Craftsman House

We should no longer marvel at the way art historians are forever finding yet another woman artist to rescue from undeserved obscurity. With Patricia R. McDonald’s tribute to Barbara Tribe we have the work of this eclectic Australian sculptor finally validated in a handsomely produced monograph.

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Cultural criticism at the end of the twentieth century, says Darren Tofts (at the end of 1999), is suffering from a kind of amnesia. Interactivity is not an invention of Playstation games or electronic mail, but has been a crucial constituent of avant-garde art throughout the century: neglect this history and risk collapsing culture into fin-de-siecle, commodified monotony. Both those who rhapsodise and those who malign the anarchic non-linearity of current hypermedia as if it is an unprecedented cultural phenomenon ought to recall, Tofts advises, Marcel Duchamp’s bewildering, ludic work of art, The Large Glass: The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even. Hypertext archives and libraries, he notes, are only now beginning to manifest the scope and complexity of James Joyce’s textual systems. Hypermedia, Derrida once observed, simulates ‘joyceware’, and Tofts adds that it has ‘a lot of catching up to do’. Indeed, hypermedia is a term that he considers far more descriptive of the radical artistic inventions of the modernist vanguard in the first half of the twentieth century than of our contemporary ‘interactive culture’.

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The landscape has been seen (and continues to be seen) as a potent ingredient (the most potent?) in the construction of a national myth, in the determination of an identity which we can call ‘Australian’. The question of identity is a difficult area in which to delve but it is one which has elicited much critical debate and as many views as there are voices. Lying About the Landscape is exemplary of this.

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Ours is not a visually literate culture – architects and designers are not the household names they are in countries such as Spain, nor is design understood or appreciated to any discernible degree – so it is always a particular pleasure when a publication appears that celebrates design. However, it is therefore also doubly important that such a publication should enliven or enlighten a public already so impervious to what design has to offer.

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This is nothing less than a magisterial achievement. Joan Kerr and her collaborators (some 128 women and forty-eight men) have documented ‘500 works by 500 Australian Women Artists from Colonial Times to 1955’ to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of International Women’s Year. Simultaneously with its publication exhibitions of Australian women’s art are being held at 127 venues throughout Australia. Both the book and the exhibitions are a monument to the energy, enthusiasm, and efficiency of Joan Kerr and her team of honorary fellow workers.

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Robert Juniper by Philippa O'Brien & Salvatore Zofrea by Ted Snell

by
December 1992, no. 147

Craftsman House has contributed substantially to bringing our art map up-to-date with the simultaneous publication of a West Australian and a New South Wales art history. One on the work of Robert Juniper and the other on that of Salvatore Zofrea make interesting comparison. The first presents the style· of art one might expect to ensue from that great Western expanse of desert while the other challenges such expectations as stereotyped and clichéd. Juniper set out to depict the landscape and to heroicise it, as has been our tradition; Zofrea, according to Snell, incorporates Australia in the international tradition of art history.

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