Auckland Lowdown: Shows to See in 2021
The Auckland Art Fair takes place from 24–28 February at its usual offline venue, The Cloud (not to be confused with cyberspace). At the same time, a host of intriguing exhibitions are being mounted around the city, known in Māori as Tāmaki Makaurau. We've listed seven of them here beginning with those ending soonest.
The title of Imogen Taylor's exhibition at Michael Lett will resonate with singles isolated during the pandemic. Bold colours and strong geometric shapes do little to disguise the artist's anatomical interests in works such as Pervert (2021), Bud (2020), and Food Pyramid (2021).
Born in Whangarei and now living in Auckland, Taylor says her work has 'moved past being "straight-passing" and now aims to illuminate queer modernisms that still fail to be celebrated.' This collection of vibrant, sensuous paintings was produced in Auckland, Dunedin, Central Otago, and New York during a residency cut short by Covid-19.
Jess Johnson: PAIN CANOPY YEAST STEAK
Brad Logan Heappey: Perfect Prey
Ivan Anthony, 564 Great North Road, Grey Lynn
13 February–9 March 2021
Previously perched above the CBD on Karangahape Road, Ivan Anthony recently reopened a smidge further south in Grey Lynn, not far from Scott Lawrie Gallery, where works by Patricia Piccinini are now showing.
Ivan Anthony's second exhibition in the new space features sculptures of skulls and sunflowers rendered in resin and wax by Brad Logan Heappey along with Jess Johnson's occult-inspired illustrations in pen, markers, acrylic, and gouache on paper. Johnson's works also include marvellous quilts created with some help from her mum, Cynthia Johnson, that are suspended from mounts resembling the claws of a dragon.
Max Gimblett: The Path of Light
Gow Langsford Gallery, Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
17 February–13 March 2021
Painter, calligrapher, zen master, and member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, Max Gimblett is one of New Zealand's most renowned living painters. In The Path of Light, Gimblett presents a number of his iconic quatrefoil paintings, a shape that suggests four petals or the four rounded sides of a single leaf. Both quatrefoil and rectangle works are painted with masterful dynamism in a mix of acrylic, resin, and precious metals.
Born in Auckland in 1935, Gimblett is now well into his eighties, but his work has lost none of its intensity. Gimblett's work will also appear in Gow Langsford Gallery's group exhibition Threshold, which takes place on the same dates in their space on 26 Lorne Street.
Not Another Art Fair
Starkwhite, 510 Karangahape Road
24 February–20 April 2021
For 13 years, Starkwhite says it focused its gallery programme on fairs, racking up millions of dollars in fees, endless international travel, and encounters with over 2 million visitors, 'half of them touching works'.
Relieved that so many fairs have been postponed or cancelled due to Covid-19 (though they are participating in the Auckland Art Fair), Starkwhite decided to present some of the key works they previously staged at art fairs. These include Dane Mitchell's Conjuring Form (2008), which was shown at Art Basel's Statements sector way back in 2008, and Yuk King Tan's Crisis of the Ordinary, which was selected for the (subsequently cancelled) Encounters sector of Art Basel Hong Kong in 2020.
Mark Schroder, Wong Ping, and Pinar Yoldas: happiness is only real when shared
Gus Fisher Gallery, Level Four, The Kenneth Myers Centre, 74 Shortland Street
13 February–8 May 2021
This trio show at Auckland University's Gus Fisher Gallery raises an eyebrow at the moral, political, and technological systems purporting to take care of us. Hong Kong animator Wong Ping's 'Fables' (2018–2019) are deeply cynical spins on the stories we tell our children and ourselves about right conduct and where it will get us, while Turkish artist Pinar Yoldas's video work The Kitty AI: Artificial Intelligence for Governance (2016) imagines what the world would be like if not Terminator 2's Skynet but a rainbow-coloured AI cat took control of the world.
The galley's Art Deco Dome Gallery is occupied by corporate lawyer and artist Mark Schroder's marvellous installation Fortune Teller (2020), an office at The Bureau of Happiness that shows the gaping chasm between joy and the corporate accoutrements of whiteboards and post-it notes. Walking around the office, complete with a smokers' courtyard, keep your eyes peeled for ceramic smartphones, staplers, calculators, meat pies, and wads of chewing gum, delightful in their utter uselessness.
Two Rooms' current exhibition features works made under lockdown in 2020 by two New Zealand artists. Gretchen Albrecht is showing semi-circle paintings that range in size from the 35-centimetre-wide oil and patina on copper painting Horizon light to the 5-metre-wide acrylic and oil on linen work Wave (light breaks) (both 2020), from which the exhibition gets its name.
The works are evocative of stormy skies and rough seas with glimmers of hope for more settled weather. O'Connor's drawings of animals and objects atop posters promoting Samuel Beckett gifted to him by the artistic director of Irish theatre company Gare St Lazare in 2019 could hardly be more different. These are far less wild than Albrecht's paintings, embracing the serendipity of found items rather than chaos of weather. The exhibition's title, Double Kiss, comes from the artist's discovery that Beckett loves Snooker.
Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, Corner Kitchener and Wellesley Streets
5 December 2020–9 May 2021
Toi Tū Toi Ora: Contemporary Māori Art is a big exhibition in more than one sense. The show is not only the first major survey of Māori art in decades but the largest exhibition ever at New Zealand's largest contemporary art institution.
Nigel Borell, the gallery's curator of Māori art, gathered together more than 300 artworks for the show including pieces by many of New Zealand's leading artists, including Michael Parekowhai, Lisa Reihana, and Shane Cotton. The exhibition is notable for presenting works not in chronological order but under themes taken from Māori mythology beginning with Te Kore, the great nothingness.—[O]