Back in Back

10 September 2011 - 28 March 2012

“There is a black which is old and a black which is fresh. Lustrous black and dull black, black in sunlight and black in shadow. For the old black one must use an admixture of blue, for the dull black an admixture of white, for the lustrous black, gum must be added. Black in sunlight must have gray reflections.” Hokusai

Back in Black showcases a collection of works by some of New Zealand’s most recognised and notable artists from the late twentieth century to the present. From Ralph Hotere to Lisa Reihana, Stephen Bambury to Shane Cotton, and Len Lye to Tom Kreisler, there is distinct interest in the ways that blackness can resist, effect and conjure-up a range of unique perceptual and emotive qualities. As Ad Reinhardt mused so eloquently about this subject “… black as a symbol, black as a color, and the connotations of black in our culture where our whole system is imposed on us in terms of darkness, lightness, blackness, whiteness. Goodness and badness are associated with black. As an artist and painter I would eliminate the symbolic pretty much, for black is interesting not as a color but as a non-color and as the absence of color”.

The conceptual starting point for this project is Colin McCahon’s iconic Fourteen Stations of the Cross, which provides a visual, historical and spiritual anchor to the exhibition. It is a painting to be traversed, to be walked past back and forth a sum of many parts. Positioned in this context, the works of Julian Dashper, Gavin Hipkins and Mary-Louise Browne become interesting bedfellows. They visually pop, repeat and even create another pathway between the worlds of black and white. 

As the title Back in Black suggests, this is a gathering of artworks that share a tonal consistency and aesthetic relativity. However, at a deeper level this minimal palette reflects these artist’s attempts to grapple with a number of existential concerns, cultural situations and political topics that have arisen over the recent past. Aotearoa, the land of the long white cloud, has also been a place with a heart of darkness. For contemporary New Zealand artists the chasm between a searing lightness of being is often tempered by an unerring sense of doubt, like Hokusai many centuries earlier, they have found a state of solace in an innumerable range of blacks.

View the exhibition labels – click here

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