Magazine article Artforum International

Francis Upritchard: Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces

Magazine article Artforum International

Francis Upritchard: Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces

Article excerpt

This has proven to be a milestone year for New Zealand-born, London-based sculptor Francis Upritchard. Her selection as one of New Zealand's representatives for its 2009 Venice Biennale pavilion followed residencies at two of Australasia's most significant art venues, the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery in New Plymouth, New Zealand, and Sydney's Artspace, during which Upritchard's practice underwent a subtle change of direction. Famed for her postcolonial confrontations with her homeland's cultural heritage--in one series from 2002, Upritchard molded sculptures based on the shrunken heads of British colonizers captured by native New Zealanders--the artist this year has shifted into more folkloric, less agitated territory with her installations rainwob i and rainwob ii, both 2008, the second of which toured from Artspace to Melbourne.

For rainwob ii, Upritchard presented a shop display gone curiously awry. Upended white plinths faced onto the street through Gertrude Contemporary Art Spaces' window-fronted gallery, a miniature modular landscape at once coolly minimalist and quasi-futuristic in the manner of Moshe Safdie's Habitat 67 apartment complex in Montreal. Perched throughout this angular setting were not the designer handbags one might have expected, however, but a strange array of figures and formations that seemed to have come from other worlds. Multicolored miniature heads (human, animal, and hybrid) topped glass canopic-style jars. Oversize mushroom sculptures sprouted between cantilevered plinths. Roughly molded figurines stood precariously on gangly legs, or sat in self-contained rapture, hands raised and eyes closed as if in mystic reverie. …

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