John Hurrell – 20 December, 2012
Wylie's other work, Quarter Report (Feat Mamet) shows a script of the David Mamet play Glengary Glen Ross lying on a piece of carpet removed from outside the gallery entrance. Next to it is a strong hand grip for developing finger muscles. It seems a sardonic joke about real estate salesmen having an impressively collegial handshake for faking cordiality.
Snake Pit and Sue Crockford Gallery
28 December - 22 December 2012
Club Mirage was an Auckland private members club that ran for almost twenty years - up to 1987 (the year the share market crashed) - a club that preceded Box (1989-97) down in the basement area of what used to be Snake Pit gallery (August 2011- October 2012) in High St.
This show - with a witty title that could be about the art world itself - is a post-closing celebration of Snake Pit’s exhibiting achievements, presented in a space generously provided by Sue Crockford, Auckland’s oldest and most experienced dealer gallery. It’s an unusual partnership.
Snake Pit’s two charismatic initiators, Elam graduates Sam Thomas and James Wylie, figure prominently. They persuaded a local landlord that they would look after the soon-to-be-demolished building and its newly created gallery responsibly.
Thomas has a printed, takeaway, brush-drawn map of Auckland’s GBD, showing the sites of six businesses on which walls he is exhibiting zigzag coin games that double as paintings on Perspex so you can match them with background wallpaper. Visitors are invited to try out the traversing potential of their loose change.
His other work here is a ‘chandelier’ of plastic bananas, a bunch of yellow curved appendages draped around a light. They look amusingly incongruous in the spacious but austere gallery with its large windows overlooking the port.
Another Snake Pit regular, Bob van der Wal, happens to work for Crockford. His stack of long curved - not banana but baguette - forms, made of expanding foam, look highly edible, as if some bowls of soup are about to appear for visitors. On the theme of being fed (satiated but bitter), he also presents some framed photographs of himself attempting to nastily ‘bite’ his employer’s hand, though they look amusingly formal - as if he were a flamboyant courtier from some foreign country meeting Royalty.
Two works from James Wylie celebrate both sensuality and connections through language. Canary consists of three teetering stacks of DVD boxes on a window ledge. They have streaks of yellow acrylic in their centres and glow when the natural light streams through. Wylie’s other work, Quarter Report (Feat Mamet) shows a script of the David Mamet play Glengary Glen Ross lying on a piece of carpet removed from outside the gallery entrance. Next to it is a strong hand grip for developing finger muscles. It seems a sardonic joke about real estate salesmen having an impressively collegial handshake for faking cordiality. Where the carpet has come from by the front door is an arrangement of vinyl parquet verneer hiding the wood under the carpet.
The name Snake Pit seems naturally connected to the competitiveness of Mamet’s salesmen and the large polystyrene, aluminium and wood sign of the gallery (seen from the other side of the street) is also for sale. There are also some t-shirts from Daniel Webby bearing hand-stamped captions that came from conversations the artist had with potential garment owners, and also a DVD he made from various cell-phone videos, of the very last, farewell Snake Pit party.
This is an interesting little show - ‘little’ because it is not sprawling like some Snake Pit shows were, such as Running on Pebbles: Through Lines with Incidents and Increments that Allan Smith organised, something very different from the much tidier, ‘cleaner’ exhibitions that Crockford usually presents. It is very much ‘dealer gallery’ in ambience, and less ‘collective’ in spirit. With the inclusion of the sign sculpture and film of cell phone videos it has a museological, even anthropological feel. A fascinating hybrid.
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