What do bright red snakeskin, an iconic Pink Floyd album, dolls heads, Elastoplast bandages and an axe all have in common? They're all part of Critical Mass, a new exhibition from The Dowse Collection that opens on 25 February.
"The stuff of this exhibition is the stuff that makes up the world around us — ordinary domestic objects and discarded junk — that are transformed by artists into extraordinary encounters," says Emma Bugden, curator of Critical Mass.
The Dowse Collection itself may not yet have reached its critical mass, but a recent loan from Wellington art collectors and commentators, Jim Barr and Mary Barr, has certainly added a flourish to the start of 2012. Critical Mass showcases some of the works in this significant loan and includes stunning photography and sculpture from contemporary New Zealand artists Lillian Budd, Simon Denny, Don Driver, Mikala Dwyer, Richard Killeen, Jae Hoon Lee, Lauren Lysaght and Rohan Wealleans.
Exhibition highlights include Don Driver's Log Piece, made up of tanalised pine fence posts and metal, purchased by The Dowse in 1978 and not exhibited since the 1980s. Driver's Shoe Horn. Critical Mass will also feature a new work from The Dowse collection, Residue, by Korean born New Zealand artist, Jae Hoon Lee.
The Jim Barr and Mary Barr Collection is one of New Zealand's most influential private contemporary art collections and is characterised by Jim and Mary's colourful, provocative and idiosyncratic choices. Much of their work is held on loan at the Dunedin Public Art Gallery. Late last year, Jim and Mary offered around 100 works to The Dowse on long-term loan. Both loans are part of their wider commitment to supporting public art museums by making their collection available. "We believe that an art museum's identity is shaped by its collections so we are excited that The Dowse wants to share our enthusiasm for this eclectic group of contemporary New Zealand artists."
This generous loan continues The Dowse's ongoing relationship with Jim and Mary. Jim Barr was Director of The Dowse from 1976 until 1981. He continued with the craft and community focus of his predecessor but was instrumental in developing the collection to represent the canon of New Zealand contemporary art. In that time, additions to the collection included work by Ralph Hotere, Gordon Walters and Colin McCahon. Jim was always convinced that 'If people saw enough good contemporary art they would get to like it — they just couldn't help themselves'.
The Dowse Collection was begun by The Hutt Art Society with a gift of 70 paintings valued at around $8,000.
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