Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington

March 3, 2021
Kate Newby
February 20–May 30, 2021
Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
PO Box 600
Gate 3, Kelburn Parade
Wellington 6140
New Zealand
Hours: Tuesday–Sunday 11am–5pm

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The Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi is proud to present YES TOMORROW, New Zealand-born, US-based artist Kate Newby’s most substantial exhibition to date. Newby has built her career on the principle of “travelling light,” responding to locations where she is invited to work by translating her casual observations of things and places into sculptural installations of locally sourced materials, and testing where she can be and what she should do through architectural interventions and site works. Her modus operandi requires her to rely on local knowledge, building networks of helpers to share in her efforts, but also testing audiences’ expectations about what is proper to the art experience. Since leaving New Zealand in 2010 she has undertaken solo projects in Melbourne, Bremen, Mexico City, London, New York, Paris, Fogo Island, Stockholm, Bristol, Vienna, Toronto, Villeurbanne, Portland, Lisbon, Sydney and Los Angeles.

In December 2020 she flew in to New Zealand from San Antonio Texas, where she is currently based, a return journey conditioned by the COVID pandemic that is curtailing the kind of movement to which Newby has become accustomed. Coming home to make this exhibition has enabled her to reconnect with the familiar places and people of her birthplace, and to seek out, reference and make use of locally sourced materials, work in backyard and commercial kilns, and pottery and glass studios, and to enlist the help of friends and fellow makers from across the North Island.

YES TOMORROW is a particularly memorable “touching down.”  It maintains the artist’s customary lightness, as she addresses herself to the Adam Art Gallery’s building and its environs and brings in handmade objects retrieved from storage and made for the occasion. But it also grounds her, taking stock of her passage through the art world, crystallising her particular sculptural language, and memorialising those transitory encounters that litter her life.

The exhibition unfolds as a set of confident and challenging interventions that recast the relationship between art and its context and invite viewers to look again at the world around them. These include simple and unexpected transformations of the gallery space, such as replacing the gallery’s windows with panes of handmade glass cast with small holes to let in the breeze and sunlight, and a new poured concrete floor that rearticulates the eccentricities of the building and creates a new ground for visitors to walk on. Gathered here are also collections of handmade wind chimes that she has made over the preceding decade, clay “puddles” filled with found glass, and “rocks” formed by hand in far-flung places, that are distributed strategically in ways that reorient visitors attention and use the fabric of the building as frame, substrate and support.

Newby extends her project beyond the building, laying hand-carved, locally fired clay tiles on an overlooked loading dock and, further afield in a local park, she has inserted a ‘drain’ of tiles formed over the thighs of attendees of three workshops she has staged whilst preparing for the exhibition. Drawing on the urban fabric, but refusing to defer to its utilitarian imperatives, Newby’s sculptural practice is a confounding, touching, and ultimately humane engagement with her surroundings.

Kate Newby was born in Auckland in 1979. She studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, graduating with a BFA in 2001 and returning there to undertake a Doctor of Fine Arts, which she completed in 2015. Though quickly establishing herself in the Auckland art scene—she was a founding member of Gambia Castle, an artist-run space that operated between 2007 and 2010 on and in the vicinity of Auckland’s Karangahape Road—her career can be charted as a series of itinerant opportunities, with exhibitions in destinations as various as Melbourne, Mexico City, Brussels, Los Angeles, Lisbon, Toronto, Vienna, London, and elsewhere. Newby has undertaken residencies in Germany, Australia, the US, Mexico and Canada, including Chinati Foundation (Marfa, 2012), Fogo Island (Newfoundland, 2012-3), and ISCP (NYC, 2012). She won the Walters Prize in 2012, and was recipient of a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in 2019. She has recently moved from Brooklyn, New York, to Floresdale, a small town in Texas. She is represented by Michael Lett, Auckland; Fine Arts, Sydney; The Sunday Painter, London, and Cooper Cole, Toronto. You can view her recent work at Kate Newby.

The Adam Art Gallery is the art gallery of Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington, New Zealand. It is a forum for critical thinking about art and its histories as well as the professional structure within which the Victoria University Art Collection is managed. The gallery’s programmes aim to test and expand art form and disciplinary boundaries and create new opportunities to bring artists together and generate fresh conversations. The gallery is a remarkable architectural statement designed by the late Sir Ian Athfield, one of New Zealand’s foremost architects.

This major undertaking could not have been achieved without substantial assistance. Newby spent time developing her work with a Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant (2019) and an Arts Grant from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa (2020). The exhibition has been realised with generous support from Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa; Public Art Fund, Wellington City Council; Te Whare Hēra and Massey University; Jan Warburton Charitable Trust; Jim Barr and Mary Barr; Michael Lett; The Sunday Painter; Fine Arts, Sydney; Cooper Cole, and several anonymous donors.

An artist publication, with an essay by Christina Barton, will be published during the exhibition.

Adam Art Gallery at Victoria University of Wellington
March 3, 2021

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