Gridlock: cities, structures, spaces is the latest in a popular series of exhibitions at the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery that examine artists’ responses to topical developments in contemporary culture.
The exhibition features an array of leading international and New Zealand contemporary artists who respond to the logic of buildings and cities. “Gridlock reflects the powerful imprint cities leave on the human psyche and continues the Govett-Brewster’s exploration of contemporary artists’ responses to topical developments in contemporary culture,” said Gallery Director Gregory Burke.
The exhibition continues themes examined in the Gallery’s recent exhibitions Bloom: mutation, toxicity, and the sublime 2004; Extended Play: art remixing music 2003; Feature: art, life and cinema 2001; and Drive: power, progress, desire 2000, said Mr Burke.
Gridlock takes its title from traffic-jams that are endemic in large cities around the world; particularly infamous in Auckland and Los Angeles. The exhibition has been curated by Simon Rees, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery’s Curator of Contemporary Art, and it is his first large-scale international exhibition, based on research conducted in Europe while a recipient of a curatorial residency in Stockholm in early 2004.
“Gridlock is a product of the system it disrupts and the artists in the exhibition also disrupt the architectural grid in different ways.” said Mr Rees.
Gridlock features work by New Zealand artists Andrew McLeod, Jim Speers, Brendon Wilkinson and Ri Williamson alongside hot international artists such as Mexican Jose Dávila. Their work introduces a range of concerns from the rebellious attitudes of skateboarding, to the delusional sense of control that concepts of good design, and the appearance of tall buildings, exert over people.
Australian artist Shaun Gladwell makes art about skateboarding, a mode of transport, and leisure that traverses the city in defiance of linear street layouts. Skating is an equivalent of graffiti and is increasingly taken into consideration by city planners.
The overpowering nature of the built environment plays through work by Australian video artist TV Moore. In his split screen video The dead zone 2003 a terrified man runs through a city-street as if pursued but there is no one chasing him.
“The viewer is unsure whether the runner is in a real or dream space but as the drama unfolds it becomes clear the skyscrapers towering over the subject are producing the terror,” said Mr Rees.
The work of Mexican artist Jose Dávila comments on the increasing use of architecture as a measure for perfection and the proliferation of glossy magazines about ‘designer living’. Dávila dissects photographs of Rem Koolhaas’s S,M,L,XL to emphasise the book’s position as one of the pre-eminent ‘user-guides’ and coffee table adornments of the 1990s.
The Finnish collaborative-duo OLO build site-specific public sculptures including saunas with found materials such as plastic bags, sacking and timber off-cuts. The sauna, an integral element of the Nordic lifestyle, challenges perceptions of social space when installed in public in a different part of the world. Operating during the opening of the exhibition the audience is invited to use the sauna and participate in a Fluxus-style, or non-conformist, public, performance event.
Gridlock also features work by James Angus, Australia; Rikard Lundstedt, Sweden; John Marriott, Canada; Jaakko Niemelä, Finland; Anu Pennanen, Finland; Johan Thurfjell, Sweden; and Raffael Waldner, Switzerland.
A comprehensive 56-page catalogue, featuring new writing, artist profiles and images from the exhibition will be available from the Gallery’s Art and Design Shop.