Nau mai, haere mai, welcome to eyeCONTACT, a forum built to encourage art reviews and critical discussion about the visual culture of Aotearoa New Zealand. I'm John Hurrell its editor, a New Zealand writer, artist and curator. While Creative New Zealand and other supporters are generously paying me and other contributors to review exhibitions over the following year, all expressed opinions are entirely our own.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Small works appeal

Nice small works
John Reynolds: Ballet Mécanique
Sue Crockford
24 June -15 July 2008

John Reynolds presents three sorts of painting in this show: A large gridded arrangement on the main wall (45 coloured paper sheets covered with wobbly diagonal paint-stick lines) that alludes to the recording of George Antheil’s soundtrack for Leger’s and Dudley’s 1924 film; double-sided card works presented on freestanding stanchions like signs in a hotel restaurant, and two sets of small canvases (10 x 10 cm each).

The best thing you can say about the big wall work is that it is portable. You can easily stash the 45 pages away. As a grid painting it lacks dynamism or visual tension. It is dull, oversized and forgettable – nothing like Antheil’s exciting modernist music that was cut as grooves into shellac cylinders, and which Reynolds here seems to be referring to with his lines.

The stanchion works don’t hold your interest either, except that they are two sided so the two captions comment on each other quite effectively when referring to the art in the room. What are interesting are the two sets of small texted canvases, stacked on a trestle: one with a grey background, on which are handwritten their prices; the other bright pink, with short gossipy headlines taken from New Idea magazine.

The lurid trumpeting captions are very funny. The hot pink adds to the humour and gives them credence as palpable objects. The work is a tip of the hat to the devious minds of magazine sub-editors.

The ‘Cheap Money’ works are related in that they too are tributes, this time to Billy Apple, particularly his ingenious ‘Sold’ series of the early eighties. They are highly aesthetic receipts for the transactions of their own sale. Reynolds is much cheaper than Apple, a lot later and more abundant, but like with him, the painting declares the price of its original purchase.

By acquiring these bargains though, you broadcast your fondness for a second degree idea appropriation, a watered down ‘Apple’ that is zanier than the original but not bogged down with details like vendor and buyer’s names, place of sale, and time. The title implies a little dig the purchasers have to wear. ‘Cheap Money’ hints that the buyer is parsimonious, and that buying a canvas by Reynolds is buying money underpriced. Despite the subtle humiliation, it is still a bargain. And plenty will jump at the chance.

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