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Sunday, 24 September 2006

Entry ticket to Juan Davila exhibition, MCA, The RocksEvent: Juan Davila exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art, The Rocks, 9 September to 12 November

John McDonald tells his version of Juan Davila in the Spectrum supplement of the weekend edition of The Sydney Morning Herald:

For the past 20 years, Davila has perfected an uncompromising stance. He has broken with a succession of dealers, refused to give interviews or participate in shows that don’t meet his ideological expectations. He puts high prices on his works that our institutions are happy to meet, while he denounces the art market, the museums and the unholy marriage of art and money. This avowed enemy of the sacred cow is himself a textbook example of the breed.

And more:

Davila left Chile at a time when General Pinochet had just staged his military coup and a program of murder and oppression had begun. He arrived in a country that has allowed him to state his views — no matter how outrageous — with an extraordinary degree of freedom. He has the financial security to strike poses that most other artists — struggling to sell a picture or get a work hung in an art prize — could not afford. Now he is being celebrated by two of the major art institutions in Sydney and Melbourne (at the National Gallery of Victoria), who greet his posturings as acts of profundity.

When I read this piece by the paper’s regular art critic, I felt that he had a bee in his bonnet. I thought: tall poppy syndrome. But Davila has always brought out the worst — and the best — in people.

For my own part, I recall with affection that Davila’s “posturings” illuminated my youth with a sharp righteousness. His canvases pleased me by their rugged elegance. He has always been a bit of a poseur, but there is definitely a place for poseurs in a settled, comfortable society like Australia. Germaine Greer and Robert Hughes come immediately to mind.

His investigations of sexuality and the context of sexual representation were an eye-opener when I first saw them: Lichtenstein meets De Kooning. And his skill and flair were refreshing. I certainly wish that I had purchased one of his works when they were still affordable. But what would I have done with them when I relocated overseas? And now I have an added anxiety: what will my regular picture-framer say when I bring a Davila print in to be done; what will they think of me: shock, horror!

So at 9:00 this morning I made my way up to the Campsie train station with my current book (The New New Journalism: Conversations with America‘s Best Nonfiction Writers on Their Craft, Robert S. Boynton (2005)) in hand and travelled down to Circular Quay hoping to see something that I don’t normally see, and have a quick decca.

The exhibition was marvellous, covering over two decades of his work, from the carnivalesque postmodern triumphs of the eighties and nineties to the more purely figurative stuff he’s painting nowadays.

After leaving the rooms, I traipsed downstairs and purchased Juan Davila (2006), which is published in Melbourne by the Miegunyah Press and contains writings by Guy Brett, Roger Benjamin and Juan Davila himself. I look forward to reading it.

The MCA is the building on the left; the Harbour Bridge is in the backgroundBefore leaving The Rocks I got some hot chips and a bottle of Coke. Then I went up toward the State Library, crossed Macquarie Street and headed across the Domain to the Art Gallery of New South Wales. I didn’t go to see the Giacometti exhibition which is currently on, but instead had a quick look at one of my favourite paintings there, the Cy Twombly in the foyer: Three studies from the Temeraire.

I bought a book in the shop and then wandered up toward the city, crossed Hyde Park and Elizabeth Street into Market Street, then up Pitt Street to Kinokuniya’s, where I bought two more books. Then back on the train, head in my book (I got through about 25 pages both ways) and home to Campsie.

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