‘Brutal Truths’ presents preeminent voices in contemporary Australian art: Vernon Ah Kee, the late Gordon Bennett, and collaborative artists Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser. Grounded in debates relating to Australia’s Indigenous histories, these artists present provocations that also relate to global contexts of displacement and oppression.
The earliest works in this exhibition are by the late Gordon Bennett, who has been at the forefront of contemporary Australian art for the last three decades for his interrogations of identity, culture, history and language. Bennett’s seminal video work Performance with Object for the Expiation of Guilt (Apple Premiere Mix) from 1995 is accompanied by related objects – a suit made from painted canvas tailored to the artist’s body, a stock whip and the painted object seen in the video, also made to the artist’s dimensions.
A group of recent works in diverse media by Vernon Ah Kee includes the paintings brutalities (triptych) 2014 and the text work authorsofdevastation 2015 as well as two new drawings lynching 1 and lynching 2 2015 made in situ on raw Belgian linen.
Destiny Deacon and Virginia Fraser’s Snap out of it 2014 presents images of towering public housing flats in Melbourne covering the gallery walls. Deacon’s signature photographic vignettes with dolls and family members are placed against an environment of brutalist architecture that has become internationally synonymous with disadvantage and failed utopian ideals. The accompanying silent video is both comical yet suggestive of tension and breaking points.
The installations in ‘Brutal truths’ position these major practitioners in close proximity, allowing commonalities and divergences to emerge through images and texts that bear witness to Indigenous Australian subjectivities while also working across multiple cultural and political references.