Cover image of the review

The Field Revisited

26 May 2018
27 Apr - 26 Aug 2018

There are perhaps three art-viewing experiences I have had that I would say changed the way I looked at and thought about art. The first was when as an undergraduate I wandered without any warning into the Colin McCahon retrospective held at the University of Sydney as part of the Sydney Biennale of 1984. The second was when, again without any warning, I stood mesmerised before the front window of an art gallery on a busy road in Brisbane staring at three Emily Kngwarreye yam paintings in 1998. And the third was when, with a day to kill before an unsuccessful job interview, I went to the Museum of Modern Art in Los Angeles and saw the great Black Paintings of Frank Stella that had once been in the collection of the Italian Count Panza.

By this time I was an art historian of sorts and had been showing Stella slides in classes on modern art for years. I thought I was familiar with them, certainly I could talk about them at tedious length to undergraduates, but nothing prepared me for actually seeing them. Of course, they’re famous for their off-kilter asymmetry, with their boxes within boxes not quite fitting in their frames, and their broadly brushed stripes of enamel paint following on from Pollock’s decision no longer to use oils and artists’ paintbrushes.

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