The More Things Change

October 30, 1998

Few people are deaf to the echo of the 1960s. But how much credibility do we give to the art and artists of the period ?

You may be old enough to have been on a Vietnam moratorium march at the end of the decade, but, more likely, unless you’re interested in retro fashion, your only link with ‘60s art and design will be a psychadelic record cover found in an op shop.

Visits to the following exhibitions around town should give you plenty to think about in developing an understanding of how the present is shaped by the past.

Start at Art and Furniture of the 1960s [.....] Across  town Remanence (Old Magistrates' Court and City Watch House, to 1 November) is a show of installations and performances by 14 artists including Daniel Buren (b.1938, France). Since the mid-‘60s, Buren has avoided exhibiting in commercial galleries. In ’66, he posted sheets of paper screen-printed with 8.7 centimetre wide vertical stripes over Paris billboards, initiating a project that has seen his stripes cover museum walls worldwide and command extensive outdoor sites.

In the courtyard of the court complex, Buren has installed inside the walls: the Sky, made up of two ramps, over two metres at their highest, which slant towards the mid-point of a right-angled pathway. The ramps support panes of mirror glass angled towards the sky. The side and outer ends of the ramps are covered with Buren’s signature stripes, in this case, black and white. The references are profound: bars of the cells; black and white Australian identities; the inflexibility of the rule of law.

Citylights is the name of a method of exhibition, not a gallery. Four 1.2 x 1.5 metre backlit display boxes are fixed to the walls of an alley off Centre Place in the city, high enough to be seen past the industrial-size rubbish bins. Artists’ images  scanned on to computer disc, digitally enlarged and printed on to vinyl are displayed in the lightboxes. Does the alternative spirit of these artists sound similar to Buren’s in the ‘60s ? Or is avante-garde art simply being used to invigorate the mainstream, in this case a shopping precinct ? Kristi Monfries' Candy Corporation (22 Oct to 19 Nov) is an advertising campaign for sex toys, but with an ironic twist.

Writer: Penny Webb

 

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