art + design + style + ideas + junk

Ten not-so-little Indian boys: new work by Michael Parekowhai

In exhibition, sculpture on 23 July 2009 at 5:17 pm

You see the first figure at the top of the staircase as soon you enter the gallery. In its scale and pose, it reminds you of nothing if not a glossy version of a cigar store Indian, the figure used for 300 years to advertise tobacconists. Its boyish, doll-like face, however, shows that Michael Parekowhai has dived into the childhood toybox once again and come out to play.

Parekowhai 1

Parekowhai’s exhibition at the Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is titled Seldom is Herd. There are 10 of the figures in total – like the nursery song, 10 not-so-little Indians – all called The Brothers Grimm, arranged like giant toys, solo, in pairs and trios. There are also three figures of antelope standing on giant books forming oversized bookends.

Parekowhai 2

As always with Parekowhai’s work, the surfaces are seductively glossy and highly refined, almost jokey in their simplicity. But they are packed with ambiguity, attracting us with childish glee, unsettling us with their implications.

Parekowhai 3

Parekowhai’s work often plays out aspects of indigenous identity and colonialism and its representation. Rabbits, the great introduced pest species, are common motifs. So too are the players in the best known colonial drama in Western culture, Cowboys and Indians.The work also echoes an earlier work, the security guards of his Kapa Haka (2003).

Parekowhai 4

Born in Porirua, New Zealand in 1968, Parekowhai’s Maori tribal affiliations are Nga-Ariki, Te Aitanga-a-Mahaki, Rongowhakaata. He lives in Auckland.

Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery is at 8 Soudan Lane (off Hampden Street), Paddington. The exhibition opens tonight at 6pm and runs until 15 August.

Image details, from top:

Michael Parekowhai The Brothers Grimm 2009. Automotive paint on fibreglass, 163 × 52 × 49cm.

Michael Parekowhai Seldom is Herd 2009. Installation view, Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.

Michael Parekowhai Seldom is Herd (buck and doe), 2009. Automotive paint on fibreglass, 144 × 102 × 80cm (buck), doe 115 × 110 × 80cm (doe).

Michael Parekowhai Kapa Haka 2003. Automotive paint on fibreglass, 1850 × 600 × 500cm (installation).

Michael Parekowhai The Brothers Grimm 2009. Automotive paint on fibreglass, each 163 × 52 × 49cm.

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