ARTISTS Laurence Aberhart, William Eggleston, Noel McKenna CURATOR Glenn Barkley ORGANISER Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney OTHER VENUES Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, 8 March–5 May 2013; Artspace Mackay, 5 July–25 August 2013 PUBLICATION publisher Museum of Contemporary Art; text Glenn Barkley, Noel McKenna
Australian painter Noel McKenna chronicles everyday subjects and scenes in a knowingly folksy style. South of No North places his work into conversation with two photographers who share in his vernacular regionalist sensibility.
The legendary American photographer William Eggleston lives in Memphis, Tennessee. He is famous for documenting his ordinary environs and their inhabitants: friends and family, barbecues and back yards, diners and gas stations, old signs and an abandoned tricycle—the American vernacular. Eggleston pioneered the use of colour photography in art when it was considered as vulgar as his subject matter. In addition to a selection of Eggleston’s iconic photographs, the show includes his little-known video Stranded in Canton (1973). This ‘demented home movie’ mixes tender shots of his children at home with shots of drunken parties, public urination, and a man biting off a chicken’s head before a cheering crowd in New Orleans.
Laurence Aberhart resides in small-town Russell. He has photographed extensively throughout New Zealand, his large-format black-and-white photographs recalling the work of nineteenth-century colonial photographers. He is famous for his photographs of monuments, memorials, and graves, abandoned Masonic lodges and meeting houses. In 1988, he travelled in the US, from Chicago through the Southern states to the border town of Laredo, Texas. The resulting photographs held hands with his New Zealand subjects, implying a common frontier thesis.
All three artists work on a small scale and have a common pathos. Thorough its juxtapositions, the show hones in on visual and thematic affinities between their works. The show takes its title from a book of short stories by American author Charles Bukowski.