Excerpt from Broadsheet Journal 46.2
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In the recent three-part exhibition The National, staged across the Art Gallery of NSW (AGNSW), Carriageworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), a number of large-scale works stood out as non-traditional takes on sculpture. Indeed, in Australia sculpture has had a history of pushing boundaries, since around the time of the modernist shift from figuration to abstraction.1 In what follows, I will consider Emily Floyd’s Kesh Alphabet (2017) and Megan Cope’s REFORMATION Part 3 (Dubbagullee) (2017) both of which were presented at the AGNSW during The National. Although it is important to remember that these sculptures take very different themes as their starting points, it is also possible to cross-examine a history of large-scale sculptures that act as political interventions on the architecture of the site in which are installed; extending upon and critiquing hegemonic power structures inherent to the built environment.
It is useful to consider how, in the 1960s and ‘70s, Australian sculpture was used a marker of and agitator for change. Although they worked in different styles and mediums, a strong social and pedagogical doctrine united the (mostly émigré) artists of the Melbourne-based Centre Five group, which was spearheaded by Julius Kane (who died not long after the group’s formation) and included Inge King, Vincas Jomantas, Clifford Last, Lenton Parr, Norma Redpath and Teisutis Zikaras. Together they formulated a five-point program – hence the group’s name – to better integrate sculpture into the Australian built environment. We should not forget that this was a moment in Australian art history when anything but painting was considered bold and when sculpture was largely figurative. In reaction to this attitude, the group insisted that sculpture was grossly underrepresented in Australia and that it should be used ‘to influence the way people experience the built environment’ by integrating it into architecture and public spaces.2
Continue reading in Broadsheet Journal 46.2
1. For more about Australian sculpture’s shift to modernism see: Keith Broadfoot, ‘Banishing the Thing: Abstraction and Australian Sculpture’, in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Art, Vol 12, 2012: 107-125.
2. Jane Eckett ‘Renewed Vows: Centre Five and the post-war remarriage of Melbourne sculptors and architects’, Interspaces: Art + Architectural Exchanges from East to West conference, 20-22 August, 2010: 1-27, The University of Melbourne, http://artinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/publications/Interspaces