Merging high and low, Patrick Pound creates wondrous ‘museums of things’.
In 2013, the New Zealand-born, Melbourne-based artist concocted The Gallery of Air for Melbourne Now, at the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). He packed a room with hundreds of exhibits from his collection and the Gallery's. From a John Constable cloud study to an Air India Salvador Dalí ashtray to an asthma inhaler, each item had something to do with air.
Pound works with—and kicks against—the ways collecting imposes meanings and values on things. In forging new imaginative and poetic associations between exhibits, he grants them ‘a temporary reprieve’ from their ascribed mandates and prompts us to see them anew.
Filling the NGV Australia’s entire ground floor with over 4,000 items, Pound’s follow-up solo show, The Great Exhibition (2017), revealed how far he could take this idea. It included ‘The Museum of There/Not There’, in which every exhibit either recalled something else or represented nothing at all. It included a copy of Jean-Paul Sartre’s book Being and Nothingness and a ventriloquist's dummy.
In On Reflection, Pound shuffles his private holdings with Te Papa’s national collections, continuing to invert the typical power dynamic between artist and institution. Constantly playing on ideas about mirroring and the double, the show is organised as a vast palindrome or Rorschach test. Is there method in this madness?