Cover image of the review
Installation view of the Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter exhibition in the new building at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, featuring Samara Golden 'Guts' 2022 © Samara Golden, photo © Iwan Baan

Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter

8 Apr 2023
Art Gallery of New South Wales (AGNSW) 3 Dec - 10 Sep 2023

Her eyes are closed. She leans over the table. She listens to her lover play his harmonica. Rapture remakes her features, a labour of quiet intent. On her plate, an untouched lobster. On his, a carcass. Three empty cans of Budweiser. The sum of her efforts reversed in a few stray gestures, the one-sided calculus of heterosexual relationships. Two people share one table. But their realities diverge.

Windows, doors, tables. The elements of a house offer easy metaphors for connection. They bridge the inside and outside. They bring loved ones together. But Carrie Mae Weems’s legendary Kitchen Table Series, from the 1990s, is a lesson in domestic discord. The woman and her partner remain sealed in their private bubbles of experience, even as they come together over the dinner she’s lovingly prepared.

Untitled (Playing Harmonica) (1990) unfolds against a wall in Dreamhome: Stories of Art and Shelter. This exhibition—timed to coincide with the opening of Sydney Modern, the Art Gallery of New South Wales’s new $344 million expansion—features twenty-nine international and local artists whose work speaks of “home.” It’s an age-old signifier that’s become more fraught, more loaded, as crises—political, ecological, economic—splinter our sense of psychological safety. What “story” is - Weems telling? One in which home is contingent on compromise? Or—like the woman in Weems’s photograph who reserves her attention for her partner at the expense of her own sustenance—whatever stream of tiny indignities you are willing to endure?

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