Considered one of Australia’s most influential artists and the subject of a challenging exhibition opening at the National Gallery of Australia, Mike Parr: Foreign Looking is the first exhibition to bring together works in all media from Parr’s unrelentingly experimental practice from 1970 to the present.
Tonight, Parr complicates Pollock’s status as a macho art historical figure in a provocative new performance titled Jackson Pollock the Female. Jackson Pollock’s Blue Poles holds great significance for the artist. Acquired by the National Gallery in 1973 as he was emerging as an artist, Parr viewed action-painter Pollock as the father of performance art. He also saw the acquisition of the painting as a mark of cultural maturity: a high point at which Australia was willing to invest in the arts.
Born in 1945 Mike Parr grew up in rural Queensland before moving to Sydney with his partner Felizitas in the late 1960s. Co-establishing Australia’s first artist collective Inhibodress in 1970, he was a formative stimulus in the development of conceptual art and performance art in this country. A fierce critic of the Australian art world and a vital link to its international counterpart, Parr has been a divisive and highly influential figure for almost fifty years.
Parr has exhibited extensively both in Australia and internationally, including at the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris and Museum of Modern Art, New York. His performance practice was the focus of the retrospective Edelweiss at Kunsthalle Vienna in 2012, and will be included in the forthcoming Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India in 2016. Parr represented Australia at the Venice Biennale in 1980 and presented the major installation, The Ghost who Talks at the Palazzo Mora in 2015.
“Mike Parr is without doubt Australia’s most renowned and influential performance artist,” said Roger Butler, NGA Senior Curator of Australian Prints, Drawings & Illustrated Books. “His disruptive and often political work has been the subject of debate for over four decades and we are thrilled to have so much of his artistic journey represented in this exhibition.”
Spanning nine galleries this installation of performance, film, sculpture, drawing, printmaking and photography provokes a challenging yet mesmerising experience, and is motivated by psychoanalytic, philosophical, literary and political interests.
The exhibition presents works never previously seen including the suite of distorted portrait photographs, Self Portraits through Mother’s Glassware (1982). It also features a theatrette program devoted to Parr’s work as an avant-garde filmmaker, showing his extraordinary trilogy, Rules and Displacement Activities (1973 – 83).
A large and active Information Centre will also occupy a space inside the exhibition, allowing visitors to delve into the artist’s vast archive and meet writers, artists and performance artists as part of a revolving program of public events and activities inspired by Parr’s works. The artist will also undertake a number of performances in the space including Reading for the End of Time – a durational piece based on Roland Barthes’ Camera Lucida.
Mike Parr: Foreign Looking
National Gallery of Australia, Parkes Place, Parkes (Canberra)
Exhibition: 12 August – 6 November 2016
For more information, visit: www.nga.gov.au for details.
Image: Mike Parr (artist) Paul Green (photographer) The Sickness Unto Death (detail) Sydney, 2015 – courtesy of the artist.