“Cubism and Australian Art” @ Heide – Part I

Melinda Harper "Untitled"

Monday, 4 January 2010 

Dear Diary,  

“Cubism and Australian Art” at the Heide Museum of Modern Art is an amazing visual feast of over 200 Australian and International paintings, sculpture, photography, installation, and video art from the 1920s to the present day, though held together by a very flimsy premise. 

The curatorial brief of the exhibition was to explore the influence of Cubism on Australian art. 

This is done indeed very well within the first two rooms of the exhibition, where the curators display the works by French followers of Cubism, and by Australian artists who studied in Paris in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and who brought the revolutionary concepts of Cubism to Australia. 

However, the cracks within the “influence of Cubism” idea already begin to show within these first exhibition spaces. For one, the visitor would look in vain for paintings by the founders of Cubism, Picasso and Braque, its early forerunners, such as Cézanne, or important late exponents, such as Gris. The absence of works by these artists is still more surprising given that Australian institutions have representative examples of their work, which would not have necessitated the costly procedure of international loans. 

Furthermore, the presence within these first rooms of paintings by Balson is already an indication of a curatorial confusion over styles and movements, or their insistence on stretching the parameters of their exhibition brief in order to include an ever-widening array of artists.

This becomes apparent in the rest of the exhibition spaces, where constructivism, futurism, surrealism, Dada, collage, anthropomorphism, geometric, hard edge, colour field, conceptual art, etc all jostle for space next to each other, all under the single banner of ‘being influenced by Cubism’.

[© Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg 2010. This article is copyright, but the full or partial use is welcome with the full and proper acknowledgment]

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Eugene Barilo v. Reisberg

January 2010


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