February 23, 2013 - Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) - Photography focus
February 23, 2013

Photography focus

Jeff Wall, The Destroyed Room, 1978. Transparency in light box, AP, 159.0 x 234.0 cm. Collection of the artist.

Photography focus at the MCA

Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
140 George Street
The Rocks, Sydney, NSW 2000


The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA) announces two photography-focused exhibitions.

South of no North: Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston, Noel McKenna (8 March–5 May 2013) brings together three artists whose works are connected by an interest in the vernacular, a regional sense of place and a similar visual sensibility.

All three artists create intimate-scale works and employ centrality in their compositions. The subject matter ranges from architecture, environments and signs to people and interiors, images captured on travels across America’s Deep South, New Zealand’s North Island and Australia.

Eggleston and McKenna produce colour snapshot-like images while Aberhart’s toned black and white silver gelatin contact prints engage with a stricter formality.

As a young artist in the early 1980s, McKenna was struck by Eggleston’s images and their focus on the commonplace. One of the exhibition’s highlights, Untitled (Memphis) (1970), is an iconic image from Eggleston’s early work featuring a tricycle that looms gigantically, dwarfing all around it and adopting the view of a child.

McKenna taps into child-like wonder too through his series of paintings of ‘big things’ such as the Big Pineapple, Big Orange or Big Penguin—a very Australian civic obsession.

Aberhart’s portrait of his daughter titled Kamala, Lyttelton, September 1981 (1981) reflects on being a child and the swift passing of life. His gaze often falls on things in the process of disappearing, such as childhood or the built environment. McKenna first discovered Aberhart’s photographs in the early 1990s.

Of the work of all three artists, MCA Curator Glenn Barkley said: ‘They are akin to short stories where emotions and narratives are condensed into rich and provocative sensations. And while they do reflect the everyday world, they also make manifest the power of art to alert us to the wonder and poetry that is all around us.’

JEFF WALL Photographs (1 May–28 July 2013) is the first Australian survey of works by Canadian photographer Jeff Wall.

The exhibition features 27 works produced between 1978 and 2010, ranging from illuminated colour transparencies in light boxes, black and white prints, and colour prints to intimate small-scale photographic observations.

Highlights include one of the artist’s early works, The Destroyed Room (1978), that refers directly to an old master painting titled The Death of Sardanapalus (1827) by Eugène Delacroix. Wall echoes Delacroix’s sweeping composition and sumptuous palette of blood reds, while acknowledging the work’s staged atmosphere by re-composing the scene as a roughly fabricated stage-set, absent of any players.

Other highlights include A sudden gust of wind (after Hokusai) (1993), based on a woodcut from a famous portfolio; The Thirty-six Views of Fuji, by the Japanese painter and printmaker Katsushika Hokusai (1760-1849); After ‘Invisible Man’ by Ralph Ellison, the Prologue (1999–2000) and some of Wall’s more recent works, such as Knife throw (2008) and Boy falls from tree (2010).

Wall’s photographs are based on first-hand observations of everyday situations and incidents recalled, often reconstructed by means of what the artist calls a ‘cinematographic approach’ rather than the decisive moment of straight photography.

MCA Director Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE said: ‘Wall’s photographs have rewritten nearly every convention of photography and have played a crucial role in establishing photography as the major contemporary art form it is today. We look forward to seeing these powerful works in our new galleries.’

JEFF WALL Photographs is organised by the Art Gallery of Western Australia in association with the MCA.

Media contact:
Kelly Stone, MCA PR Manager, Sydney: T +61 (0) 2 9245 2434 / M + 61 (0) 429 572 869 / kelly.stone [​at​] mca.com.au

Photography focus at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia
Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA)
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