Magazine article Artforum International

"Prospect: New Zealand Art Now"

Magazine article Artforum International

"Prospect: New Zealand Art Now"

Article excerpt

CITY GALLERY

Every few years, Wellington's City Gallery stages "Prospect" in an attempt to take the pulse of contemporary New Zealand art. For the survey's fourth incarnation, curator Kate Montgomery made a small but significant change was made to the show's subtitle, from "New Art New Zealand" to "New Zealand Art Now." The tweak implied a more urgent engagement with the present. Montgomery had also learned from earlier versions, which were often noisy, overcrowded affairs. By contrast, her selection was extremely focused: sixteen artists, all but three born between 1974 and 1985, thus neatly qualifying as "prospects." Montgomery's choices were also backed up by credentials; most have had an institutional show or residency, are in public collections, or have international representation. So much promise, then, for so little reward: While it was aesthetically coherent and at times quite beautiful, "Prospect" produced a cumulative sleepiness, and a profound silence about, well, nearly everything.

Taken in isolation, there were great individual moments. Ruth Buchanan's three works were excellent, including Older Lovers etc., 2007, a video that reclaims the legacy of painter Flora Scales and plays with the clunky way New Zealand artists learned art history before the digital era. Presented in City Gallery's auditorium, it felt like an amateur art-society lecture, with faded slides of New Zealand paintings thunking into place, accompanied by an enigmatic text that appeared on screen beneath the images. Sriwhana Spong's video Whether standing or sitting or lying or in some other position in the dark, 2011, was also a meditative highlight: Continuing her recent exploration of dance, she presented consecutive views of a dancer moving through remembered fragments of a former performance, sound-tracked by the scrape and pock of her ballet shoes. …

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