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Ann Stephen

Long before the era of digital media, the catalogue raisonné evolved as a virtual art museum to house the oeuvre of a single artist. Such scholarly tomes are known by the French adjective meaning a ‘reasoned’ catalogue, implying a tool for making sense. Thus by assembling each work with precise details on medium, dating, and provenance, an artist’s career can be fully understood and any attribution can be tested.

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The Art of Frank Hinder by Renee Free and John Henshaw, with Frank Hinder

November 2011, no. 336

Frank Hinder’s abstractions, light works, and kinetic art have appeared in several recent survey exhibitions and publications, arousing renewed interest in the Sydney modernist (1906–92). It is thus timely for the first Hinder monograph, written by the curator Renee Free, with a chapter by the artist and teacher John Henshaw. No revisionary account, it began decades ago as a collaboration between the authors and the artist following the retrospective on Hinder and his wife, Margel, that Free curated at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 1980. After Frank Hinder’s death, Free continued working with his family. This self-published book – accompanied by an online catalogue of works of art, compiled by Adam Free, her son – is a labour of love by both families.

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Modern Times: The untold story of modernism in Australia edited by Ann Stephen, Philip Goad and Andrew McNamara (eds)

December 2008–January 2009, no. 307

'MODERN TIMES constantly challenges the reader to consider the nature of modernity and of modernism and its structure.’ Virginia Spate’s lucid preface to the volume articulates why this handsomely illustrated and well-researched book is such a ground-breaking history of Australian modernism. It acts as a companion volume to Modernism and Australia: Documents on Art Design and Architecture 1917–1967 (2007), which was an anthology of primary source documents including diaries, letters, talks and manifestos. These revealed Australia’s engagement with international modernist trends and the role of interior and fashion design in developing modernist principles. These developments occurred despite the Australian conservative government’s opposition to them, particularly when it came to the area of fine arts practice. Modern Times is aimed at a broader readership than its predecessor and is connected with a touring exhibition on show at Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum until 15 February 2009. The book includes twenty-five articles written by academics, artists and curators from a range of different disciplines, including visual art, design, architecture, animation, fashion, popular culture, film and photography. These articles are divided into five themes that cover abstraction, the body, the city, space age, and electric signs and spectacles.

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A striking work by Adrian Feint and Hera Roberts appears on the cover of Modernism & Australia: Documents on Art, Design and Architecture 1917–1967. It shows an aeroplane, a locomotive and an ocean liner travelling in opposite directions through a vivid landscape of radiating lines and concentric circles. On the circular forms, which are reminiscent of abstract paintings by the French artist Robert Delaunay, we read the legend ‘Paris, Rome, New York, Cairo’; on the diagonal lines, ‘Hobart, Melbourne, Brisbane’. This 1928 work is typically modernist for its celebration of the exciting possibilities of modern technology, and in its use of bold colour areas and geometric shapes. It is also a declaration of a perceived, or wished-for, globalisation of culture, which Feint and Roberts, by adopting styles from international modernism, have realised in the work’s very design.

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