Confounding the predictions, yesterday gave us deep blue skies all day. Two loads of washing dried on the line, the goldfish glowed in the murk of our little pond, and P and I took the light rail to Pyrmont and walked to the MCA.
There was a charge for Danish–Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson on the third floor, and a friend had been pretty lukewarm about him, so we decided to save our money (unusual for this time of year, I know) and visit it some other day. But the first, second and fourth floors fabulous enough.
The first and second are exhibiting a recent gift from Ann Lewis, an art collector so famous that even I had heard of her. It was wonderful to see shimmering works by Utopian ladies Emily Kame Kngwarreye and Gloria Petyarre, among other Aboriginal artists, displayed in the company of US big names Rauschenberg and Klippel – Gloria Petyarre’s canvas filled with shimmering silver leaves is the single image that most grabbed me. There’s a little room of lovely photographs by Jon Lewis. Any relation? Well, yes, if the handwritten ‘For Annie (Grannie)’ written in the bottom border of one image means what it appears to.
Half of the fourth floor is given over to Forbidden, ‘the first in-depth solo exhibition’ of Fiona Foley’s work . Now, I am often impressed, bemused, amused or depressed by contemporary art, but I don’t often have a strong head-and-heart response. I did have to this exhibition. For example, the word Dispersal in big, chunky shiny aluminium letters, of which the initial D bristles with .303 bullets is a lot more than a clever reminder of the hideous use of that word in our colonial history. It stands next to a spiral of flour about three metres across, that needs constant attention from an attendant to maintain its crisp shape; the flour turns out to be part of an installation ‘Land Deal’, in which other objects representing those John Batman used to ‘buy’ the land where Melbourne was built hang on the wall. Nearby hangs a row of blankets, each inscribed with a single word, that conjure the experiences of Aboriginal women under colonialism. Elsewhere Foley places herself in photographs with titles like ‘Native Blood’ and ‘Modern Nomad’, that refer strongly to nineteenth century anthropological images. Evidently, earlier exhibitions have had titles like ‘Lick my black art’. Ok, lick it and weep.
The rest of the floor showcases new acquisitions. There’s a cute hologram that was popular with the very young (and others, including me), which could have been titled ‘Ghost Train’, but instead is called ‘You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally’. Danie Mellor made the cut with a sculpture that includes a shiny, mosaic kangaroo and a lifelike sulphur-crested cockatoo. I loved a video piece by Grant Stevens, in which an account of a dream is projected onto a wall in a way that controls the speed at which the viewer reads (or fails to read, because the pace picks up enormously in the middle).
Then we walked back to Pyrmont along the Hungry Mile, trying to figure out Paul Keating’s proposal for Barangaroo, and home to find the washing dry on the line.