Writing

Rebecca Gallo’s writing has been published across print and digital platforms including Vault Magazine, The Art Life, Sturgeon, Art Guide Australia, Runway: Australian Experimental Art and Look Magazine. She has been commissioned to write catalogue essays for exhibitions at regional, university, artist-run and commercial galleries. For enquiries and commissions please contact rebecca [at] rebeccagallo.com.au.

SELECTED PUBLISHED WRITING


A postcard from documenta 14

Published in Art Guide Australia, August 2017

Documenta is a curated exhibition of contemporary art that takes place every five years in Kassel, an unremarkable town in central Germany. First conceived in 1955 as a way of rebuilding Germany’s relationship with international art post-WWII, documenta has since become one of the most influential and celebrated platforms for critically engaged contemporary art. When it was announced that in 2017, documenta would be split across Kassel and Athens, concerns regarding both the decentralisation of documenta, and the cultural imperialism of its international foray, were widely published and discussed.

One of the major criticisms levelled at documenta has been that in spite of its claims to criticise and expose neoliberalism and its methodologies (according to 2017 artistic director Adam Szymczyk, documenta functions as “mirror, witness and commentator”) it seems to simply perpetuate them. Stencilled on walls at the Athens School of Fine Arts, one of the major documenta venues, was the message, “Dear documenta 14: It must be nice to critique capitalism etc. with a 38 million Euro budget.” [continue reading]



Art School: Sir John Sulman Prize

Look Magazine, July-Aug 2017

Regular bi-monthly column in the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales members’ publication.
[download pdf]



Sanné Mestrom: Earthward Bound
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 19, July 2017

Each work of art functions as a statement in the long conversation of art making, responding to what has come before by expanding upon or critiquing or subverting it. – Rebecca Solnit

Sanné Mestrom’s Dora Maar (2013) is an immense, stylised steel and bronze fountain, after Picasso’s painting of his tear-streaked muse. Her Still Life series (2013) of flattened ceramic vessels are sculptural renderings of Morandi’s famous paintings. Soft Kiss (2011), a market-bought sculpture and its cast double, are distant descendants in the style of Brancusi. Mestrom has taken what she describes as “singular gestures” by so-called master artists and turned them in to multiples that “have a limited lifespan, or are made of vulnerable materials like clay”.

Arguably Mestrom’s sculptures are bolder and more permanent than the ‘originals’ that inspired them; ceramics, for instance, may be fragile, but if cared for correctly, will outlast oil on canvas. Mestrom’s appropriations are also more immediate: rather than a depiction of tears, her sculpture actually weeps water from a bronze eye. Mestrom deconstructs the originals, introducing the influences of time, place and new materials. These elements act as reinforcement in robust new renderings, which – although they may speak of temporality and vulnerability – are solid and earthbound.

[full article pdf coming soon]


Facts and Figures
Published in Art + Australia Online, June 2017

Looking at me through you, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Sydney, 27 May – 23 July 2017

I attended the opening of looking at me through you at Campbelltown Arts Centre with my 15-year-old niece, Raz. Raz lives in the Campbelltown area; she is the ‘me’ of the title, seeing herself ‘through you’, the artists. She found it strange, but not unpleasant to see her local area the subject of scrutiny from a range of local and external perspectives.

Raz isn’t overly aware of the media and political rhetoric surrounding Western Sydney at the moment. From the rampant development of high-rise apartment blocks for ever-expanding populations, to nascent plans for a new airport at Badgerys Creek, to the WestConnex saga and the controversy of its proposed M4 toll, there is no doubt that Western Sydney is a dominant topic in the Australian media and socio-political landscape. Where there is development, there are statistics, and Campbelltown Arts Centre worked in partnership with Deloitte’s in the development of this exhibition, curated by Megan Monte. [continue reading]


From Engagement to Action: Art + Activism
Published in Art Guide Australia, July 2017

The art world is replete with ‘politically engaged’ art. In a dystopian, neoliberal, post-truth era of irreversible climate change, illiterate billionaire presidents, unprecedented corporate greed and international refugee crises, it is unsurprising that artists feel compelled to engage with the state of the world around them. A regular flow of exhibition media releases refers to the ways in which artists are ‘responding to,’ ‘challenging’ or ‘problematising’ these issues. Artists are clearly using geo-politics as muse, however there is a difference between adding to a flow of conversation and actively pushing for change: the difference between engagement and action. [continue reading]



Artist Profile: Beth Dillon
Published in Runway Conversations, July 2017

When I spoke with Beth Dillon in October 2016, she had been chasing winter for years. It pervaded her videos, collaborations, textiles and characters through icy backdrops, outfits hand-made for cold climates and aspirations of reaching snowy summits. The discomfort of unknown places can breed new ideas, and as Dillon explained, ‘limitations are always interesting to work within’. We speak again in July 2017, in the midst of her first full summer in years. She is making the most of the t-shirt weather, having just walked most of the 500km distance between Geneva to Paris, where she has started a three-month residency in the UNSW Postgraduate studio at the Cité Internationale des Arts.  [continue reading]


 

Art School: Venice Biennale
Look Magazine, May-June 2017

Regular bi-monthly column in the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales members’ publication.
[download pdf]


Huma Bhabha: Remains of the Day
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 18, May 2017

I wish I could get into a room with Huma Bhabha’s sculptures. To feel their slightly larger-than-life presence and experience the visceral thrill of their pockmarked surfaces. The density of foam and cork, the fragility of clay and wire. Their uncomfortably rough approximations of flesh and figure. Experience my body dwarfed, accentuated or echoed by theirs, and that moment when, as Bhabha describes it, “they start to look back at you”.

In a 2010 interview Bhabha was asked if she thought of her work “as post-apocalyptic, as has often been written?” She responded, “I never thought about the post-apocalypse because I think the apocalypse is right now.”i What does she think of the state of the world now, seven years later? “I think it’s worse,” Bhabha tells me matter-of-factly from her studio in upstate New York. “Now we have a President who is the Antichrist… Environmentally and politically, things are worse than they were. And they were not good to begin with.” As an artist, she suggests, “even if you cannot do anything concrete in terms of trying to change something, at least you can bear witness to it.” Viewed in this context, Bhabha’s works present a frightening prospect. To describe the ravaged landscapes of her ink-stained photographs, or her gaping, blank-eyed monuments as ‘post-apocalyptic’ or to discuss their DIY, Mad Max-like aesthetic is to assign their nightmarish grotesquerie to another time and place, or the far reaches of imagination. It seems, however, that they are products of the here-and-now. Her figures are broken-down ruins, mutant bodies composed of that which cannot decompose. A charred vision of what we will leave behind. [full article: download pdf]


INTERVIEW: Janet Dawson on making abstraction sing
Published in Art Guide Australia, March 2017

Senior Australian artist Janet Dawson is one of 38 artists included in the exhibition, Abstraction: celebrating Australian women abstract artists. Drawn from the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia, this survey is a long overdue antidote to a male-dominated history of abstract art. Dawson was one of only three women to show in the influential 1968 exhibition The Field, which will be restaged in 2018 at the National Gallery of Victoria for its 50th anniversary. Rebecca Gallo spoke with Dawson about her impressions of these major shows, her experience in a male-dominated art world, and the beauty and pleasure of good abstract art. [read more]


Art School: Social Practice
Look Magazine, March-April 2017

Regular bi-monthly column in the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales members’ publication.
[download pdf]


PREVIEW: Guo Jian – The Encroachment, Arc One Gallery
Published in January-February 2017 edition of Art Guide Australia

Chinese-Australian artist Guo Jian has been making art that is unapologetically political and satirical for more than 20 years, but his latest work takes quite a different turn. His background as a painter of propaganda posters, and then a young soldier in the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, informed his well-known paintings of soldiers in the thrall of garish femme fatales; men seduced to war by hypnotic, erotic performances. More recently, Guo Jian attracted significant media and government attention for his diorama of a war-torn, meat-covered Tiananmen Square that precipitated his arrest in Beijing and subsequent imprisonment and deportation in 2014. Two years into a five-year ban on returning to China, Guo Jian continues to conduct striking, poetic and urgent cultural commentary from a distance. [read more]


Jonathan Jones: Muscle Memory
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 17, February 2017

Jonathan Jones works under many different titles — artist, independent curator, community consultant, project manager — but these definitions are becoming increasingly arbitrary. A member of the Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi nations, Jones is an advocate for the revival and dissemination of Aboriginal languages, and a champion of contemporary Indigenous artists. Indigenous identity and community values underpin all of Jones’ work across a broad range of projects with diverse outcomes.

Through our conversation, I realise that Jones’ object-based practice — the most individualistic of his projects — still holds community and identity front and centre. When Jones recalls accompanying his Nan (technically his great-grandmother) on regular drives to visit their mob around Tamworth, stopping in unannounced — but always welcome — for a cuppa and a yarn, I think of his 2012 work untitled (oysters and tea cups). This midden of oyster shells and fine china teacups, spilling from a brick bunker on Cockatoo Island, suggests a clash of Indigenous and European cultural practices. It also speaks of resilience and continuity in the form of gatherings: measured, these days, over countless cups of tea. When Jones talks about the difficulty of gaining access to country to undertake traditional fire management and collect wood and grasses for making objects, it brings to mind his monumental untitled (illuminated tree). This whole-room installation of a bleached, truncated Murray River red gum embedded with lights is at once a kind of land map, and an act of defiance: transforming a protected species into an object of material culture. [full article: download pdf]


REVIEW: Before the Rain, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art
Published in Art Guide Australia, February 2017

In September 2014 our news screens and feeds were filled with images of Hong Kong’s high-rise streets thronged with tens of thousands of protesters. Variously known as Occupy Central, the Umbrella Movement or the Umbrella Revolution, massive areas of Hong Kong’s CBD were unable to function for weeks as a result of peaceful actions. The protesters, mostly young people, were fighting for universal suffrage: the right to elect their own government representatives. They used umbrellas to shield themselves from tear gas and pepper spray, and camped out for 79 days. [read more]


Art School: Light sculpture
Look Magazine, January-February 2017

Regular bi-monthly column in the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales members’ publication.
[download pdf]


Catalogue Essay: This Is Not A Solo Show by Michelle Cawthorn & Peter Sharp
Verge Gallery, University of Sydney, June 2016

No, this is not a solo show; it’s more of a love song. A two-way dedication, but not of the Richard Mercer variety. Something with rougher edges and a bit of a twist: maybe a bittersweet Nick Cave ballad with a hint of Gainsbourg and Birkin (whose breathy version of Je T’aime…Moi Non Plus – recorded, fittingly, in 1969 – was considered so erotic that it was banned in several countries). You could also think of this show as a concept album: two lovers cover one another’s songs, and write new ones together. [download pdf]


Art School: Institutional critique
Look Magazine, November-December 2016

Regular bi-monthly column in the Art Gallery Society of New South Wales members’ publication.
[download pdf]


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Julian Hooper: Sliding Doors
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 16, October 2016

When we speak a few weeks out from Julian Hooper’s September exhibition at Ivan Anthony in Auckland, he still hasn’t settled on a title for the show. We both agree that a good title can’t be forced. It becomes part of the artwork, adding to the layers of meaning, but as Hooper explains, a good title doesn’t “blow the cover” of the work. It is suggestive without giving away too much; it “keeps the ideas rolling and skipping rather than setting them down.” [download pdf]


 

Julie Rrap, One Hand Making the Other Hand, Instrument Series, 2016. Finalist in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize

Julie Rrap, One Hand Making the Other Hand, Instrument Series, 2016. Finalist in the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize 2016

Preview: Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize
Published in Art Guide Australia, October 2016

The annual Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize (WSSP) attracts an enormous number of entries (over 600 this year) and brings together a collection of finalists from the preeminent to the lesser known. The 46 finalists in 2016 include established artists, such as Julie Rrap, Stephen Benwell and Rose Nolan, alongside early career artists including Yioryios and David Capra. [read more]


 

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Sally Smart: Piece By Piece
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 14, May 2016

We talk on the phone the day after Sally Smart arrives home from New York. “A lot of my practice has been pin, un-pin; pin, un-pin,” she explains. In her warehouse studio in North Melbourne, three long walls are dedicated to pinning, and a wooden floor has been installed over the original concrete to allow for comfortable movement as her private choreography unfolds. As with most studios, there is the necessary storage and office space, and the ongoing negotiation of “getting out of the office and into the studio…you do have to be a bit strict about that.” Smart describes working with ‘elements’ — the swathes and fragments of materials including fabric, paper, canvas and felt that make up her installations. “I have this constant [need] to work [with] the elements — rehearsing, constructing and documenting them,” she says. [download pdf]


 

Greer, Julia and Matte Rochford, Airway, Installation view at Archive_, August 2015. Photography by Jack Condon

Greer, Julia and Matte Rochford, Airway, Installation view at Archive_, August 2015. Photography by Jack Condon

A Eulogy for Archive_
Published in Runway, Issue #30: ECOLOGIES (in collaboration with SafARI festival), March 2016

In August 2015, Archive_ announced that it would vacate its gallery located at 5 Eliza Street, Newtown. This departure was attributed to the organisation no longer being a suitable tenant due to the operational changes set to occur within the building[1]. While this reasoning is vague and largely skirts placing blame, it remains the truth. The demise of the space is unfortunate, but you can always rely on the forward march of Sydney real estate to diminish opportunities for low-rent community spaces at alarming rates. [read more]


 

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Marian Tubbs: Material Logic
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 13, February 2016
___
Marian Tubbs
[artist’s own website]
Marian Tubbs, transmission detox, 2015 [information about recent Museum of Contemporary Art digital commission listed on the MCA website]
Artist Mix : Marian Tubbs :: News [MCA website news section, about same commission]
MCA Awards First Digital Commission to Marian Tubbs [Blouin Art Info news item]
Residency Unlimited | Marian Tubbs [artist profile for a New York residency that Tubbs undertook in 2013]
Marian Tubbs – Waverley Council [profile of former artist-in-residence, date not stated]
Marian Tubbs | 24th Oct – 21st Nov 2015 | STATION GALLERY [listing of recent solo commercial exhibition in Melbourne]
UTS PSM >> Public Lecture #8: Marian Tubbs [speaker profile for a talk given at University of Technology Sydney in 2015]
Minerva, [homepage of Sydney gallery where Tubbs is represented]
___

This is what appeared on the first page of search results when I Googled ‘Marian Tubbs’ on 15 December 2015. Below is a screen shot of what the results looked like on 17 December 2015. Things shift and move quickly, invisible algorithms pushing different stories to the surface. When we meet, Tubbs talks about taking responsibility for one’s online presence.

As two women in our early thirties, we were deliberating over “young people today”, mainly in the context of Tubbs teaching first-year art students, and the way in which one’s virtual persona can be capitalised upon. There are no excuses these days for no presence, an awful website or an inability to be contacted, unless that’s part of a broader anti-establishment plan. [download pdf]


 

paintings-by-mum-installation-shot

‘Paintings by Mum’, installation view, Airspace Projects, 2015. Exhibition by Brenda Samuels, curated by Miranda Samuels

Samuels & Samuels
Catalogue Essay for Paintings By Mum by Brenda Samuels, curated by Miranda Samuels
AirSpace Projects, Sydney, August 2015
Full essay published on Contemporary Art and Feminism

In the early 1990s, when Brenda Samuels became a mother, less than half of all new mothers were returning to the workforce. Brenda was amongst the majority in making motherhood her vocation, the home her workplace and the facilitation of family life her primary objective.

Last year, Brenda’s daughter Miranda Samuels graduated from art school, an environment that encourages the professionalisation of artistic practice and nurtures the cult of the young, emerging artist. Miranda’s interest in feminist discourse and institutional critique, and perhaps a sense of responsibility, caused her to look at her mother’s interrupted but promising artistic practice with new eyes. [download full essay or view online]


 

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Jess Johnson: Nostalgic Computer Art from an Imaginary Post-Computer World
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 12, November 2015

It’s unsurprising to learn that Jess Johnson’s art practice has evolved out of a combination of odd and intriguing projects, ideas and career choices. Informed by a solid appetite for science fiction, space horror and alternative realities, her precise and detailed drawings are steeped in speculative worlds, doom-laden psychedelia and band poster graphics. They are neo-Escher on acid in a digital post-apocalypse. [download pdf]


 

Kathryn Cowen, Memories of Future Past, 2015, acrylic, ink, polyurethane resin and oil medium on canvas, 60 x 80 cm

Kathryn Cowen, Memories of Future Past, 2015, acrylic, ink, polyurethane resin and oil medium on canvas, 60 x 80 cm

Catalogue Essay for The Faraway Nearby by Kathryn Cowen
A-M Gallery, Sydney, May 2015

The disciplines of art and science – at times almost indistinguishable, and at others irreconcilable – are twin avenues in the very human search for underlying patterns, substance and meaning. Where the two often diverge is in the nature of the conclusions they seek: science gives the impression of moving inexorably towards a logical endpoint, a complete unravelling of the mysteries of the universe; art tends to revel in the inherent un-knowableness of things.
[download full essay]



Forecast: Lottie Consalvo
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 11, September 2015

Lottie Consalvo’s art is not easy. Its beautiful and poetic qualities rest on evidence of struggle and darkness. Through private and public endurance performances, Consalvo investigates what happens to the mind when placed under particular strains and restrictions. She makes paintings, drawings and objects that explore similar psychological terrain, untangling knots of memory and examining what it means to be a person living in a complex and fractured world. Consalvo is trained in business, gold and silversmithing, fabrication and welding, but is self-taught as an artist. In Leipzig and Berlin in the early 2010s she undertook rigorous research into art and artistic practice; this process continues through ongoing study and self-examination. VAULT spoke with Consalvo at the start of six months in Europe following an intensive few weeks as one of twelve artists-in-residence with Marina Abramović for Kaldor Projects. [download pdf]


 

Robert Macpherson: Norm Breacher Opts
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 10, July 2015

Robert MacPherson has been thinking about and making art for nearly six decades. The story goes that he decided to become an artist in 1955 at age 18, teaching himself through art history books and self-devised exercises while working away in various jobs. He spent time as a painter and docker, a supervisor of cleaners and, later on, as an antiques dealer. It was a slow burn: his first exhibition was some 15 years later, in 1973, at the age of 36.

This Brisbane artist, who worked a string of menial jobs, also went on to become a key figure in the community surrounding the Institute of Modern Art (IMA) in its formative years, one of Australia’s most important and internationally-focused centres for the exhibition and commissioning of experimental, esoteric and other non-commercial forms of art. MacPherson’s life and art seems to be full of such dualities: working class/intellectual; conceptual/personal; provincial/international. [download pdf]


 

Mona, Marina and Dark Mofo
Published on RAVEN Contemporary, June 2015

Private Archaeology is an exhibition of recent and historic work by performance art superstar Marina Abramović. Abramović and Mona go well together – the art in the Mona permanent collection centres around sex and death, and in Abramović’s art, these fundamental aspects of existence are never far beneath the surface. [read more]


Cementing a Friendship in Kandos
Published on RAVEN Contemporary, May 2015
Small-town Australia is not generally known for its artistic culture, least of all for cutting-edge contemporary art. With a few notable exceptions, it tends to be defined by a combination of local pub, Chinese restaurant, greasy spoon-café-bakery, newsagency-general store and, for slightly larger towns, an RSL Club and a large roadside sculpture depicting the fruits of local industry. Kandos boasts all of these except the last, unless you count the now-defunct and cordoned-off cement works, crouched on the hill like a monumental requiem. [read more]


Richard Lewer: You Wouldn’t Make This Stuff Up
Published in Vault Magazine, Issue 9, April 2015
Melbourne underworld gangsters; catholic nuns running a hospital; a love-suicide-euthanasia pact that goes tragically awry; an amorous gymnastics coach who lusts after his young charges. Unlikely tales and odd characters are a constant in Richard Lewer’s work. His art houses stories that would be hard to make up, and in some cases you wouldn’t want to.

Lewer’s output – encompassing videos, performances, large-scale murals and the paintings on canvas, steel, foam, maps and billiard table cloth for which he is best known – represents an ongoing documentation of the worlds and subcultures that he visits and inhabits. Figures and settings in Lewer’s drawings and paintings are simplified and stylised, and stories take on a narrative voice, empathy and humour that are distinctly and idiosyncratically his. [download pdf]


Throwing pots to see what sticks
Published on RAVEN Contemporary, February 2015
Ceramics have long straddled the worlds of art and craft. Even ceramicists who are considered consummate artists often staunchly self-identify as potters, most notably in the case of the late Gwyn Hanssen Pigott. Despite connotations of hobbyism and commercialism implicit in the term ‘potter’, there doesn’t seem to be any question that the work made by Hanssen Pigott, and many other celebrated potter/ceramicists including Peter Rushforth, Mitsuo Shoji and Janet DeBoos, is art of the highest standard. Perhaps this is in part because traditional boundaries between art and craft are becoming increasingly irrelevant and outdated. [read more]


It’s Timely – Blacktown Arts Centre
Published in Framework Vol. 2 Issue 3, 2014
It’s Timely, an exhibition staged to coincide with the anniversary of historic campaign speeches by Gough Whitlam, mirrors elements of the social democracy which Whitlam worked to instate. The ex-PM instigated Medicare and brought about free tertiary education (albeit short-lived), alongside various other policies geared toward social equality. For It’s Timely, well-established Australian artists such as Simryn Gill, The Kingpins and Deborah Kelly are shown alongside historical exhibits and a specially commissioned series by a local wedding photographer. This sort of curatorial democracy is unusual in Sydney galleries and institutions, where demarcations of emerging, mid-career and established artists, and conceptual and commercial art, are stringently applied. [read more]


Mike Kelley: Difficult, uncomfortable and at times obscene
Published on RAVEN Contemporary, December 2014

In spite of a very limited public profile in Australia, the expansive, anti-institutional art of American artist Mike Kelley has taken root in the hearts and minds of a generation of anti-institutional Australian artists. Perhaps it’s unsurprising given the ubiquitous influence of American culture on Australian life, although it must be said that Kelley’s work didn’t travel via the mainstream. It was through art books, magazines and journals that Australian artists coming of age in the 1990s discovered Kelley and his embrace of low culture and bad taste. Artist and curator Iakovos Amperidis was amongst this cohort, and admits that he used to carry Kelley’s publications around ‘like a bible’. [read more]


TarraWarra Biennial: Whisper in My Mask
Published on RAVEN Contemporary, October 2014
The title for the 2014 TarraWarra Biennial is drawn from a jaunty 1981 Grace Jones song, Art Groupie. The song straddles 70s disco and 80s synth pop, and its odd, haunting lyrics are somehow lost in Jones’ staccato diction. Whisper in My Mask leaves the pop sensibility behind, and we are left with Jones’ lyrics: like them, the exhibition is dark, mysterious, threatening, probing and intimate. [read more] 


View exhibition previews on The Art Life

Reviews, interviews and previews on RAVEN

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