Auckland Art Gallery's latest exhibition gives you space and permission to scream.
In Shout Whisper Wail, each of the 11 artworks incorporates sound. The show draws on the holdings of the Chartwell Trust Collection, an important part of the gallery's resources. In 1970, Rob Gardiner began to build the collection now administered in conjunction with his daughter Sue.
Gardiner is always an avid seeker after intellectual truth and often finds it at the cutting edge of avant-garde art. He collects the extremes of current art practice. The collection was rejected by the Hamilton Art Gallery but in 1997, became a splendid addition to Auckland Art Gallery's resources.
It continues to expand. Every three years, the upper spaces of the gallery are given over to part of the collection. Because pieces have been shown previously, it was decided that this show should be augmented with invited works by artists outside the collection, including some from Australia.
An Australian work, commissioned by the gallery and supported by the trust, promotes screaming. Melbourne's Stuart Ringbolt has installed the tray of a pickup truck vividly enamelled in white. Beside it is a poster that gives permission for individual viewers to sit or stand on this stage and scream and rant for five minutes. The suggestion is that anger and love are inseparable and acting out anger is linked to improved mental health. Art as therapy.
This is not the only work that incorporates screaming. The six-minute video Cast Out of Heaven, by Auckland artist Juliet Carpenter, screens in a booth covered with photographs of portals. The enshrined image is a doll-like figure, sometimes covered with a mask, that weeps and screams in the shadow of tall buildings.
It's behind an ornate wooden canopy by Biljana Popovic lettered with the name Andromeda - in Greek mythology, the young woman chained to a rock to be eaten by a monster not as punishment, as the explanatory leaflet suggests, but as a sacrifice to placate natural forces. The absence of an image of her chained nakedness could be an ironic feminist statement.
There follows the late Julian Dashper's enigmatic records and earphones to hear deliberately dull, prosaic collections of sound.
Janet Lilo's new installation Nobody Puts Baby in a Corner (the famous quote from the film Dirty Dancing) evokes gymnasiums with red ladders, a broken basketball goal in red neon and three screens that carry images and words that mirror life as signs.
A fine piece, by Jacqueline Fraser, is the most attractive piece among the enigmatic but very expensively staged works. In Fraser's piece, her first new work to be shown in the gallery in 12 years, a vivid red avenue leads to a glittering room hung with tinsel ribbons and three collages. The whole, with soundtrack, evokes powerfully the tawdry glamour of gamblers, the Mississippi, film, soft porn and high fashion.
On the whole, Shout Whisper Wail is demanding because of the assumptions that the viewer will be able to track the references. These are often about Andy Warhol's portraits or his recycling newspaper photos of disaster. The show matches very considerable invention with obscurity of effect. Get the references or you are lost. De Nieuwe Stem by et al, with its three-hour soundtrack, is the most trying of all.
What: Shout Whisper Wail - the 2017 Chartwell Show
Where & when: Auckland Art Gallery, until Sunday, October 15