White Rabbit and Menagerie

This afternoon we visited the White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale, and then went on to Object Gallery to see their part of the exhibition Menagerie.

The White Rabbit Gallery has been open for exactly three months. In a converted Chippendale warehouse, a couple of very rich Sydneyites have set up a space to share with the public their collection of contemporary Chinese art. Admission is free, and gallery staff members are on hand on all four floors to answer questions, point out things you might have missed, offer a word or two about the biography of the artist. From the meticulously shredded Mao suits of Sun Furong’s Tomb Figures, through the spectacular trompe-l’oeuil draughtsmanship of Ma Yanling’s four images of opera singers, to Chen Wen-Ling’s over-the-top sculptures (guaranteed to make a pig-lover smile, and maybe even a pig-hater) this gallery is fabulous. Thanks, Judith and Kerr Nielson.

Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture is, according to the Australian Museum web site, ‘a groundbreaking exhibition featuring animal sculptures by 33 established and emerging Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists’. Part of it is at the Museum, part at the Object Gallery up the hill (The site uses flash but irritating Flash: click on Explore on the side and you’ll get details of this exhibition). We’ve yet to visit the former. The latter occupies the single room of the Main Gallery, with a 20 minute video on six of the artists playing on a loop in the small upstairs space. It’s magic. I particularly loved ‘Red, White and Blue’ by Danie Mellor. This consists of three kangaroos, about a metre high, with front paws covering respectively mouth, eyes and ears. They’re made of mosaic tiles (respectively red-patterned, white and blue-patterned), except for their paws and ears, which are made of kangaroo skin, creating the impression that living animals have been encased in unyielding shells made from the detritus of settler society. They’re beautiful, poignant, and made by a man of Mamu heritage (I was born in Mamu country). I just googled Danie Mellor and found out that he won the Telstra Aboriginal Art Award this year, and that he had a solo exhibition at Elizabeth Bay that closed yesterday. I have terrible timing.

The White Rabbit exhibition stays up until January, when it is replaced by other contemporary Chinese works from Judith Nielson’s collection. Menagerie closes on 15 November.

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