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.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Baldessari Billboard

John Baldessari
ARTSPACE Billboard
Langham Hotel Carpark

This is the third ARTSPACE commissioned billboard on Langham’s Karangahape Rd site, and probably the most successful so far, simply because the length of the caption makes stunning use of the 22.5 x 4 m. size and ratio. John Baldessari, the renowned LA based conceptual artist and teacher, has created a phrase celebrating the imagination (LEARN TO DREAM). It perfectly fits the exceptional length of the low-slung hoarding.

The duck-egg blue letters showcase an unusual font (Churchward Montezuma 96 Extra Bold) designed by Samoan New Zealander Joseph Churchward. Peeking through a black background, it reflects the optimism of the text. The composition has a peculiar symmetry, two five lettered words separated by two letters (TO) in the centre, with EAR balanced by REA. The O is unusual because it is not unusual. It has no indentations or swellings like the other letters.

Churchward’s font is the real star of this image, its strange bulging curves giving the letters distended protruding stomachs so that with the chunky serifs, there is an unexpected folksy humour in the appearance of the language.

Baldessari is chiefly known for his amusing photographs and sixties text paintings - though his range of assorted projects over the last forty years is astonishing. Through Baldessari’s involvement with this massive hoarding, Brian Butler, ARTSPACE’s director, has brought some international public art to the city. And Churchward’s typeface to a new audience.

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