“In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.” Sol LeWitt, Artforum, 1967
Opening in November, the National Gallery of Victoria will present Endless Present: Robert Rooney and Conceptual Art, a fascinating exhibition that features the photographs of renowned Melbourne artist Robert Rooney in the context of his collection of Australian and international conceptual art. The majority of these works have been gifted to the NGV and form the basis for this show.
Rooney’s collection includes works by key international artists of the 1960s and 1970s including Allan Kaprow, Ed Ruscha and Sol LeWitt, as well as Australian artists who exhibited in the avant-garde Melbourne gallery Pinacotheca, such as Ian Burn and Dale Hickey.
Dr Gerard Vaughan, Director, NGV said: “Mr Rooney’s generous donation has provided the NGV with a wonderful opportunity for the departments of Prints and Drawings, and Photography to curate an insightful exhibition of photographs and printed books by artists associated with conceptual art.
“As part of the NGV’s 150th birthday redevelopment project we are very pleased to be opening Endless Present as the first exhibition in the redeveloped gallery space on Level 3, NGV International, which will be dedicated to displaying works from our Prints and Drawings Collection in the future,” said Dr Vaughan.
Through photography, prints, journals, artists’ books and even personal letters, Endless Present showcases the fundamental ideas, innovative methods of display and diverse materials that were adopted by conceptual artists in the 1960s and 1970s.
Maggie Finch, Assistant Curator, Photography NGV said: “The artists in the exhibition were interested in exploring ideas and processes over aesthetics. The works on display also demonstrate the global nature of conceptual art practices during that period. The new modes of working with prints, reproductions and cheap materials meant that works were easily shared and distributed.
“The notion of ‘endless present’ refers to Rooney’s interest in repetition and routines, and his use of the camera to document personal rituals and the world around him,” said Ms Finch.
Cathy Leahy, Senior Curator Prints and Drawings, NGV said: “Rooney has been an avid collector of art and art books since his school days. He was particularly drawn to the conceptual materials coming out of America in the 1960s, acquiring the majority of these works either in the year of their creation or soon after, and at a time when few people were actively collecting such material.
“These rarely seen works offer our visitors an insight into how Rooney established his fascinating collection. We are also very privileged to be displaying several never-before-seen short films created by Rooney in the last few years that are based on his 1970s photographic works.”
Endless Present will be on display at NGV International, St Kilda Road from 12 November 2010 to 27 March 2011. Open 10am-5pm. Closed Tuesdays. Entry is free.