Who Do I Think I Am
Billy Apple, L Budd et al, Julian Dashper, Ronnie van Hout, Giovanni Intra, Denise Kum, Daniel Malone, Michael Parekowhai, Patrick Pound, Peter Robinson, Marie Shannon and Terry Allen, Yuk King Tan, Terry Urbahn
Curated by Jim Barr, Mary Barr, and Robert Leonard
13 - 30 October 1999
persona—a character assumed by an author, performer, etc, in his or her working, writing, etc; an aspect of the personality as displayed to others.
Identity has been a watchword for art in the 1990s, with a spate of exhibitions exploring the authentic and laudable selves of the culturally othered. But this show is concerned less with true selves, more with the way artists have forged fictitious identities in their work, in the spirit of Marcel Duchamp, alias George W. Welch, alias Bull, alias Pickins, alias Rrose Selavy. Certainly we have a common sense idea of artists as authentic, expressive, original and true, in short as full of themselves, but Who Do I Think I Am looks at New Zealand artists who have taunted and twisted this idea, presenting contrived or convenient selves, pumped up and professionalised, or deflated and disabled personae.
The show's title comes from a Ronnie van Hout painting. An anti-hero, many of van Hout's shows are named after his feigned fragility, for instance Multiplying Personality, I Forget, Failure, and I'm Not Well. Van Hout always seems to be dwarfed and overwhelmed—in the land of the giants; suffering a mental crisis; or experiencing voices in his head. He presents himself less as authoritative, an author, than as susceptible, a medium.
The artists are represented with recent work except Billy Apple, the grandfather of the discussion. Late in 1962, the expatriate, fresh out of London's Royal College, launched his art career with a personal rebadging. Plain Barrie Bates became Billy Apple, artist, and, with the help of Lady Clairol Instant Creme Whip, a blond. He changed his name as a company might change its corporate colours or update its livery. Who Do I Think I Am includes Apple's notorious 1967 Neon Signature.