Aotearoa Art Fair 2023: Best Exhibitions Around Auckland
Bridget Riley, Nataraja (1993). Oil on canvas. 1651 x 2277 mm. Collection Tate, purchased 1994. © Bridget Riley. Photo: Tate.
March promises to be a busy month in Auckland, with Aotearoa Art Fair returning to The Cloud from 2 to 5 March and Auckland Arts Festival running from 9 to 26 March. Among our six must-see exhibitions are the Tate blockbuster at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and Kate Newby's solo show in a former Methodist Mission Hall.
Light from Tate: 1700s to Now
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Cnr Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
1 March–25 June 2023
Auckland Art Gallery's 2020 survey of contemporary Māori art began with Te Kore, the void that existed before sky and earth were separated. It's a moment revisited from a different cultural perspective in George Richmond's painting The Creation of Light (1826), in which God waves a hand towards the horizon and conjures the flickering flames of the sun.
The Creation of Light is one of almost 100 works in the exhibition Light from Tate. There are paintings by JMW Turner, John Constable, and Claude Monet, whose interpretations of natural light immortalised them in the canon. Paintings by Josef Albers and Bridget Riley show an extrapolation of new energy from abstract colour and shade. And then there are works by James Turrell and Dan Flavin, who used bulbs and tubes to make light itself their medium.
What's brilliant about all this isn't that it sheds new light on art history, but that it spotlights key moments with the world-class works you'd hope to see from one of Britain's most esteemed art museums. Light from Tate extends into the present day with contemporary art giants like Yayoi Kusama, Olafur Eliasson, and Tacita Dean.
Group Exhibition: Who can think, what can think
Te Tuhi, 13 Reeves Road
18 February–7 May 2023
In Auckland's eastern suburbs, Te Tuhi's group exhibition raises a fundamental yet often overlooked issue in both the art community and society at large. How can definitions of 'intelligence' be challenged through understanding the scope of neurodiversity and biodiversity? Who can think, what can think examines the societal implications of these ideas within human and non-human spheres.
The show's driving force stems from an essay by returning Edinburgh-based curator Bruce E. Phillips, 'Some struggles are invisible: Art, neurodiversity, and Aotearoa'. Proposing that the absence of the word 'neurodiverse' in the records of New Zealand's public art institutions has led to decades of unaddressed stigma, Phillips attempts to shed visibility on neurodiversity from all angles of the spectrum.
The exhibition's 13 artists include ShanjuLab, Simon Yuill, Jae Hoon Lee, and Prue Stevenson. Laresa Kosloff's video work New Futures™ (2021) creates a science-fiction narrative from commercial stock footage, proposing an alternate world in which companies can biologically change personality. Ana García Jácome's closed-captioned video The [ ] history of disability in Mexico (2020) pieces together a timeline of archival material, coupled with the artist's analysis of the language used around disabilities in Mexico between 1940 and 2020. Accompanying exhibition resources include audio descriptions, New Zealand sign language interpretations, large print guides, and information in Braille.
On 4 March from 10am–1pm, Te Tuhi's independent gallery and artist studio complex at Parnell train station opens its doors to the public. Coffee and doughnuts provided!
Kate Newby: Had us running with you
Michael Lett, 3 East Street
11 February–1 April 2023
Kate Newby's fifth exhibition with Michael Lett is a homecoming of sorts for the Texas-based artist, who returned to Auckland at the beginning of the year to launch into making a miscellany of objects for Had us running with you. Adjacent to Karangahape Road, where Newby recalls her art school days with nostalgic distance, the former Mission Hall that now houses Michael Lett's East Street project space offers a one-of-a-kind challenge for the artist.
'What I find interesting about spaces like this is they're really directive—this is where you enter, this is where you face, that's where your attention goes... It felt good to not really need it,' said Newby.
In what she affectionately calls 'a lopsided exhibition', Had us running with you reorients the viewer to the right side of the building, lured by the elevated beacon of 99 translucent coloured window panes—many of them riddled with holes made by the artist's fingers. Visible through the open doorway beneath is a mural of tiles fired in Nelson in an anagama kiln, easing one into the narrow alley where potholes filled with orange and blue concrete can be spotted.
Newby's upcoming projects include a group exhibition, Intimate confession is a project, curated by Jennifer Teets for the Blaffer Art Museum, Houston, and a solo show at Klosterruine Berlin, curated by Juliane Bischoff, both opening this October.
Group Exhibition: DIRT BAG
Coastal Signs, 90 Anzac Avenue
11 February–11 March 2023
At Coastal Signs, DIRT BAG brings together the works of six Aotearoa and international artists: Fiona Connor, Nancy Lupo, Emma McIntyre, Dan Nash, Peter Robinson, and Shiraz Sadikeen. Centring around the experience of art production, the artists explore their independent processes as well as the fulfilment and anxiety generated in the gesture of making.
Works on view include Shiraz Sadikeen's line painting Guts (2022), a palpable representation of anxiety through winding innards marked with spirals, and Peter Robinson's Easy Action Painting (2023), in which the blank canvas has been repeatedly slashed open.
DIRT BAG balances such intensity with a touch of lightness and contemplation as with Dan Nash's recent watercolours of childlike (albeit apocalyptic) scenes. Nancy Lupo's suspended kinetic sculptures, reminiscent of wind chimes or fish caught on a line—slowly spin over a sea of black faux-silk rose petals. In constant motion, but without a beginning or end, they evoke the eternal rhythm of life and death, and hopes for regeneration.
John Nixon: Works 1990 – 2014
Two Rooms, 16 Putiki Street
10 February–11 March 2023
In Grey Lynn, Two Rooms presents a selection of works by the late Australian abstract painter John Nixon (1949–2020).
Nixon embarked on a varied trajectory of artistic experimentation from the late 1960s, visiting upon painting, collage, photography, video, dance and musical performance. He conceived of the Experimental Painting Workshop (EPW) in 1990, which he described as 'not a physical workshop, but "an intellectual proposition"'. It was a framework that would sustain his painterly enquiries through his career.
Two Rooms' solo presentation features variations of Nixon's pared back, hard-edge minimalist abstraction from 1990 to 2014, including two monochromatic studies in orange executed in the year of EPW's genesis. A subset of Nixon's experimentations with colour, object, and material, 'EPW: Orange' grounds the show thematically.
Nixon's love affair with the colour, which he celebrated for being 'full of energy and light' and for its 'uplifting, positive and declarative', is self-evident—from his monochromes of the 1990s to the almost musical polychromatic compositions of the 2000s.
Maree Horner, J.C. Sturm: Door, window, world
Artspace Aotearoa, 292 Karangahape Road
11 February–6 April 2023
Under the new directorship of artist Ruth Buchanan, Artspace Aotearoa dedicates the inaugural show of its 2023 programme to two pioneering New Zealand creatives in Door, window, world.
Waikato-born, Taranaki-based artist Maree Horner became known for her sculptural installations of the late 1970s. At Artspace, pyramids sit atop a bedspread, and a Corinthian column stands beside an open cupboard in Horner's large-scale 'Familiar monuments' series (1994–1996). Recalculating the gender equation, Horner balances masculine and feminine qualities perceived in monumental architecture and domestic interiors.
Accompanying Horner's works is writing and ephemera from pioneering literary figure, the late J.C. Sturm, who was the first Māori writer to be published in an English anthology. Quietly conveying a personal world constricted by alienation and the navigation of societal barriers, Sturm's lyrical poems, short stories, and texts express 'a way of feeling and a way of being', in her own words.
Presented concurrently on the gallery's exterior is local artist Diva Blair's transcendental mural commission, A Gradient of Us, in which organic patterns evocative of water and wood grain are paired with a sound work by the Australian electronic project K.R. Woon. —[O]