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Hany Armanious

Second Hand Political  1995

wood, metal, ceramics, plastic, papier mache, polystyrene, cotton

dimensions variable

Museum of Contemporary Art, gift of the artist, 2001


About the Artwork

Second Hand Political is an exercise in artifice in which various materials take on the form of other materials: wood imitates fire and bread, and ceramic imitates wood. This major installation muses on the nature of sculpture-in-the-round and its roles and limits – for instance, the plinths on which the objects stand are a part of the work, not just a display device.

Some of the curious objects displayed on the wooden plinths are blocks of wood, which, when placed in bread bags, look just like bread. The plastic bags, with their pictures of log cabins and Schwarzwalder forests, once held wholesome varieties of German rye, oat bran and cottage-baked loaves. Now, those same pictures advertise wooden loaves – blocks of lumber hewn to the same shape and size as loaves of bread, and chosen for their colour match to rye, black or white bread. This mimicry of the ‘staff of life’ sets up a playful oscillation between the many forms and ideas of wood displayed in the installation – the finely worked pine of the plinths, a rough-hewn block which stands unbagged, the twigs and bark of a static campfire, the references to logs and forests in the bread-bag designs, and the replication of oak barrels in ceramic drinking mugs.

This masquerade of one material for another is an amusing reflection on not just the various natural and manmade manifestations of one material, but also on its transformation into cultural objects, images and meanings – into the realm of representation. Armanious effects a similar transmutation here, metamorphosing a block of wood into a loaf of bread, and to all its secondary associations with warmth, fire, baking and homeliness.

Updated and approved August 2016.

Hany Armanious

– About the artist

Born 1962, Ismailia, Egypt. Lives and works Sydney.

Hany Armanious is a sculptor whose work is predominantly concerned with the magical properties of the casting process. Many of his works deal with the alchemical transformation of one object into another via what the artist has described as the ‘cult of casting’.[1]

Armanious represented Australia in The Golden Thread at the 54th International Art Exhibition at the Venice Biennale (2011). His selected solo exhibitions include Selflok, City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand (2014); we go outside, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2013); The Golden Thread, Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne (2012); Fountain, MCA Sculpture Terrace commission, Sydney (2012); Birth of Venus, Foxy Production, New York (2010); Uncanny Valley, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney (2009); The Oracle, Contemporary Art Museum, St Louis (2008); and Morphic Resonances, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane and City Gallery Wellington, New Zealand (2006–07). Selected group exhibitions include Busan Biennale, Korea (2007); National Sculpture Prize, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (2006); and Selflok, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2003).

Armanious is represented in numerous collections of Australia’s major state and national galleries, as well as the Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, New Zealand; Dakis Joannou Foundation, Athens; Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles.

[1] Hany Armanious, The Cult, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery, Sydney, 2004.

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