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avoiding myth & message: Australian artists and the literary world

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)


07 Apr 2009 to 12 Jul 2009


Vernon Ah Kee, Micky Allan, Gordon Bennett, Vanessa Berry, Maureen Burns, Tim Burns, Destiny Deacon, Christopher Dean, Rosalie Gascoigne, Shaun Gladwell, Patrick Hartigan, Tim Johnson, Ruark Lewis, Colin Little, Robert Macpherson, Noel McKenna, Rose Nolan, Mike Parr, Sweeney Reed, Sandra Selig, Noel Sheridan, Imants Tillers, John Tranter, Richard Tipping, Peter Tyndall (solo work and collaboration with Phillip Tyndall and Gerald Murnane), Phillip Tyndall, Jenny Watson, William Yang

Curator: Glenn Barkley

about the exhibition

avoiding myth & message: Australian artists and the literary world explored the rich and varied links between Australian visual artists and the Australian literary world, with a particular emphasis on poetry. The works were drawn primarily from the MCA collection, with a selection of additional works from artists and local collections. The exhibition looked at some of the major themes within the Australian literary and visual traditions and considered some areas where the two forms overlap: the landscape and the interior, text and image, urban life, politics and the personal.

avoiding myth & message featured works by artists working within an illustrative mode; artists who use words and texts within their practice or are influenced by concrete poetry (a fusion of text and image, treating words and form as the medium itself) and practitioners who adopt a more poetic, narrative-based approach.

The exhibition included ephemera, artist books, self-published and media-based works, along with individual writer and artists’ texts, performance footage and works that traced the emergence of feminist, multicultural and gay voices within the literary and artistic scenes. The exhibition also included important historical works by key figures within the Australian literary and artistic worlds and more recent works by a younger generation of artists inspired by literature’s ability to create a visual world based on language.

Featuring Works from the MCA Collection

Various Artists Ltd
  • A package deal assembly book
Vernon Ah Kee
  • Whitefellanormal/blackfellame
Maureen Burns
  • Self portrait 1999
Destiny Deacon
  • Adoption
  • Axed
  • Meloncholy
  • Whitey's Watching
Shaun Gladwell
  • Portrait of Michael Dransfield
Tim Johnson
  • Alienation
  • Poem
  • Spare parts
Ruark Lewis
Colin Little
  • Preliminary for cover for a package deal assembly book [A book of sixty poets and artists co-edited by Nigel Roberts, Tim Burns and Amanda Stewart with publisher Dave Morrissey] (green trees on blue)
Robert MacPherson
  • All English Literature - unwritten [Art Projects]
  • I see a can of paint as a painting unpainted
  • Little Pictures for the Poor
Rose Nolan
  • Homework
  • Homework
Mike Parr
  • Black Box of Word situations, variation 3
  • Box containing Possibilities (3) 1971, Poem event 1971, and Manuscript 1993
  • Various Ideas
Imants Tillers
  • Rendezvous with configuration p
Richard Kelly Tipping
  • The Sydney Morning volumes 1-4
Peter Tyndall
  • detail A Person Looks At A Work Of Art someone looks at something
  • The literature club

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