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March 12, 2012 | by  | in Arts Visual Arts |
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Review – The Obstinate Object

The Obstinate Object, the current exhibition occupying most of the City Gallery, explores the place of sculpture and its ‘object-ness’ in New Zealand’s contemporary art practice.

A wide range of artists and approaches are exhibited, addressing the medium in unique and forward-thinking ways; a way of making this exhibition an easy and accessible starting point for newcomers to contemporary art, as well as an exhibit attractive to the seasoned experts. Its educational slant was indeed made more apparent by the high-school students touring the gallery while I was there: “What do you think the artist is trying to say here?” indeed. The show is accompanied by fluorescent flashcards introducing basic sculptural concepts, as well as ring-bound sets of essays on each artist involved.

Perhaps the work most likely to appeal to the general public is David Cross’ Lean, essentially a giant bouncy castle, but it’s art. Seriously though, it’s fun, go in it! Also exhibited are three works by Scott Eady, an artist known for pieces that explore interactivity–for example, his 100 Bikes Project shown at the Dowse in 2011, where one hundred bikes and tricycles were restored for children to play on in the gallery. The work Ivan (Kick Me) is a gooey-looking ball on the floor of the City Gallery’s foyer, bearing a small paper note: ‘Kick me’. Disappointingly, it is roped off, preventing the interactivity on which the work relies.

Throughout the rest of the gallery, light and sound are explored alongside formal sculptural concerns, with one standout being Alex Mackinnon’s A Deaf Piano. The work provides the aural experience of a wall of speakers projecting ambient noise, as well as visually-pleasing sculptural form of the aforementioned materials. The many strands of wire linking the stereos with the speakers recall the messy linearity of Sian Torrington’s installations elsewhere in the gallery.

Pleasingly, an article discussing Scott Eady and some of Maddie Leach’s work is in the current issue of Art New Zealand, expanding upon the new directions sculpture can take while still remaining focussed on ‘the object’. A visit to The Obstinate Object, as well as consideration of some of its surrounding textual matter, is highly recommended.

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