Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
10 December 2010 to 19 June 2011
James Angus, Hany Armanious, John Barbour, Sophie Coombs, Juan Davila, Hayden Fowler, Simryn Gill, Matthew Griffin, Mary Gubriawuy, Patrick Hartigan, Matthew Jones, Peter Kennedy, Laith McGregor, James Morrison, Arlo Mountford, Dorota Mytych, Robert Rauschenberg, Sangeeta Sandrasegar, Tim Silver, Ken Thaiday Snr, Imants Tillers, Günter Weseler, Simon Yates
MCA Collection: New Acquisitions in Context 2010 brought together a dynamic cross-section of Australian contemporary art acquired by the Museum in recent years, alongside selected works from the existing JW Power and MCA Collections. It introduced contemporary artists in the early stages of their careers, as well as more established practitioners, presenting work by 23 artists across various media.
Like earlier exhibitions in this series, New Acquisitions in Context 2010 was not built around a single curatorial theme; instead it celebrated individual artistic achievements and brought together a range of work exploring multiple concerns. There were however connections to be found in the exhibition: for instance, works by John Barbour, Simryn Gill and Tim Silver could be linked through their exploration of time and deterioration. The often obsessive nature of art practice was brought to light in works by Sophie Coombs, Mathew Jones and Simon Yates, while artists James Angus, Hany Armanious and Robert Rauschenberg explored notions of resemblance and mimicry, creating sculptural objects that are not what they seem.
Another theme within the exhibition was the complex relationship that humans have with nature. Hayden Fowler, Patrick Hartigan, James Morrison and Sangeeta Sandrasegar each create unique representations of flora and fauna within their works. Alternately, works by Mary Gubriawuy, Ken Thaiday Snr. and Gunter Weseler incorporate materials from nature such as feathers, fur and plant fibres.
Several kinetic and light-based works were featured in New Acquisitions in Context 2010, reflecting this important area of strength within the Collection. These included a large neon light installation by Peter Kennedy, a furry kinetic sculpture by Gunter Weseler and a lo-fi interactive work by Matthew Griffin that responded to visitors in a surprising way. Ken Thaiday Snr’s spectacular shark headdresses were also kinetic objects; designed to be worn during traditional ceremonies, their jaws snap open and closed when dancers pull the attached cords.
The MCA’s collection of works on paper was augmented by a new pencil and biro drawing by Laith McGregor, made by the artist during a residency in the ancient seaport town of La Rochelle, France. A trio of Super 8 films by Patrick Hartigan, a tea leaf animation by Dorota Mytych and two video works by Hayden Fowler also enhanced the MCA’s growing collection of screen-based work.
Painting is an important part of the MCA Collection and was represented in this exhibition by two significant Australian works from the 1980s by Imants Tillers and Juan Davila. These large multi-panel paintings entered into an interesting dialogue with a much more recent, multi-screen digital installation by Arlo Mountford. Although very different in content and execution, all three works appropriated art-historical imagery to explore how art can shape our understanding of the landscape and national identity.
New Acquisitions in Context 2010 celebrated the strength and diversity of contemporary art practice, and offered insights in to the development of the MCA Collection.