the uncommon good is et al's first show in Christchurch since 2012. The aesthetic remains however, with text, erasure, found object and astute use of wall and floor space - activated with poise and an unerring beauty of touch.
For some, the look may be bleak: grey and black on newsprint, scribbled writing, black gaffer tape, and some spray can in fluoro pink. There are glimpses of yellow and gold. But the mark-making, composition and seemingly casual presentation is essential et al. It is a mode that those who follow have admired for its tenacity, integrity and political engagement for over 40 years now.
Here, pages of the New York Times are presented taped to the wall. Gleaned whilst in Maine earlier this year, these works are almost diaristic observations of the relentless narcissism and politics of power. This is certainly not the common good. It is Trump et al. And headlines dominated also by Islamic State, Zika, Turkey and the nuclear threat. et al's annotations look like redaction on official documents, hinting at on-going obfuscation and manipulation.
On one page from the Wall St Journal, August 22, 2016 in black on grey, et al has written "if the past has gone the present is not here and the future will not come". This attitude is familiar to Maori. The biggest new work in the show, called white cube brown room tin shed and turanga waka out the back, has a similar subtext. Its fluoro cross form reminds me of Maori sovereignty flags and Hotere's Black Union Jack. And it is sprayed over the floorplan for a Type 1 House, designed for Aborigines in corrugated iron and concrete by the state governments of Australia. The same plans are presented on the gallery floor, measured out in duct tape. The houses, including verandahs, are grotesquely small. So, uptake has been poor. The subjects of et al's research, it seems to me, are coming slowly home.
Press release courtesy Jonathan Smart Gallery.