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City Gallery Wellington Rethinks Theo Schoon’s Legacy

City Gallery presents Split Level View Finder: Theo Schoon and New Zealand Art. 27 July – 3 November 2019 | Free entry

This winter, City Gallery Wellington presents Split Level View Finder: Theo Schoon and New Zealand Art, the first comprehensive exhibition of Schoon’s art since the 1980s, rethinking his legacy for twenty-first century New Zealand.

Connecting Bauhaus modernism, Maori art, and the art of the mentally unwell, Theo Schoon (1915–85) remains a controversial figure in New Zealand art. Split Level View Finder explores the impact of Schoon’s work on New Zealand art, and is curated by Dr Damian Skinner and Aaron Lister.

“Schoon described himself as being like ‘a cat sniffing out all corners of a strange warehouse’. That is a perfect description of the type of artist we need now, more than ever. The exhibition explores the trickier questions of what he specifically sniffed out, who he did it with, and for what purposes”, says exhibition curator Aaron Lister.

A catalyst for modern art in Aotearoa and best understood in dialogue with his contemporaries, the exhibition presents Schoon’s painting, graphics, photography, and jade and gourd carving, in conversation with works by Rita Angus, Rolfe Hattaway, Paratene Matchitt, Selwyn Muru, Gordon Walters, Arnold Wilson, and Ans Westra. It looks at the artistic relationships and networks he built—this approach makes way for ideas and debates, and confronts the complex politics of his work. The last major exhibition of Schoon’s work took place in Rotorua Art Gallery in 1982.

A book is being produced to accompany the exhibition, with essays by the curators Dr Damian Skinner and Aaron Lister, plus Nathan Pohio and Andrew Paul Wood.

Dr Damian Skinner’s book Theo Schoon: A Biography was published in 2018. The exhibition will tour to Te Uru Gallery, Titirangi, Auckland, in early 2020, and is supported by the City Gallery Foundation, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, the Fletcher Trust, and the Schoon Estate.

In Conversation with Theo Schoon: A Weekend of Talks takes place on Saturday 17 and Sunday 18 August, and unpacks Schoon’s controversial work from a range of perspectives.

A Curator’s Tour takes place on Saturday 27 July, 11am.