From Ron Robertson-Swann’s controversial ‘Yellow Peril’ sculpture to the dramatic machine-like forms of Lenton Parr, the 1960s and 1970s signalled a critical period for contemporary Australian sculpture.
A new NGV exhibition, Hard Edge: Abstract Sculpture 1960s-70s, will explore these decades during which sculptors experimented with new trends and embraced an adventurous style of abstraction, tending towards the minimal style seen in New York City.
By this time abstraction had emerged internationally in fields as diverse as painting, photography and music, and Australian artists soon began to engage and experiment readily with this bold movement.
“Hard Edge captures a defining moment for Australian sculpture when artists began to shift away from traditional carved stone, wood or bronze and move towards modern materials and techniques, reflecting the advancements in technology throughout the 1960s and 1970s. This new style was characterised by often highly polished and brightly coloured abstract forms,” says Tony Ellwood, Director NGV.
Presented across two foyer levels at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, thirteen abstract sculptures from some of Australia’s key sculptors of the period will be displayed, including works by Clement Meadmore, Inge King, Jock Clutterbuck, Clive Murray-White, Lenton Parr, Ron Robertson-Swann, C. Elwynn Dennis and David Wilson.
Few Australian sculptures have generated as much debate as Robertson-Swann’s large-scale, bright yellow public sculpture Vault, installed in Melbourne’s City Square in 1980. The subject of polarised public opinion and dubbed the ‘Yellow Peril’ by the press, Vault was removed after just six months of public display following an aggressive campaign.
In 1981 the work was relocated to Batman Park, in a covert overnight operation, where it languished for two decades until being transferred to a prominent position at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art in 2002. The original maquette, or draft model, of the sculpture will be displayed in Hard Edge, accompanied by a multimedia display of archival photographs and newspaper articles which reveal its tumultuous history.
Elwyn Dennis’ red lacquered Evidence of Origin, once a familiar sight to NGV visitors, will also be displayed for the first time in several years in the exhibition.
Hard Edge: Abstract Sculpture 1960s-70s
The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne
Exhibition: 13 February – July 2016
For more information, visit: www.ngv.vic.gov.au for details.
Image: Ron Robertson-Swann, Maquette for Vault (1978) synthetic polymer paint on balsa wood 19.8 x 41.5 x 25.7 National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased with the assistance of the NGV Foundation, 2005. © Ron Robertson-Swann/Licensed by VISCOPY, Australia