One of the great things about the Gallery of Modern Art at Southbank is that photography is encouraged. I went in yesterday to have a look around, and Michael Parakowhai’s giant rabbits Cosmo McMurtry and Jim McMurtry caught my eye.
Cosmo McMurtry sits, head cocked to one side, to your right as you walk into the gallery past the information desk and cloak room. He is placed so the enormous queue of people waiting to see the Ron Mueck exhibition wait in line right next to him. Since Mueck’s work is also about sculptures many times larger than life-sized, I suspect this was a deliberate work of “cross-promotion” to get people interested in the Unnerved exhibition of New Zealand art, of which the two McMurtry sculptures are a part.
According to the curator’s notes, one of the things the sculptures are supposed to be about is the big problem of rabbits in New Zealand. I’ve been aware since I was a young child of the similar problem in Australia, but until I read the notes that didn’t occur to me at all. I wonder if this is because Cosmo McMurtry is quite cute, with sympathetic eyes, chubby cheeks and mouth open in apparent surprise.
Further down the hall, Jim McMurtry lies on his back, one eye closed, tongue hanging out of his mouth. Instead of Cosmo’s stiff whiskers made of steel, Jim’s whiskers are limp and curled, made of plastic tubing. It’s difficult to get a proper look at this sculpture from ground level; two of these photos are taken from the balcony of level 3 of the gallery.
Jim McMurtry provoked a bit of thought in me. Is he dead? Asleep? Drunk? Are we supposed to be thinking about the cruelty of killing? The effects of booze? Or should we just be greatful that the artist used a cotton-tail instead of providing us with a realistic rabbit’s anus about thirty times the usual size?
A third Parakowhai sculpture stands guard over the McMurtrys. Kapa Haka (Whero) is a fibreglass security guard painted with automobile paint. As I walked into the exhibition I had to check to make sure this wasn’t a real security guard. I found this sculpture interesting because it made me think about my generally negative attitude towards security guards; their job is often to stop you doing things like taking photos in art galleries. After that feeling passed, I realised that unlike a real security guard, you could shove a camera right up in this one’s face.
The Unnerved exhibition is at the Gallery of Modern Art until July 4 2010. For a map with public transport details, click here. To use the Translink journey planner to check public transport routes and timetables, click here.