Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
28 Jul 2009 to 31 Jan 2010
Benjamin Armstrong, Aleks Danko, Nicholas Folland, Christopher Hanrahan, Newell Harry, Moya McKenna, Danie Mellor, Nigel Milsom, David Lawrey & Jaki Middleton, Gemma Smith, Grant Stevens
New Acquisitions 2009 brought together art works acquired for the MCA Collection over the previous twelve months. Introducing contemporary Australian artists in the early stages of their careers, as well as more established practitioners, it presented works across diverse media by twelve artists from Sydney, Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne and regional Victoria. A number of artists featured in New Acquisitions 2009 had participated in exhibitions at the Museum previously, in particular within its annual Primavera exhibition for Australian artists aged thirty-five and under. Benjamin Armstrong, Moya McKenna, Gemma Smith and Danie Mellor were all former Primavera artists featured in this exhibition; and Aleks Danko had previously participated in the MCA’s bi-annual Focus series of exhibitions devoted to the work of more established Australian artists.
With its collection focus, New Acquisitions 2009 did not have an overarching curatorial theme. There was a surreal sensibility to Benjamin Armstrong’s organic forms in blown glass and on paper and to Moya McKenna’s dreamy painting of a studio interior infused with sunlight. Nicholas Folland’s installation of capsized chandeliers transformed domestic objects into something strange and beautiful, while Christopher Hanrahan’s ‘found’ sculpture revealed meaning through the use of light.
Light and mirrors were used by collaborative duo David Lawrey & Jaki Middleton to convince viewers they were seeing a small ‘ghost train’ looping through a hand-made diorama. Newell Harry also attached fairy lights around the edges of his work, which resembled a Polynesian tapa cloth with votive trinkets stitched to its surface and vessels clustered at its base. Language and text were present in a number of exhibited works, including Aleks Danko’s four editioned works (or ‘multiples’) with their word plays and exploration of meaning and nonsense. Grant Stevens’ video projection featured text fragments that floated across a clear blue sky like thought bubbles, or moments in a dream. Danie Mellor combined language and form in his sculptural diorama Native Gold. Referring through its title and neon signage to the purest grade of gold, it played on notions of authenticity and Aboriginal identity in Australia.
Painting is a key strength of the MCA Collection. This exhibition featured a large three-panel work by Nigel Milsom and two Adaptable sculptures by Gemma Smith, which ‘translated’ painting into three-dimensional form. They were inspired by the artist’s geometric paintings, which she broke down across a plywood surface and configured, by hand, into various sculptural forms.