby, providing another similarly slick but weird counterpoint to the paintings, Charity, an upended 2007 Zaha Hadid Moon System sofa, assumes a peculiarly monumental pose, lending iconoclastic humor to an already appealing Dada-esque atmosphere.

Adding to the Bretonian ambience, Frank has long been fond of lengthy, crypto-poetic, exquisite corpse–style titles, both droll and determinedly oblique. For example, a work consisting of a sheet of warped, mirrored Plexiglas whose thickly varnished surface is pockmarked with chunks of shattered windshield glass is titled He was a pot bellied spaniard with a ponschunce for embroidery – Lexus SUV, Pacific Motorway, 1+. One imagines a road-trip reverie, violently interrupted, as one’s body, and everything else in the room, is distorted as fun-house grotesquerie. Directly across from this work, and therefore wonkily reflected in it, was Das Kehlsteinhaus, Obersalzberg Berchtesgaden, whose deep gray-green veils of liquid color are layered onto an anodized Plexiglas background. Masticated strawberry-pink bubble gum is stuck to the surface in lineal veins, delicately outlining distant peaks with lake- and treelike forms in the foreground. Reminiscent of Frank’s ’80s drawings, this work comes off as youthfully trashy and beautifully strange—as does, in fact, a good portion of this artist’s oeuvre.

Frank has often adopted or invoked an adolescent posture, working a mischievously symbolic disregard for canonical authority through amusing, off-color effrontery. To wit, Passion, a plastic soda bottle bearing the extra-titular brand name PASSION CRUSH and supposedly containing heavyweight pain medications Voltaren and ketamine suspended in bright yellow liquid, sits atop a generic white plinth like a mini-monument to teenage self-destruction. Or perhaps this loaded object is intended as an allegory for Frank’s own brand of occasionally overwrought avant-gardism. One swig of this Kool-Aid and you’re down for the count—either dead or, best case scenario, and like the paintings in this show, seriously messed up.

Jane Rankin-Reid