After Killeen: Social Observation in Recent Art
Richard Killeen, John Reynolds, Andrew McLeod, John Mortimer, Peter Robinson, Ava Seymour, Yvonne Todd, Brendon Wilkinson
13 November - 15 December 2001
Curated by Anna Miles
'One can't imagine an Auckland City Art Gallery show with the title After Killeen', wrote Francis Pound, reviewing the Auckland Art Gallery's 1989 exhibition After McCahon. Pound continued to imagine such a show in some detail. Unlike Pound's hypothetical After Killeen, but like After McCahon, this show explores a world of 'connections without indebtedness'. No artist here follows Killeen more closely than Killeen, and as he follows himself he can also be seen to follow others. Curator Anna Miles presents a fraction of Richard Killeen's content-rich work alongside work by mostly younger artists, to consider approaches to social observation that have emerged in New Zealand art since After McCahon (1989) and Headlands (1992).
The exhibition is a cabinet of curiosities that reflects Killeen's interest in suburban identity, feminism, biculturalism, the legacy of Gordon Walters, and the advance of New Right thought in New Zealand. How these various commentaries can be seen to merge and inform one another drives this salon-style show. If After Killeen seriously follows any single exhibition it is Stories We Tell Ourselves, the 1999 survey of thirty years of Killeen's practice curated by Francis Pound for Auckland Art Gallery. Since his retrospective Killeen's engagement with social and cultural circumstances has become more vital than ever. During this time he has reconfigured his signature format, the cutout, an invention central to discussions of postmodernism in New Zealand art. This year marks the emergence of Killeen's one-piece cutouts, which revisit the cutout's premise of 'compositional democracy', with consequences for how he can engage his social concerns.
After Killeen echoes the cross-referencing in Killeen's own work. It looks at conversations within Killeen's work and stages conversations with other artists. The earliest Killeen in the show, Your Daddy's Rich and Your Momma's Good Looking of 1969, is associated with works by Ava Seymour and Yvonne Todd, who like Killeen have the suburbs under observation. Alongside Killeen's Polynesian Green (1976) is Andrew McLeod's painting Economy (1999), which conflates Gordon Walters abstraction and Purex toilet paper packaging. In recent years Killeen and McLeod have both responded to the impact of the appropriation debates focused around Walters in the 1990s. The show also includes examples of Peter Robinson's Strategic Plans and Brendon Wilkinson's modelscapes, which raise the stakes for Killeen's analysis of the advance of the New Right in New Zealand.
A suite of Killeen drawings from 1986 represent his explicit engagement with feminism, a mode of social critique which informed the development of the cutouts and released a humour which persists in Killeen's subsequent work. It is Roger Mortimer, rather than the women artists in the exhibition, who follows Killeen's feminism. Paying attention to his matrilineal inheritance, Mortimer's row of ceramic teeth, inscribed with a text copied from his mother's school art-history notes, form a Taranaki landscape.
At the centre of the show is Peter Robinson's The End of the Twentieth Century (2000), a sprawling assemblage of cheaply purchased, downloaded, and variously perverted cultural relics. Part outpouring, part parting-shot, The End celebrates a marriage of exotica and cultural alienation. In this exhibition it emphasises the global issues that colour thinking about the local. Robinson's international shopping spree foregrounds an interest in cultural traffic which permeates Killeen's vision.
See available editions by John Reynolds ► and Peter Robinson ►