Otago Daily Times

Cel­e­brat­ing con­tin­u­ing rel­e­vance that is Hotere

Dunedin Public Art Gallery will this week open the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of Ralph Hotere’s work in 20 years. Re­becca Fox talks to gallery di­rec­tor Cam McCracken about the sig­nif­i­cance of the ex­hi­bi­tion.

- Arts · Dunedin · New Zealand · Christchurch · Italy · Port Chalmers · Aramoana

WHEN Cam McCracken be­came di­rec­tor of the Dunedin Public Art Gallery seven years ago, an ex­hi­bi­tion of Ralph Hotere’s work was at the fore­front of his mind.

‘‘I knew this show is re­ally im­por­tant and we are ready to do it now.’’

Con­sid­ered one of New Zealand’s most sig­nif­i­cant artists, Hotere, who lived at Port Chalmers for much of his life, re­ceived the Or­der of New Zealand in 2012. He died the fol­low­ing year.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, ‘‘Ralph Hotere: Atete (to re­sist)’’, is the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of his work since his death. The last was ‘‘Black Light’’ cre­ated by DPAG and Te Papa in 2000.

‘‘It’s a real hon­our for us to stage the show in Dunedin, his adopted city,’’ McCracken says.

DPAG has teamed up with the Christchur­ch Art Gallery to pre­sent the ex­hi­bi­tion which will be opened in Dunedin to­mor­row by Gov­er­nor­Gen­eral Dame Patsy Reddy.

It is an ex­hi­bi­tion which has been at least two years in the mak­ing.

Four cu­ra­tors, in­clud­ing DPAG’s Lucy Ham­monds and Lau­ren Gut­sell, have worked to bring to­gether 70 works from public and pri­vate gal­leries and pri­vate own­ers from around New Zealand.

‘‘While it is not strictly speak­ing a sur­vey show, it re­ally spans his ca­reer,’’ McCracken says.

It would give a new gen­er­a­tion the chance to ex­pe­ri­ence a large body of Hotere’s work in one place.

‘‘There is a gen­er­a­tion of artists, there is a gen­er­a­tion of po­ten­tial art ap­pre­ci­a­tors and an art­lov­ing com­mu­nity which hasn’t seen his work for that amount of time. It is a chance to see work they haven’t been ex­posed to be­fore.’’

Two works in par­tic­u­lar stand out for McCracken. It is the first time the large God­wit/Kuaka (1977) will be shown in Dunedin and it is the first time since 2000 that Hotere’s sculp­ture Black Phoenix (1984­88) has been shown at DPAG. It is held by Te Papa and its staff vis­ited Dunedin to in­stall it.

‘‘They are two of his most sig­nif­i­cant works. The show has been care­fully cu­rated to pick out the high mo­ments in his prac­tice.’’

Two of the gallery’s most re­cent Hotere ac­qui­si­tions, works on pa­per cre­ated in the 1960s, will also be un­veiled for the first time.

‘‘That is re­ally ex­cit­ing.’’

The en­tire first floor is de­voted to the ex­hi­bi­tion. There are three ma­jor themes around colour and ma­te­rial, jour­neys, and protest and dis­sent.

‘‘Ralph was a phe­nom­e­nal ab­stract artist and as a for­mal­ist he is with­out peer, in my opin­ion.’’

The works in the ex­hi­bi­tion also re­flect Hotere’s time trav­el­ling in Europe and those places that be­came sig­nif­i­cant to him such as San­gro, Italy, where his older brother Jack is buried af­ter he was killed in World War 2, and, of course, Port Chalmers.

The third theme ties into the ti­tle of the ex­hi­bi­tion ‘‘Atete’’ which trans­lates as ‘‘to re­sist’’.

‘‘Ralph had a sense of jus­tice so his work in the 1970s and 1980s looked at apartheid, is­sues of struc­tural racism in this coun­try and he had eco­log­i­cal con­cerns — such as his protests against the Aramoana smelter.’’

While it might be 20 years or more since these works have been seen in Dunedin, they are still rel­e­vant and poignant, McCracken says.

‘‘It’s been the most un­usual year where, as a planet, we have col­lec­tively been in­ter­ested in

. . . Black Lives Mat­ter, racial equal­ity, cli­mate change — and

Ralph’s works made in the

1960s, 1970s and 1980s have a poignancy that con­tin­ues to the con­tem­po­rary mo­ment.

‘‘That’s what makes him a great artist in my opin­ion. It makes the show dou­bly rel­e­vant. Through the lens of today the work has rel­e­vance and in­cred­i­bly poignancy. And I think we can look at that work and see they will have a res­o­nance into the fu­ture too.’’

While much has been writ­ten about Hotere and his work,

McCracken be­lieves the ex­hi­bi­tion finds new ground.

The length of time since the last ex­hi­bi­tion also en­abled the cu­ra­tors to look at his work with fresh and con­tem­po­rary eyes.

 ?? PHOTO: GER­ARD O’BRIEN ?? Sig­nif­i­cant . . . Dunedin Public Art Gallery di­rec­tor Cam McCracken is ex­cited about the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of Ralph Hotere’s work in 20 years.
PHOTO: GER­ARD O’BRIEN Sig­nif­i­cant . . . Dunedin Public Art Gallery di­rec­tor Cam McCracken is ex­cited about the first ma­jor ex­hi­bi­tion of Ralph Hotere’s work in 20 years.
 ?? PHOTO: OTAGO DAILY TIMES ?? Ralph Hotere in Port Chalmers in 1991.
PHOTO: OTAGO DAILY TIMES Ralph Hotere in Port Chalmers in 1991.

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