is for abstract, avant- garde and Gallery A, which was the first to promote contemporary Australian art, writes Rosalie Higson
that got beyond location. At that time everyone was very passionate about what they were doing and the gallery supported that. There was no doctrine handed down; it was about creativity and possibilities.’’
Ann Thomson had her first solo show at Gallery A in 1974: ‘‘ Other galleries were showing established artists, but Gallery A had a way of making things happen. It was like getting the rough clay and doing something with it.’’
About 25 years after its closure, however, Gallery A’s achievements were in danger of being forgotten. Hence Gallery A Sydney 1964-1983, a large-scale exhibition opening at Campbelltown Arts Centre on March 21 and Newcastle Region Art Gallery on May 9.
‘‘ It seemed a good time to go back; it’s amazing how even the recent past can be lost quite quickly. Things disappear, people die,’’ curator and cultural historian John Murphy says.
Gallery A broke new ground with possibly the world’s first installation piece, Peter Kennedy’s photographic Luminal Sequences , in 1971. And in 1982 the gallery hosted one of the first exhibitions of indigenous art, featuring Papunya Tula artists, followed by Lardil artist and storyteller Dick Roughsey, and barks from Oenpelli.
‘‘ It was exciting to see that work in a commercial gallery and not as souvenirs,’’ Lewis says. Yet the Papunya Tula works initially got a cool reception. ‘‘ It took quite a long time for that to sink in with other people, but looking back through the records, the National Gallery bought from that exhibition, so the works were going to good homes,’’ she says.
Although Gallery A has been closed for a quarter-century, Murphy’s curatorial job was made easier because the practical Lewis had stored boxes in her garage containing invitation lists, artists’ files, bills, photographs and slides ( remember them?), among other items.
‘‘ It’s so easy to think, ‘ Oh this invitation is just a little piece of paper, I’ll throw it away,’ ’’ Murphy says. ‘‘ But it all becomes valuable: even the typography gives a clue to the era.’’
He borrowed works from public and private collections: ‘‘ Luckily, because of the standard of Gallery A, many of the state galleries and the National Gallery of Australia acquired works.’’
Abstract expressionism had emerged in New York in the ’ 50s and it seemed a logical step for the third Gallery A to open in New York’s SoHo in 1970, again encouraged by Meadmore, who had