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Gordon Bennett

 
 
   

“Gordon Bennett is Australia’s most recognised postcolonial Aboriginal painter. While he has always resisted the cult of Aboriginality (to the extent of refusing to identify his art as Aboriginal or himself as an Aboriginal painter), critics generally considered this a deconstructive tactic by which Bennett could further interrogate the politics of Aboriginality and identity...“

(excerpt from Gordon Bennett's abstract art: the aesthetics of commitment and indifference by Ian McLean, 2004)

 
   
Works chronology  
   
notes to basquiat newwork2004 johncitizen newwork2008  
     
Essays  
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The restless cosmopolitan by Ian McLean, 2008
 

Gordon Bennett always tells a good story, and a major attraction of his work is its narrative structure. Not any more. His recent abstract paintings forsake the discursive qualities upon which he built a very successful career. Bennett has a history of abandoning successful modes for new ones, but nothing in his oeuvre matches the audaciousness of this turn. Be it radical, risky or simply foolish, what other artist in his position would (or could) make such a wild move?

Bennett’s previous work may have shown an intense interest in abstract art (particularly the art of Pollock, Malevich and Mondrian) but it was always discursively referenced in elaborate postcolonial allegories that were implicitly cynical of abstract art’s esoteric claims. However his recent paintings, which primarily quote the early work of the American minimalist Frank Stella, have no obvious narrative, postcolonial deconstruction, or even parody. Instead he seemingly pays homage to Stella and, ipso facto, the creed of abstraction. In the context of his earlier work, it is not at all obvious what Bennett is doing or intending.

By his own admission Bennett had exhausted his previous Basquiat theme, and was also exhausted by the intensity of his discursive mode. Hence I initially expected the abstract work to be a temporary therapeutic hiatus before some new onslaught. However this has proved to not be the case. Bennett has tackled this new direction in his art with his usual diligence and perseverance. He has been making abstract paintings for five years (as long as the Notes to Basquiat series).

In one sense all art is abstract, and Bennett’s graphic dexterity (evident since he was a student) reveals his understanding of this. However the abstract series have developed into a real commitment to the purely aesthetic pleasures of art, as well as to that 1960s dictum that less is more. Bennett reduces the graphic and compositional complexities of his previous work to relatively simple arrangements of form and colour. This is not familiar territory for Bennett. Despite his previous works being in a fundamental sense about various lacks, their narrative content was invariably in excess.

However the abstract works do not seem to me to be about returning to a more simple way of doing things or of getting back to some core or essential truth. Bennett’s use of Stella’s art as a starting point signals this, for Stella jettisoned the metaphysical pursuits of the previous generation (such as Pollock and Rothko) for a more upfront phenomenological world—which is why minimalism developed into an art of surface appearances rather than invisible and unfathomable emotion, concealed meaning or spiritual longing. But nor does Bennett exactly follow this minimalist credo of ‘what you see is what you get’. The metallic gold and c opper underpainting and the quivering way the stripes hold onto the surface (upon which, to me, depends the success of these works) suggest a haunting, a ghostly edgy presence —though it is not a presence that Bennett articulates or names (or un-names) as he did in his earlier work.

If the abstract paintings can be said to be about anything, it is Bennett’s faith in the power of art. Or more pointedly, he might be testing this faith at a time when there seems little evidence to believe in art anymore. Is Bennett then searching for that purported originary power of the raw aesthetic moment Kant described and analysed? At a recent address at Mumbai, Thierry de Duve proposed the new relevance (in the emerging glocalised world) of Kant’s argument that the aesthetic faculty bridges the singularity and differences of individual feelings * For all the apparent pessimism and resentment of Bennett’s earlier art, its very address or appeal to our (universal) humanity (‘you ought to feel the way I feel’) was imagined in Kantian terms as a platform upon which a sensus communis might productively work with these differences. Now, in the abstract works, this essentially Kantian dream is more patently laid bare, or perhaps more accurately, tested.

The first time this Kantian (or de Duvian) moment occurred in a very real sense in Australia was in the 1970s when Aboriginal artists based at Papunya made a deliberate appeal to the outside world through a purposeful erasure of their familiar iconography, laying bare an aesthetic rawness and intensity rarely seen in Australia or elsewhere. Interestingly— and perhaps this is one reason why Bennett turns to Stella— the Australian artworld interpreted Papunya paintings through the tropes of minimalism. But if in their evacuation of meaning American minimalists like Stella made artworks in which there was nothing left to reveal (‘no secrets worth keeping’), the evacuations of the Papunya minimalists were acts of concealment or even deliberate repression that increased the haunting presence of what had been erased.

If the haunting quality of Bennett’s abstract paintings follows the example of Papunya rather than Stella’s minimalism, Stella is patently on Bennett’s mind. He quotes Stella’s work with the same direct and brash appropriation-like manner of his earlier art . Perhaps, then,
Bennett’s doppelgangers of Stella’s work, like the Japanese artist Ushio Shinohara’s 1964 imitation of Rauschenberg’s Coca Cola Plan, are attempts to imagine modernism and its legacy beyond the confines of an exclusive Western system.

It might be that Bennett’s project since he graduated from art school nearly twenty years ago was less a concerted debate with Australian history and its absent Aboriginal voices and more a searching for a way out of the historicism and Eurocentrism of the whole twentieth-century modernist project and its postmodernist endgames. This, at least, explains the constant shifts in mode and motif in Bennett’s work. He shows no loyalty to any particular aesthetic genealogy, as for example Juan Davila does to surrealism and Imants Tillers does to post-conceptual appropriation. This restless cosmopolitanism (of Bennett) is symptomatic of contemporary art since its globalisation in the 1990s, and signals the necessity to re-think the restricted Eurocentric commitments of twentieth-century Western art (including its primitivisms), be they modernist or postmodernist.

Ian McLean

* Thierry de Duve, ‘The Glocal and the Singuniversal Reflections on Art and Culture in the Global World’, Third Text, 21, 6, 2007, pp. 681-688.

 
 
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Who is John Citizen? by Ian McLean, 2006
 

''It’s all me. Nothing is me.' (Philip Roth 1)

Like the Jewish-American author Philip Roth, Gordon Bennett’s art is at once intensely autobiographical and self-effacing. Each plays with the rhetoric of identity precisely to deny the identity game any oxygen or legitimacy as if nothing is more boring (or dangerous) than its heavy-handed politics. Roth denies he is a Jewish writer: Bennett denies he is an Aboriginal artist: for both their art is a means to escape the reductive logic of identity politics by showing its essentialisms to be discursive fictions or, as Bennett once said, a 'hall of mirrors'.

In line with this strategy Bennett has continuously shifted his style, not only to avoid being typecast (though as all successful mid-career artists know this is impossible) but also to make the point that he is, before anything else, an artist, a performer. We don’t confuse an actor with the role he plays, so too we should not confuse the artist with the persona projected in his art. In short, art is a type of disguise, mask or mirror rather than a window onto the soul, but a disguise by which the artist can be something more than himself, and a mirror that reflects back to the audience their own selves and the world they live in. 'Gordon Bennett' did this masterfully, but the danger of too good a performance is that it is mistaken for reality itself. As if to drive this point home, Bennett has invented a new artistic persona, John Citizen.

John Citizen is not an identity (his anonymity is particularly ego-less), nor even an alter ego with all its psychological connotations, but transparently a type of disguise. Perhaps the main point of John Citizen is that in recognising his disguise, we must also accept that ‘Gordon Bennett’ is one too. But John Citizen also has his own play to stage.

John Citizen’s first work, 'Skin Deep', mimicked Gordon Bennett’s art. Made in September 1995, it appropriated the welt paintings – amongst the most violent works Gordon Bennett made. But as with all good mimicry John Citizen’s was notably different. Instead of raw red whip marks on a black skin of Pollock-like lesions, John Citizen used a smoothly applied 'skin tone' (i.e. pink) producing a more luxurious and even seductive effect. They are distinctly postmodern rather than postcolonial.

Bennett staged 'Gordon Bennett' as a postcolonial artist, but John Citizen is an artist for our times: he reflects back to us citizens the white Australia of the post-Keating era. If Gordon Bennett is a history painter, John Citizen paints science fiction, which is a subset of the utopia genre. Utopias are generally thinly disguised critiques of contemporary society. However John Citizen, an altogether more relaxed persona than Gordon Bennett, keeps his cards quite hidden. Without Gordon Bennett’s biting satire, John Citizen’s sardonic humour might easily be missed.

In the recent Interiors series (shown in this exhibition) John Citizen has become his own artist as if he no longer needs the inspiration of Gordon Bennett. Gordon Bennett has made paintings of the Interior but their deconstructions of the myths of Australia’s colonial history were altogether different. The interior, a metaphor for both John Citizen and Gordon Bennett of Plato’s cave and other myths of the psyche, is the proverbial stage of identity. However John Citizen’s contemporary Interiors with monochrome paintings have completely foreclosed on Gordon Bennett’s maps of contested colonial identities. Made in the image of modernist utopias – postmodern versions of Corbusier and Bauhaus - they are the Ikeas of the mind in which humans have seemingly evolved to some higher post-historical plane and where the beautiful is a smart mathematical ratio rather than in nature and the sublime emotions of human passions. So too the monochrome paintings, like the modern furniture and slick tones of these placeless rooms they decorate, have lost the mystical aura modernist artists and theorists once invested in them. It is as if the theoretical progenitor of the monochrome, Clement Greenberg, stands naked, his turmoils and commitments left behind leaving only the flatlands of postmodern desire.

These halls of mirrors reflect nothing but their own timeless glassy surface. Futures without history, they have nothing to apologise for. John Citizen might picture the poverty of the future we are making for ourselves, but he also reminds us that this Dreaming is only a hall of mirrors.

NOTE: the title is taken from a quote by Philip Roth (Weekend Australian, 11-12.02.06, R4)

1 From a quote by Philip Roth (Weekend Australian, 11-12.02.06, R4)

 
 
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Gordon Bennett's abstract art: the aesthetics of commitment and indifference by Ian McLean, 2004
 

Gordon Bennett is Australia’s most recognised postcolonial Aboriginal painter. While he has always resisted the cult of Aboriginality (to the extent of refusing to identify his art as Aboriginal or himself as an Aboriginal painter), critics generally considered this a deconstructive tactic by which Bennett could further interrogate the politics of Aboriginality and identity. Paradoxically the more he distanced himself from Aboriginality the more Aboriginal his art seemed. This is because Bennett built his career and reputation on politically motivated artworks that directly called into question the viewer’s own attitudes through images that effectively expressed his moral indignation at the injustices of colonialism in Australia and the catastrophic effects of its racism and ideological war on Indigenous culture and lives.

Despite the emotional impact of his work, Bennett’s art is intellectually based: it is well researched, consists of complexly layered references, and appeals to the viewer’s intelligence. In short, Bennett was not intending to be judgemental, but to provide a space of judgement in which the viewer’s own intelligence made the calls. However many viewers feel that Bennett’s art tugs too hard at their conscience, or forces their judgement. This is mainly due to the ethical nature of Bennett’s aesthetics. Like many political artists, Bennett not only appeals to the viewer’s ethical commitments, but his own ethical commitments are all too obvious and guaranteed his work an authenticity of vision. As such his art quickly became exemplary of the late-twentieth century turn towards an ethical art and away from the empty formalism (or apparent moral bankruptcy) of late-modernism and the equally empty language games of postmodernism. An aesthetic of commitment replaced what Moira Roth called an ‘aesthetics of indifference. 1 Why then has Bennett, in these recent abstract paintings, suddenly turned back to what seems like a postmodernist pastiche of late-modernist formalism? Has he succumbed to globalism’s indifference to local differences? Has there been a radical discontinuity in his work, a complete break from his previous art to a new post-Aboriginal way of seeing the world?

While Bennett’s new abstract paintings might at first seem just another gambit by him in a career which has seen many twists and turns, none to date have been so radical and unexpected as this. The Notes to Basquiat paintings, which he has been working on for most of the previous five years or more (and longer than any other series), were the first to turn away from local issues of Aboriginal and Australian history. The turn was not sudden, and at the time hardly registered as a significant shift. His style of layered appropriated images drawn from media and art remained much the same; only his subject matter changed. At first he addressed issues of race and identity through an exchange with mainly African-American discourses. However in the previous few years his subject matter veered further away from local issues including (it seemed) the specific issues of race and identity that have galvanised notions of Aboriginality. Instead he addressed international terrorism and the war in Iraq. Bennett’s aim, it would seem, is to escape his Aboriginalisation by shifting his imagery to a more obvious international arena. The current abstract paintings would then be a culmination of this desire. If issues of race, identity, colonialism and even Australian colonialism could still be indirectly read into his paintings of the previous few years, this is not the case with these abstract paintings. Even his characteristic wordy titles in which his commitment was plainly if ironically displayed, have been reduced to just anonymous numbers. If this is a ploy to escape his Aboriginalisation, it would seem a desperate and extreme one, for Bennett has exchanged an aesthetics of commitment for one of indifference.

Moira argued that the ‘aesthetics of indifference’, particularly evident in US art since the 1950s, was a symptom of the ascendancy of the Right in Cold War US politics, just as the Leftist and anti-Fascist politics of the 1930s and 40s produced an art of commitment. While the end of the Cold War has further entrenched the Right, at the same time it created a new politics in which the old antagonism between Left and Right receded and a new space was opened especially for Third World and Indigenous cultures. This provided the opportunity for the ethical turn of postcolonial art. Bennett’s art developed in Australia at this time, and within a politics of reconciliation. With the defeat of the Labour party in the mid-1990s a new conservatism hostile to reconciliation quickly embedded itself in Australian politics. Bennett’s new aesthetics of indifference may be seen as symptomatic of this, and of Bennett’s own sense of impotence before a government indifferent to the suffering of others.

However, this reading of discontinuity, desperation and defeat is too neat an explanation of Bennett’s abstract paintings. Despite the obvious shift that has occurred in his work, there are also striking similarities between the abstract paintings and the figurative allegories that preceded them. The first point to note is that these abstract paintings are also appropriations: appropriations of last-modernist 1960s American abstraction. If this might to some extent confirm Moira’s argument, throughout his career Bennett has had a continuing fascination with modernist abstraction – from Malevich and Mondrian, to Pollock and Lichtenstein. Hence Bennett’s move towards abstraction is not new and nor should it necessarily be interpreted as an indifference to his earlier commitments. He has long sought relationships between modernist abstraction and issues of colonialism and Aboriginalism.

Bennett’s long interest in the connections between modernist abstraction and Aboriginality is not just the deconstructionist one of giving voice to what is othered by modernity. It is also a personal project of escaping an identity politics which paradoxically dispossess a people (including himself) by Aboriginalising them. As mentioned earlier, this paradox has always been at the heart of Bennett’s art as he sought to escape the very Aboriginalisation that has been the source of his success. In this respect, these latest paintings acknowledge the failure of his escape. However it would be too narrow a reading to see them as a last ditch attempt at such an escape. More likely they acknowledge the impossibility of escape, and affirm that this impossibility has always been the central motive of his work.

Many years ago Bennett confessed to me that he had always wanted to be an abstract painter but that images uncontrollably burst onto his canvasses. Like the demons and monsters that supposedly hide just below the surface of Pollock’s abstract paintings, the apparent formalism of Bennett’s recent works only barely hides the tortured pre-history of their making. Nevertheless, despite certain continuities with his earlier work, these recent paintings demand new readings. Stripped of what Clement Greenberg called literary associations, they ask to be read as art rather than discursively; and equally, the maker of these paintings demands to be acknowledged as an artist not an Aboriginal spokesperson. Thus Bennett may not have escaped his destiny, but he has sought a way to live with good conscience – or, if you like, being (and being judged for) what he is, an artist.

The abstract series is, then, essentially ethical in intent. Its ethics however is quite different to the ethical turn of postcolonial art. Indeed, Bennett’s new ethics implicitly rejects this ethical turn; he turns away from issues of social and political justice and towards the Kantian ideal which Greenberg championed in his defence of abstraction. Here art, or more accurately aesthetics, is itself the ground of ethics or the good. Judgement, reduced to a purely aesthetic dimension, had to be indifferent or unprejudiced. Like the scientist weighing up experimental observations, the artist also must keep his or her cool. Hence political commitment, once the measure of ethics, was now a symptom of its corruption.

While Roth was writing about art practices that Greenberg deplored - the legacy of Duchamp in the ultra-cool performance and art of Cage, Cunningham and Johns in the 1950s, and minimalism and pop in the 1960s – this legacy owed more to Greenberg than it cared to admit, for formalism is surely the quintessential aesthetic of indifference that frames this period. However Greenberg was not the first to develop an aesthetic of indifference – after all, indifference rather than commitment is a key Kantian concept. Baudelaire, Manet and various Symbolist poets and painters also made it an essential component of early modernism. This Kantian current, at odds with the general Western philosophical tradition that grounds ethics in its relative social and political applications, has been influential on modernism and also contemporary poststructuralist discussions of the ethical. 2

Arguably this Kantian current in twentieth century art is a displaced spiritualism. Greenberg, who warned against spiritualism and metaphysics, 3 nevertheless described the ethos of abstract art in spiritual metaphors as ‘a search of the absolute’.

The avant-garde artist tries in effect to imitate God by creating something valid solely in its own terms, in the way nature itself is valid, in the way a landscape – not a picture – is aesthetically valid; something given, increate, independent of meanings, similars or originals.

While Greenberg secularised this ‘search of the absolute’ by locating it in the material processes of art, these processes assumed a transcendental quality. ‘Content was dissolved so completely into form that the work of art’ was irreducible ‘in whole or part to anything not itself.’ 4 For Greenberg this was most unequivocal in the work of Pollock, which ‘has gone beyond the stage where he needs to make his poetry explicit in ideographs. What he invents instead has perhaps, in its very abstractness and absence of assignable definition, a more reverberating meaning.’ 5 For Greenberg this ‘reverberating’ meaning, felt sensuously in the aesthetic revelation of form, remains as an essential residue of art that will keep ‘culture moving in the midst of ideological confusion and violence’. 6

Bennett may see his task after nearly ten years of conservative government as something similar. However the aesthetics of indifference is not necessarily without commitment. Greenberg not only developed his aesthetics from within a commitment to Leftist politics, but he championed a generation of abstract expressionist artists who were likewise committed to social justice. While derived from late-modernist hardedge and minimalist paintings that eschewed the commitments of abstract expressionism, the texture of Bennett’s abstract paintings looks more like the latter (more like the committed Barnett Newman than the indifferent Frank Stella, even though Stella is Bennett’s source). Bennett’s art has long combined the postmodernist aesthetic of indifference with the committed art of expressionist artists he admires from Van Gogh to Pollock and Basquiat. Aboriginal western desert painters also (seemingly) paint between and across the once antagonistic stylistic conventions of late modernist abstraction and abstract expressionism. An example that Bennett’s abstract paintings seem particularly close to is Emily Kngwarreye’s stripe paintings of the mid-1990s. This is probably why Bennett’s post-Aboriginal abstract paintings look more like traditional Aboriginal art (be it acrylic paintings or carved patterns on shields) than anything he has made before. Even abstract art, it seems, will not save Bennett from being tagged Aboriginal. It is too early to tell where Bennett will go with his new abstract paintings, but like Greenberg (though from a different perspective and history), Bennett’s shift towards abstraction is made with the impossible ambition of retaining his former commitment within an aesthetics of indifference that would guarantee his own ethical integrity as an artist in the midst of the ideological confusion and violence of contemporary politics.

1 Many thanks to Sue Best for letting me read her unpublished essay ‘Mild Intoxication and Other Aesthetic Feelings: Psychoanalysis and Art Revisited’.

2 Moira Roth, ‘Aesthetic of Indifference’, Art Forum, 16,3 (November 1977), pp. 46-53.

3 See Simon Critchley, The Ethics of Deconstruction, Blackwell, Oxford, 1993; Ethics Politics Subjectivity, Verso, London, 1999

4 See Greenberg, ‘Orbituary of Mondrian’, Clement Greenberg the collected essays and criticism, Volume 1, ed John O’Brian, University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1986, pp 188.

5 Greenberg, ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’, Collected Essays, Vol 1, p. 8.

6 Greenberg, Review of Exhibitions of Jean Dubuffet and Jackson Pollock, Collected Essays, Vol. 2, 1886, p. 125.

7 Greenberg, ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’, p. 8.

 
 
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Urban Renewal: Gordon Bennett's Notes to Basquiat (911) by Greg Dimitriadis & Cameron McCarthy, 2002
 

The scale of the attack was mind boggling--cinematic references most often come to mind. The initial reports of those dead and missing were beyond imagination. Lower Manhattan became--within 20 minutes--a virtual war zone. Some believed, at least initially, that only a nuclear bomb could have caused such devastation. Soon, we learned, the weapons had been culled largely from the everyday--a handful of box cutters, a few commercial flights, men transforming their bodies into the faggots and purified fuel igniting the purgatorial flames. Soon, the mail, crop dusters, tap water, were all pregnant with devastating possibility. The world, or at least our corner of it, would never be the same again. The "there" had finally come "here" for Americans everywhere--the postcolonial condition tout court.

Indeed, to live in the postcolonial moment, the postcolonial condition, is to encounter a world constantly emerging, a world that demands we engage with difference in all its complexity always. It is a world, to echo Stuart Hall, with no guarantees of any sort. The line between oppressors and oppressed--between colonizers and colonized--between the "here" and "there"--is always open to negotiation and re-negotiation. It is a world that often exceeds our ability to contain it through language and discourse. It is a world, we have argued, best anticipated through the work of postcolonial artists--work replete with ambiguity, indeterminacy, contingency, possibility, warning.

Gordon Bennett's new series Notes to Basquiat: 911 emerges as a vital and timely intervention here. Just three months after the attack, Bennett has offered up a fully elaborated visual terrain for thinking through a trauma that still seems largely beyond narrative closure. In this stunning series of paintings, Bennett wrestles once again with the work of the late New York City artist, Jean Michel Basquiat. Basquiat, of course, prosecuted a vision of the urban that was hybrid and poly-vocal, that cut across high and low culture as well as imagined and interrogated ethnic and racial boundaries of all sorts. It is a vision that Bennett has struggled with over the last several years as he has struggled with his own multiple cultural inheritances in contemporary Australia. The project, however, has taken on renewed urgency today, as the lived and imaginary space of New York City has been dealt such an unimaginable blow. Bravely taking on the task of "urban renewal", Bennett offers up a space of thoughtful deliberation in the series Notes to Basquiat: 911--a new angle of vision on Ground Zero--a deceptively slight shift in perspective that makes all the difference in the world.

Perhaps expectedly, planes and buildings are ever-present in these paintings. Throughout the collection, Bennett reworks an untitled 1982 painting by Basquiat which features a small plane hung mid-flight between two city buildings. Bennett takes these sparse images and multiplies, crowds, and intensifies them. Planes move in several different directions at once. City buildings of different shapes and sizes proliferate. Post 9-11, the effect is disquieting. The constant motion of contemporary urban centers, the social transactions which mark our postcolonial moment, now evoke terrifying vulnerability as much as possibility. This seems a permanent tension of our moment, this "age of globalization."

Other familiar images pepper these new paintings. We are struck, for example, by the extensive use of Basquiat's crown icon in these new works. In addition to its playful, self-referential dimension, the icon was often used by Basquiat to crown his personal heroes as in Jack Johnson (1982), Untitled (Sugar Ray Robinson) (1982), and CPRKP (1982) (i.e., Charlie Parker). Bennett uses the icon freely throughout these new paintings, though it now has far more haunting resonance as in Notes to Basquiat (City) (2001) and Notes to Basquiat (Jackson Pollock and his Other) (2001). We call particular attention to the painting Notes to Basquiat (911), which features both a crowned plane and a crowned Statue of Liberty. Does the crown symbolize Western imperialism? Or despotic theocrats, intent on spreading their own brand of religious intolerance? Where are our heroes now? It is a time, it seems, when all such claims are called into question.

Islamic text marks all these paintings. The process of rewriting and redirecting orientalism also puts the West on trial in its most global of cities--New York. Perhaps most notably, in Notes to Basquiat (TV News Presenter) (2001) and Notes to Basquiat (City) (2001), distinctive Arabic text appears to swirl across the skyline like fire. Baroque and evocative, this text translates as "In the name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful." It is said, we are told, by Muslims before any good deed. We are reminded here of the ideological disconnects which seem so much a part of our contemporary moment. The underside of a dynamically interdependent world is our profound sense of loss of control over ancestral markers of place and origins and a contingent struggle for meaning, identity, and affiliation. Indeed, while global flows of people, images, and technologies have drawn together heretofore far flung parts of the globe, difference has multiplied and intensified in stark and unforgiving ways. One person's good deed is also the next person's atrocity today. These differences are scripted across these paintings, as they are now scripted across the landscape of lower Manhattan.

We note, finally, the skeletal and anatomical images that so mark the work of Basquiat, in paintings such as Carbon Dating Systems Verses Scratchproof Tape (1982), Hand Anatomy (1982), and The Dutch Settlers (1982). While Bennett reworked these images into powerful commentaries on identity in earlier paintings such as Notes to Basquiat (Family) (1999) and Notes to Basquiat (Culture Bag) (1999), body parts now crowd the streets of lower New York in far more literal ways. In new paintings such as Notes to Basquiat (TV News Presenter) (2001) and Notes to Basquiat (Mirror) (2001), Bennett re-engages with this material, taking us beyond narrative verisimilitude to new, uncharted spaces.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the painting Notes to Basquiat (911), from which this exhibit takes its title. Here, Bennett takes Basquiat's clinical, disembodied hand from Hand Anatomy (1982)--an image he used earlier in Notes to Basquiat: Hand of God (1999)--and places it in the middle of the World Trade Center wreckage. The image evokes both death and life--devastation and creation--ends and beginnings. We recall a similar image from Basquiat's triptych Charles the First (1982)--the left hand of bebop giant Charlie Parker. Indeed, like Parker and Basquiat before him, Bennett has taken familiar material and improvised off it, stubbornly re-imagining and re-visioning the world around him in particular, thoughtful, and complex ways.

This is a desperately needed ethic today, as we face a world marked by cultural encounters, replete with both danger and possibility. Bennett offers us a model for productive dialogue here, one that speaks to the best impulses of contemporary cultural transactions, and foregrounds the critical interpretive role of aesthetics in understanding modern life. Bennett, an Australian artist with a complex European and Indigenous Australian cultural inheritance, has given us--American citizens, one of whom grew up in Barbados, one of whom grew up in New York City--a way to think through this moment in ways more powerful than we had heretofore encountered. Bennett, for us, has risen to the complex challenges of our moment, re-imagining the role of the artist--also now pedagogue, also now reporter, also now witness--in vitally important and necessary ways.

Greg Dimitriadis / Cameron McCarthy, 2002

Urban Renewal: Gordon Bennett's Notes to Basquiat (911)
Greg Dimitriadis
University at Buffalo, The State University of New York
Cameron McCarthy
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

 
 
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911 (with Apologies to Walter Benjamin) by Ian McLean, 2002
 

Gordon Bennett’s more recent dialogues with Jean-Michel Basquiat’s paintings return to a theme that preoccupied him when a student: the frenetic alienation of inner city life. Except now the city is New York. The imaginative migration to New York via Basquiat might seem an unlikely destination for an artist long concerned with the impact of colonialism in Australia. However New York is a powerful emblem of the colonial era, especially to someone like Bennett who has always been alert to its global reach, its ambiguous transcultural forms, and its continuing hold over our lives. Supposedly bartered in 1626 by Dutch colonists from its Algonquian custodians for a few glassy trinkets, Manhattan Island is now a restless metropolis and gateway to the future. However the ever new of New York is symptomatic of its colonial origins. Not York, but New York; its very name bears the insignia of New World colonial cultures and their modernity, and of the New World Order we are now racing towards. Once a colonial outpost, now New York is the financial centre of a global economy. But more than this, it is the centre of a symbolic order that beguiles us all. It is ‘Gotham City’, the ‘Babylon’ of our times.

Bennett pictures New York on September 11, 2001, as if that catastrophic blast was a reverberating echo of a long and explosive history. The fiery tower collapses into the apocalyptic ruins of signs and Gothic apparitions, a new pop-icon in the acid graffiti of Bennett’s staccato designs. Here New York is a symbolic site rather than an actual place, a post-human Babel blindly speeding on from the present to the amnesiac allure of futurity. The past, unrecognised, is forgotten. But Bennett, uneasy citizen of Babylon, cannot forget. Flashbacks and visions of ghostly encounters explode across his canvases.

Basquiat and Bennett share a deeply ironic wit. However, Bennett’s paintings are darker and more Dostoevskian in mood. In Notes to Basquiat (Big Shoes), a young woman in big shoes, an image drawn from Basquiat’s painting Big Shoes (1983), stands bewildered in the mayhem: innocence betrayed. Or is she a native American warrior, perhaps one of those who bartered with the Dutch colonists so long ago, uncannily catapulted into Ground Zero on that dreadful day? Her body, drawn in a hybrid Basquiat-Oenpelli x-ray style, is pinned to a Malevich cross on a grided matrix. Transfixed in the whirlwind of history, New York is her new Golgotha. With eyes and mouth wide open in horror, her face turns inexorably towards the past. Where we perceive a chain of events, she sees one single catastrophe that keeps piling wreckage upon wreckage, and hurling it in front of her feet. She would like to stay, awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed. But a storm blowing from Paradise irresistibly propels her into the future to which her back is turned, while the pile of rubble before her grows skyward.

Like this Byzantine Christ figure, Bennett’s remembrance is not nostalgic or regretful. Rather it scorches him as if the furnace of an unending terror from which he hopes to forge some fleeting freedom. Even if the past is a paradise, it can not be recovered. Time is irreversible. The past can only be an imaginary site of resistance (or affirmation) to the present. If colonialism is a poison that terrorises all that stand in its way, its effects are the only hope of cure. Both poison and cure are inseparably lodged in the same transcultural chemistry of colonial cultures, especially in its more virulent modernist forms. Like a new second nature, they have erased all memories of the natural world that nurtured Indigenous cultures. Bennett works in the tracks of these erasures. By overlaying modernist styles with images drawn from colonialist discourses, Bennett’s art acknowledges the terrible complicity of modernism and colonialism. However, at the same time he makes good use of this complicity as a partial cure. Constantly working in and between modernist discourses, he re-fashions their signs into a liberating pidgin. Throughout his career Bennett has especially looked to those artists who best witnessed the world in which he lived, and transformed the signifying power of their art into pathways to a new way of being. This is particularly the case in his dialogue with Basquiat. Basquiat’s hybrid aesthetic, like the Afro-American music that Bennett also enjoys, is a street-wise way of living in Babylon. It offers a way out of the colonialist legacy of slavery and racism without forgetting the ways it still poisons US society. Bennett enjoys conversing with Basquiat because, like a shaman, his rap Creole beats out a liberating discourse.

If Bennett has, in the Notes to Basquiat series, shown a greater interest in the therapeutic potential of transcultural texts, he never lets us forget their poisonous origins. His paintings are not utopian pictures. Yet their beguiling melancholic mix of memory and pain promises a knowing freedom that might just count as redemption. In this respect his paintings recall the presence and power of so much art that has come out of New York, from jazz and rap to Pollock and graffiti – all of which resonate in Basquiat’s paintings.

If, for many, a taboo was transgressed and a dream shattered on September 11, for Bennett the past again brightly flashed by. His pictures are not wise reassuring messages from some reflective sage contemplating the sins of the world. Like a graffiti artist hurrying at night, Bennett has to get it down. But also like a graffiti artist, he ‘writes' 1 in a deliberate assured way that, no matter how esoteric, can be read. However his hermeneutics is never closed; it is a matrix of signs on which we must write our own interpretations. Who is Big Shoes and what does she see? Which dead are stirring? Who is the large pink ghoulish face speaking with forked tongue? Can we trust its written signs - one of the ninety-nine names of Allah, al-Muzellu (the humiliator), and the background Shamsa pattern that often adorns the inside cover of the Koran? Is this another deceit of the great colonial city that, this time, blasphemes the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)? Or is it the angel of history; or the artist himself speaking with forked tongue? Even the dead, the demonic face seems to warn, will not be safe from the enemy.

Ian McLean, School of Architecture and Fine Art, University of Western Australia

 
 
 
 
 
 
[essays should not be reproduced without permission from the authors]
 
 
   
 
 
BIOGRAPHY
1955
Born Monto, Queensland, lives and works in Brisbane
Gordon Bennett
1986-88
Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts), Queensland College of Art, Brisbane
1991
Winner of the Moët & Chandon Australian Art Fellowship
1993
Artist in Residence, University of Melbourne, MacGeorge Fellowship
1994

Winner of the Contemporary Art Excellence Award, Nudgee College, Brisbane

1995 Australian Network for Art and Technology Summer School, Brisbane
Winner of the Pine Rivers Art Prize
Winner of the Logan City Painting Prize
1996 Anniversary Creative Arts Fellow, Australian National University, Canberra
1997 SCEGGS Redlands/ Westpac Art Award, Sydney
John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria
1998 Winner of the Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award, Grafton Regional Gallery
 
SOLO EXHIBITIONS
2008 Gordon Bennett, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2007 Gordon Bennett Survey, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Queensland Art Gallery / Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Gordon Bennett, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Gordon Bennett, Bellas Milani Gallery, Brisbane
The Expiation of Guilt, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
2006 Gordon Bennett, Prints, Bellas/Milani Gallery, Brisbane
Gordon Bennett, New Work, Sherman Galleries, Sydney
John Citizen, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
2005 Gordon Bennett, New Work, Bellas/Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2004 Gordon Bennett, New Work, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
Gordon Bennett, New Work, Melbourne Art Fair, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Out of Print, Dell Gallery, Queensland College of Art Gallery travelling exhibition, Brisbane
Gordon Bennett, New Work, Bellas/Milani Gallery, Brisbane
2003 Gordon Bennett, New works on paper, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
White Paintings, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Figure/Ground (Zero), Sherman Galleries, Sydney
2002 Notes to Basquiat: 9 11, Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide
Notes to Basquiat: 9 11 (Part II), Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Notes to Basquiat: 9 11 (Part III), Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
2001 Notes to Basquiat: The Reverb, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Notes to Basquiat: The Reverb, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Notes to Basquiat: Modern Art, Sherman Gallery, Sydney
John Citizen: Coloured People, Sherman Gallery, Sydney
Contemporary Australian Art From the Paul Eliadis Collection, University of Queensland Art Museum
2000

Notes to Basquiat (Samo) Another Millennium, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
John Citizen: Coloured People, Sutton Gallery Melbourne

1999-2000 History and Memory in the Art of Gordon Bennett, Brisbane City Gallery, Brisbane; Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK; Arnolfini, Bristol, UK; Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, Oslo, Norway
1999 Gordon Bennett, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Notes to Basquiat: One Tense Moment, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Notes to Basquiat: One Tense Moment (episode two), Sherman Galleries, Sydney
1998 Home Decor (Calculus), Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Gordon Bennett, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Notes to Basquiat, Gramercy International Art Fair, New York, USA
1997 Home Decor (Algebra), Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
John Citizen: Flatland, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Preston + De Stijl = Citizen (Cold Comfort), Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
John Citizen: Sacred Cows, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
1996 Mirror Mirror: The Narcissism of Coloniality, Canberra School of Art Gallery, Canberra
Australiana, Art for the Bridge, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
John Citizen: Sacred Cows, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Home Decor (after Margaret Preston), Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
1995 John Citizen: Works on paper, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
BLACK: Fear of Shadows, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Performance with Object for the Expiation of Guilt: Apple Premiere Mix, Noosa
Regional Gallery, Noosa
1994 Mirror Mirror (The Inland Sea), Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Surface Veil, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Dismember/Remember, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
How to Cross the Void - works on paper, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Present Wall, installation, Institute Building, Adelaide
Performance with Object for the Expiation of Guilt, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
D.U.H! (Down Under Homi), Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
1993 A Black History, Sutton Gallery, Melbourne
Painting History, Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide
Painting History, The Drill Hall, Canberra
Mirrorama, Ian Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
How to Cross the Void, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
1992 The Colour Black and Other Histories, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Relative/Absolute, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
1991 Gordon Bennett, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Dialogues with Self, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
1990 Psycho(d)rama, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
1989 Gordon Bennett, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
 
SELECTED GROUP EXHIBITIONS
2008 Biennale of Sydney, Revolutions - Forms that Turn, Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney
Lines in the Sand: Botany Bay Stories from 1770, Hazelhurst Regional Art Gallery
The Pine Rivers Art Award Winner's Retrospective 1993-2007, Pine Rivers Regional Art Gallery
2007 Artist Makes Video: Art Rage Survey 1994-1998, Dell Gallery @ QCA, Brisbane
Eye to I, Ballarat Fine Art Gallery, Ballarat
2006

Queensland Live! Contemporary Art on Tour, Queensland Art Gallery Touring Exhibition, Brisbane Photographic Portrait Prize, Art Gallery New South Wales, Sydney
Bangu Yilbara: Works from the MCA Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
A Man’s World, Museum of Brisbane, Brisbane
Colonial to Contemporary – Queensland College of Art 125 Years, Dell Gallery, Brisbane
Prism: Contemporary Australian Art, Bridgestone Museum of Art, Ishibashi Foundation, Japan

2005

International Biennale of Contemporary Art in Prague 2005, The National Gallery in Prague, Czech Republic
The Plot Thickens: Narratives in Australian Art, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Future Tense: Security and Human Rights, Dell Gallery and Galleria Space, Queensland College of Art, Griffith University, Brisbane
Cook’s Sites, Museum of Sydney, Sydney
after Van Gogh: Australian artists in homage to Vincent, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Melbourne
ARC Biennial, Brisbane City Hall, Brisbane
Unscripted, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney

2004-5 Three Colours, Gordon Bennett and Peter Robinson, Heide Museum of Modern Art Touring Exhibition, Melbourne
2004

Likan Mirri - Connections. The AIATSIS Collection of Art, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra
Place made: Australian Print Workshop, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Heavenly Creatures, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Terra Alterius: Land of Another, Ivan Dougherty Gallery Touring Exhibition, The University of New South Wales, College  of Fine Arts, Sydney

2003

Isle of Refuge, Ivan Dougherty Gallery Touring Exhibition, The University of New South Wales, College  of Fine Arts, Sydney
Synergies, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra
Many Happy Returns: Celebrating Heide’s 21st Birthday, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
When I was Young – Impressions of Childhood, Global Arts link, Ipswich
War Without Boundaries – Australia and the War Against Terrorism, Australian War Memorial, Canberra

2002 No Shame No More, Sotheby’s Galleries, Sydney
Other Views, Works from the University Collection, Griffith University, Brisbane
Deeper Places, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre, Sydney
Fieldwork, Works from the Collection, The Ian Potter Centre, National Gallery of Victoria, Federation Square, Melbourne
Sublime, Wesfarmers Collection, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
The Big River Show – Murrumbidgee Riverine, Wagga Wagga Regional Art Gallery
2001

Our Place: Issues of Identity in Recent Australian Art, Monash University Museum of Art, Prato, Italy
Transit Narratives, Villa Letizia, Treviso, Italy
366/2000, Auckland Museum, New Zealand
Imaging, Identity and Place, Grafton Regional Gallery, (two year touring exhibition to Australian regional galleries)

2000

Kwangju Biennale 2000, Korea
Shanghai Biennale, China
Crossing the Ocean, Central Academy of Fine Artists, Beijing, China
Mirror with a Memory, National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
On the brink; Abstraction of the 90s, Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
12th Biennale of Sydney, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney

1999-2000

New Republics, Contemporary art from Australia, Canada & South Africa, Canada House Gallery, London; Edmonton Art Gallery, Edmonton; Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne; Johannesburg Art Gallery, Johannesburg

1999

Perspecta 99, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
A Letter to Picasso: The Stamp in Contemporary Art, Post Master Gallery, Melbourne; curated by Merryn Gates
Commissions Exhibition, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, Hobart
Conceptualist Art: Points of Origin 1950’s – 1980’s, Queens Museum of Art, New York; Walker Art Centre, Minneapolis
Body of Information: 99 Dong ALG International Festival of Comics and Information, Seoul, Korea
Third Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Sydney 2000: Limited Edition Artists’ Prints, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Art – Worlds in Dialogue, Ludwig Museum, Cologne, Germany
Crossing the Ocean, The Central Academy of Fine Art, Beijing, China

1998 Remanence, Old Magistrates’ Court, Melbourne Festival
National Works on Paper, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Victoria
The Great Australian Teapot, Distelfink Gallery, Melbourne
Telling Tales, Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney, Neue Galerie, Graz, Austria
Foldback, Ngapartji Co-operative Multimedia Centre, Adelaide, South Australia
Proof Positive- a selection of prints from the archive of the Australian Print Workshop, Carnegie Gallery, Hobart City Council, Tasmania
Jacaranda Acquisitive Drawing Award, Grafton Regional Gallery, (touring regional galleries)
Flesh and Blood, Museum of Sydney, NSW
The Australian Drawing Biennale, The ANU, Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra (touring   exhibition)
1997

Landmarks - Contemporary Visions of the Australian Landscape, Campbelltown City Bicentennial Art Gallery, Campbelltown
Video Positive ‘97: Escaping Gravity, Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, England
In Place (Out of Time): Contemporary Art in Australia, Museum of Modern Art, Oxford, England
Breaking Borders, St. Norbert Arts and Cultural Centre, Manitoba, Canada.
In Relief: Australian Wood Engravings, Woodcuts and Linocuts, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Archives and the Everyday, Installation, Old Parliament House, Canberra
Episodes, Contemporary Art Services Tasmania, Hobart
Bus Stop Art: Limited Edition Prints, Melbourne International Festival, Melbourne
Geelong Contemporary Art Prize Exhibition, Geelong Art Gallery, Geelong
The Rock Building Society Central Queensland Biennial Art Purchase
Personal Vision Multiple Perspective Queensland University of Technology Touring Exhibition, Queensland
Body of Information (Australian Video & Interactive Artwork), Gallery Connexion, Fredericton, Canada
John McCaughey Memorial Art Prize, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
The Real Thing, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne

1996

Native Titled Now, Tandanya (National Aboriginal Cultural Institute), Adelaide
Blundstone Prize, National Touring Exhibition, Australia
Flagging the Republic, Sherman Galleries Goodhope, Sydney Regional Touring Exhibition
Sub-Urban, Freemantle Arts Centre, Western Australia
Rites for an Anxious Spring: Selected Acquisitions 1981-1995, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne
Face value: Portraits from the Collection, Waverley City Gallery, Melbourne
AERPHOST, The Debtor’s Prison, Dublin, Ireland
The Burbs, Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Gold Coast, Queensland
Systems End: Contemporary Art in Australia, touring exhibition Korea, Japan and Singapore, 1996
Perception and Perspective, Next Wave Festival, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
Inclusion/Exclusion: Art in the Age of Post Colonialism and Global Migration, Künstlerhaus Burgring, Graz, Austria
Colonial Post Colonial, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne
Artrage, Artworks for television
Fourth Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
The Second Biennale of Contemporary Art of Noumea, Theatre de l’Ile, Noumea

1995

Interfaces: Art and Technology, Regional Touring Exhibition hosted by Griffith University, Brisbane
LINGO Getting the Picture, Brisbane City Hall Art Gallery, Brisbane
Pathways 1, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Sight Seeing; Views, Tourists, Souvenirs, National Philatelic Centre, Melbourne
Seven Histories of Australia, Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, Melbourne
The Wandering Jew - Myth and Metaphor, Jewish Museum of Australia, Melbourne, (regional touring exhibition)
TransCulture, curated by Dana Friis-Hansen, Palazzo Giustinian Lolin,
Venice Biennale, Italy; Naoshima Contemporary Art Museum, Naoshima Island, Japan
Digital Shifts, part of the Zero 1 project, Noosa Regional Gallery, Tewantin

1994-5

Antipodean Currents, John F Kennedy Centre, Washington DC; Guggenheim Museum Soho, New York
Virtual Reality, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

1994

The Beach, Museum of Modern Art at Heide, Melbourne
Landed, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Localities of Desire: Contemporary Art in an International World, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Tyerabarrbowaryaou II, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Aussemblage!, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o T?maki, New Zealand
Present Wall, The Institute Building, Adelaide Biennial
Fifth Havana Biennial, Cuba
Faciality, Monash University Gallery, Melbourne
Identities: Art from Australia, An International Exchange Exhibition between Australia and Taiwan, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan; Wollongong City Gallery, New South Wales; Gold Coast City Gallery, Queensland
Sweet Damper and Gossip - Colonial Sightings from the Goulburn North East,
Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria; Monash University Gallery, Melbourne; Shepparton Art Gallery, Victoria  
Adelaide Installations: incorporating the Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Adelaide   
Urban Focus: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art from the Urban Areas of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

1993

Inner-Land. Australian Contemporary Art, Soko Gallery, Tokyo, Japan
Confess and Conceal: 11 Insights from Contemporary South East Asia and Australia, Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth, touring South East Asia
Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennial, Melbourne
Commitments, Institute of Modern Art, Brisbane
Aratjara: Art of the First Australians, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Dusseldorf; Hayward Gallery, London; Louisiana Museum of Contemporary Art, Humlebaek
Prime Television Painting Prize, Newcastle Region Art Gallery; Gold Coast City Art Gallery

1992

9th Biennale of Sydney: The Boundary Rider, Bond Store 3\4 and Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Strangers in Paradise: Contemporary Australian Art to Korea, National Museum of Contemporary Art, Seoul
Medium Density: Contemporary Australian Drawings and Photographs, Australian National Gallery, Canberra
Domino I: Collaborations Between Artists, Ian Potter Gallery, Melbourne
Transgenerations, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Australian Artists In Paris, Galerie Parvi: Pour l'Art Visuel, Paris
Works from the Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane
Tyerabarrbowaryaou: I Shall Never Become A White Man, MCA, Sydney
Southern Crossings: Contemporary Australian Photography, Camerawork Gallery, London, (two year tour of Britain)

1991

Moet & Chandon Touring Exhibition, Australia
Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, High Court of Australia, Canberra
Three Artists, Powell Street Gallery, Melbourne

1990

Acquisitions 1984-1990, University Art Museum, University of Queensland, Brisbane
You Came to My Country and You Didn't Turn Black, Queensland Museum, Brisbane
Taqari Lia: My Family, Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990- From Australia,Third Eye Centre, Glasgow, Scotland
Young Contemporaries, Irving Galleries, Sydney
Urban Aboriginal Art, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
Innovations in Aboriginal Art, Hogarth Galleries, Sydney
Only Life, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Post-Hillshoistism, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane
Adelaide Biennial, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Balance 1990: Views, Visions, Influences, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane                                                           
Moet & Chandon Touring Exhibition, Australia
Paraculture, Artists’ Space, New York

1989

Perspecta, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Myriad of Dreaming, Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, Lauraine Diggins Fine Art Gallery, Melbourne
Visual Poetics, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane
Group exhibition, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane
Collaborations, Bellas Gallery, Brisbane

1988

Australian Art of the Last Twenty Years, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane
Works From the Collection, Museum of Contemporary Art, Brisbane

1987

Little Masters, THAT Contemporary Artspace, Brisbane

 
PERFORMANCE
1992-2008 Non-Performance, consisting of a sixteen year period of systematic refusal to participate in public lecture programs within Australia
 
COLLECTIONS
Aberdeen Asset Management
Adelaide Festival Centre, Adelaide
Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney
Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Artbank, Sydney
Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies, Canberra, ACT
Australian National Gallery, Canberra
Australian War Memorial, Canberra
City of Box Hill Collection
Benalla Art Gallery, Victoria
BHP Billiton, Melbourne
BP Refinery Ltd, Brisbane
Brisbane Boys Grammar School, Brisbane
Brisbane Girls Grammar School, Brisbane
Capalaba State High School, Brisbane
Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga
Chartwell Collection, New Zealand
Department of Aboriginal and Islander Affairs, Brisbane
Downlands College, Toowoomba Regional Gallery
Flinders University of South Australia, Adelaide
Gippsland Art Gallery Sale, Victoria
Griffith University, Brisbane
Gold Coast City Art Gallery, Queensland
Grafton Regional Gallery, NSW
Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne
Holmes à Court Collection
Ian Potter Museum of Art, University of Melbourne, Melbourne
Moet & Chandon, Epernay, France
Monash University Museum of Art, Melbourne
Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney
Museum of Brisbane, City of Brisbane Collection, Brisbane
Museum of Sydney on the site of the first Government House, Historic Houses Trust of NSW
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne
National Portrait Gallery, Canberra
Parliament House, Canberra
Perc Tucker Regional Gallery, Townsville
Pine Rivers Shire Council, Pine Rivers
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Queensland Teachers Union, Brisbane
Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane
Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane
Queensland Forrestry Commission, Queensland
Sydney Church of England Girls Grammar School, Sydney
Stanthorpe Art Gallery, Stanthorpe
State Library of Victoria, Melbourne
Tasmanian Museum & Art Gallery
Toowoomba Regional Gallery, Toowoomba
University Art Museum, Queensland University, Brisbane
University of Technology, Sydney
Vizard Collection, Melbourne
Wavell State High School, Brisbane
Wesfarmers Ltd, Perth
The Yarra Collection
Private collections
 
SELECTED BIBLIOGRAPHY

Amadio, Nadine. ‘Oz in the Global Art Village’, Oz Arts Magazine, #4 1992, pp. 70-71.

Anderson, Peter. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Art & Text, no. 40 September 1991, pp. 94.

Barrett-Lennard, John. ‘Negotiating a Position’, Adelaide Installations: Adelaide Biennial of Australian          Art, exhibition catalogue, vol.1 no.1 1994, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, pp. 48-51.

Bartlett, Judith. You Came To My Country and You Didn't Turn Black, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Queensland Museum, 1990.

Bennett, Gordon. ‘The Coming of the Light’ Artist’s Statement, Balance 1990: Views, Visions, Influences, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1990, pp. 46-47.

‘Re-writing History’, exhibition catalogue, Southern Crossings, London: Camerawork,1992, pp.19-  21.

Artist’s Statement, Southern Crossings, exhibition catalogue, London: Camerawork, 1992, pp 43-47

‘On Double Standards: An 'Other' Perspective’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 47 March 1992, pp.  26-27.

Artist’s Statement, Strangers in Paradise: Contemporary Australian Art to Korea, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1992, pp. 22-25.

Artist’s Statement, Tyerabarrbowaryaou: I Shall Never Become a White Man, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1992, p. 14.

Artist’s Statement, Identities: Art from Australia, exhibition catalogue, Taipei: Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Taiwan, 1993, pp. 53-55.

‘Confess Conceal’ Artist’s Statement, Confess and Conceal, exhibition catalogue, Perth: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1993, p.26.

Artist Statement’s, Fifth Australian Sculpture Triennial, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne, 1993, vol.1 no.1, pp. 32-33.

‘Aesthetics and Iconography: An Artist’s Approach’, Aratjara. Art of the First Australians, exhibition catalogue, Dusseldorf: Kunstsammlung Nordrein-Westfalen, 1993, pp. 85-91.

Inner-Land: Exhibition of Australian Contemporary Art, exhibition catalogue, Tokyo: Lumani Gallery.

Artist’s Statement, Zero One - Digital Shifts, exhibition catalogue, Noosa: Noosa Regional Gallery, 1995, p. 8.

‘Altered Body Print (Howl)’, A Selection from the Downlands Art Collection: Toowoomba Regional Art Gallery, exhibition catalogue, Toowoomba: Downlands College, 1995, p. 19-20.

‘The Manifest Toe’, The Art of Gordon Bennett, Sydney: Craftsman House /G+B Arts International, 1996, pp. 9-62.

Bennett, Jill. Empathic Vision: Affect, Trauma and Contemporary Art, Stanford: Stanford University Press, forthcoming 2004.

-Love and Irony: Gordon Bennett after 9/11, Three Colours, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2004.

Broadfoot, Keith & Rex Butler. ‘The Fearful Sphere of Australia’, Paraculture, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Artspace, New York: Artists Space, pp. 6-14.

Buckner, Robin. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Art and Design (Book One), Sydney: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1995, pp.  12-14.

Butler, Rex. ‘Two readings of Gordon Bennett's The Nine Ricochets’, Eyeline 19 Winter/Spring 1992, Brisbane: Queensland Art Workers Alliance, pp. 18-23

‘The Pataphysical Aborigine’, Gordon Bennett, Paintings 1987 - 1991, Epernay, France: Moët & Chandon Australian Art Foundation.

Cass, Naomi. ‘Home Is Where the Heart Is’, The Wandering Jew — Myth And Metaphor, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Jewish Museum of Australia, 1995, pp. 18-27.
Chamberlin, Lou. ‘Gordon Bennett’, ‘art inSight’, Sydney: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 2007, pp. 114 & 195-198.

Chapman, Christopher. ‘A Discussion with Gordon Bennett - The Inland Sea’, ARTONVIEW, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, issue 1 Autumn 1995, pp. 38-42.

‘Homeboy’, Art & Australia, vol. 32 no. 3 Autumn 1995, p. 442.

Croft, Brenda L. INDIGENOUS ART: Art Gallery of Western Australia, exhibition catalogue, Perth: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2001, pp. 9, 41, 82.   

Crumlin, Rosemary. Aboriginal Art and Spirituality, Victoria: Collins Dove, 1991, pp. 143-144.

Greg Dimitriadis & Cameron McCarthy, ‘Urban Renewal: Gordon Bennett's Notes to Basquiat (9 11)’, Notes to Basquiat: 9 11, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide Festival of the Arts, 2002, Adelaide: Greenaway Art Gallery, 2002.

Dimitriadis, Greg & McCarthy, Cameron. Reading and Teaching the Postcolonial: From Baldwin to Basquiat and Beyond, New York: Teachers College Press, 2001.

Dutkiewicz, Adam. ‘Complex and Engaging Imagery’, Adelaide Advertiser, 25 February 1994.

Foggarty, Rebbekah. ‘Fusing Cultures’, Dare, no. 1 July, 1989, Brisbane, pp. 45-46.

Fontannaz, Lucienne. ‘Lingo - Getting the Picture’, Lingo - Getting the Picture, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Brisbane City Hall Art Gallery, 1995, pp. 4,10.

Friis-Hansen, Dana & Fumio Nanjo. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Transculture: La Biennale di Venezia 1995, exhibition catalogue, Italy: Palazzo Giustinian Lolin, pp.18-19, 87-92.

Merryn Gates, ‘Collaborations Between Artists’, Domino I: Collaborations Between Artists, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Ian Potter Gallery, University of Melbourne, 1992, pp. 2-21.

Gleissler, M. ‘Moet & Chandon’, Oz Arts Magazine, no. 1 Spring 1991, pp. 54-59.

Grant, Kirsty. In Relief; Australian Wood Engravings, Woodcuts and Linocuts, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: National Gallery of Victoria, 1997, p. 65.

Harvey, Graham. ‘Readings in Indigenous Religions’, Great Britain: Continuum, 2002, pp. 310-316.

Heathcote, Christopher. ‘Postmodern, but with a point to make’, The Age, 24 February 1993.

Hogan, Janet. Balance 1990 : Views, Visions, Influences, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1990.

Hoorne, Jeanette. ‘Positioning the Post-Colonial Subject: History and Memory in the Art of Gordon Bennett’, Art and Australia, vol.31 no.2 Summer 1993, pp. 216-226.

Hunt, Pennie. ‘Blood as a Trace’, Three Colours, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2004.

Huppatz, Danny. ‘Redressing the Balance: The Art of Gordon Bennett’, Broadsheet-Contemporary Visual Arts and Culture, vol. 26  no.2 Winter 1997.

Ingram, Terry. ‘Map of Canberra shows way in Venice’, Financial Review, 29 June 1995, p. 27.

Isaacs, Jennifer. ‘A Bitter Pill for the White Man (Woman). Tyerabarrbowaryaou at the Museum of Contemporary Art’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 49 May 1992, pp.6-7.
‘Gordon Bennett’, Aboriginality: Contemporary Aboriginal Paintings and Prints, Brisbane: University of Queensland Press, 1992, pp. 53-57.

Israel, Glenis. Essential Art, Victorian Essential Learning Standards Levels 5 & 6, Brisbane: John Wiley & Sons Australia Ltd, 2007, pp. 189-191.

James, Rodney. ‘The allure of Van Gogh’, after van Gogh: Australian artists in homage to Vincent, exhibition catalogue, Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, 2005, p. 38.

Johnson, Vivien. ‘The Unbounded Biennale. Contemporary Aboriginal Art’, Art and Australia, vol. 31 no.1 Spring 1993, pp. 49-56.

Jordan, Tim & Steve Pile. ‘Social Change’, UK:  Blackwell Publishers, 2002, p 71,73.

Karmel, Pepe. ‘Antidotes for a Cartoonish Image’, The New York Times, 23 June 1995, p. C27.

Kirker, Anne. ‘Gordon Bennett: Expressions of Constructed Identity’, Artlink, vol. 10 nos. 1, 2 Autumn/Winter 1990, Adelaide: Artlink, pp. 93-95.

Lingard, Bob. ‘A Kind of History Painting’, Tension, no. 17 August 1989, pp. 39-42.

‘Psycho(d)rama: De(con)structing 'Settlement' ‘, Psycho(d)rama, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Institute of Modern Art, 1990.

‘Painting History’, Gordon Bennett, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide: Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, 1993.

Lingard, Bob & Fazal Rizvi, ‘(Re)membering, (Dis)membering : 'Aborignality' and the Art of Gordon Bennett’, Third Text, no. 26 Spring 1994, pp. 75-89.

Lynn, Victoria. ‘Introduction: Strangers in Paradise’, Strangers in Paradise: Contemporary Australian Art to Korea, exhibition catalogue, Seoul, Korea: National Museum of Contemporary Art, 1992, pp. 12-18.

McCulloch, Susan, Contemporary Aboriginal Art, A Guide to the rebirth of an ancient culture, Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1999, p. 204, 206.

McLean, Ian. ‘A Pool of Mirrors: Gordon Bennett's Present Wall’, Adelaide Installations, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, vol.1 1994, pp. 52-54.

‘Psycho(dr)ama Mirror Line : Reading Gordon Bennett's Installation Mirrorama’, Third Text, no.25 Winter 1993-94, pp. 77-80.

‘Painting a History of the Self in Postcolonial Australia: Gordon Bennett’s Existentialism; Philosophy and Painting: Gordon Bennett’s Critical Aesthetic; Towards an Australian Postcolonial Art’, The Art Gordon Bennett, Australia: Craftsman House/G+B Arts International, 1996, pp. 65-119.

‘Mirror Mirror: The Narcissism of Coloniality’, Mirror Mirror: The Narcissism of Coloniality, exhibition catalogue, Canberra: Canberra School of Art Gallery, Australian National University, 1996, p. 2-10.

‘Gordon Bennett’, Grand Street: Crossing the Line, no. 63 1997, New York: Grand Street Press, pp. 84-89.

‘Racism and Postmodernism: Australian Art and its Institutions’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 103 September 1997, pp. 15-19.

White Aborigines. Identity Politics in Australian Art, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

‘Gordon Bennett’s Home Décor: the joker in the pack’, Law/Text/Culture: In the wake of Terra Nullius, Sydney: School of Law, Macquarie University, Australia, vol. 4 1998.

‘Documenta X and Australians in Oxford’, Third Text, No.42 Spring 1998, pp. 57-70.

Probability,Rap and Coincidence: Notes to Basquiat, Gordon Bennett’s Notes to Basquiat, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Sherman Galleries, 1999.

‘The Aura of Origin-ghouls and golems in Gordon Bennett's art’, Artlink, vol. 21 no. 4 2001, pp. 24-29.

‘Conspiracy Theory: Pollock, Basquiat, Bennett’, Notes to Basquiat: Modern Art, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Sherman Galleries, 2001.

‘9 11 (with Apologies to Walter Benjamin)’, Notes to Basquiat: 9 11, 2002, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide Festival of the Arts, Adelaide: Greenaway Art Gallery, 2002.

Angel of History’, Third Text, vol. 16 issue 2 no. 59 June 2002, pp. 212-216.

‘Camouflage’, Figure/Ground (Zero), Sydney: Sherman Galleries,  2003.

‘Illuminations or a Season in Hell”, Artlink, Vol. 23 no.1 March 2003.

‘Gordon Bennett’s Abstract Art: The Aesthetics of Commitment and Indifference’ Gordon Bennett New Work, exhibition catalogue, Adelaide: Greenaway Art Gallery, 2004.

Magnusson, Tony. ‘Gordon Bennett: Just an/other black artist’, Art Monthly, December 2001-February 2002, no. 146, pp. 31-32.

Marsh, Anne. ‘The Darkroom- Photography and The Theatre of Desire’, Melbourne: Macmillan Publishers Australia, 2003, pp. 232-237

Meecham, Pam. Modern Art, A Critical Introduction, Sydney: Routledge, 2004.

Ruth Megaw, ‘Violent Images of Conquest’, Adelaide Advertiser, 3 June 1993.

Moore, Margaret & Michael O'Ferral. Confess and Conceal, exhibition catalogue, Perth: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1993, pp. 10-17.

Morgan, Luke. ‘Time into space’, The Plot Thickens: Narratives in Australian Art, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2005.

Morphy, Howard. ‘Aratjara’, Art Monthly Australia, no. 63, September 1993, Canberra, pp. 17-18.

Morrison, Angeline. ‘Autobiography of an (Ex)Coloured Surface: Monochrome and Liminality’, Discrepant Abstraction, England: International Institute of the Visual Arts and The MIT Press, 2006, pp. 142-144.

Namikawa, Emiko. ‘Inner-Land’, Inner-Land: Australian Contemporary Art, exhibition catalogue, ……Tokyo: Lunami Gallery and Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1993, pp. 4-5.

Newton, Gael. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Virtual Reality, exhibition catalogue, Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1994, pp. 14-15.

Nunn, Louise. ‘Reflections on a Media Message’, Adelaide Advertiser, 17 February 1994.

O'Ferrall, Michael. ‘On Other Perspectives’, Gordon Bennett, Paintings 1987 - 1991, Epernay, France: Moet and Chandon, 1991.

‘Gordon Bennett’ State Art Collection- Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth: Art Gallery of Western Australia, 1997, pp. 10, 20-21.

Papasdergiadis, Nikos. ‘Framing the Message’, Third Text, no. 24 Autumn 1993, pp. 81-86.

‘From the Cambridge Expedition to Aratjara and Mabo: The Politics of Representation’, Nikos Papasdergiadis, The Complicities of Culture: Hybridity and New Internationalism, London: Cornerhouse, Manchester, 1994, pp. 25-28.

Petelin, George. Transgenerations, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Queensland Art Gallery, 1992, p. 10.

Rainbird, Stephen. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Selected Australian Works, Queensland University of Technology Art Collection, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology, 1994-1995, p. 55.

Scott-Mundine, Djon. ‘Drawing on Black Reality’, Myriad of Dreaming: Twentieth Century Aboriginal Art, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Lauraine Diggins Gallery, 1989, pp. 125-137.

‘Black on Black: An Aboriginal Perspective on Koori Art’, Art Monthly Australia, Special Supplement, ‘The Land, the City, The Emergence of Urban Aboriginal Art’, no.30 May 1990, pp. 7-9.

‘If My Ancestors Could See Me Now’, Tyerabarrowaryaou: I Shall Never Become A White Man, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Museum of Contemporary Art,1992, pp. 4-11.

Seear, Lyn. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Australian Perspecta 1989, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Art Gallery of New South Wales, 1989, pp. 16-17.

Sloane, Helen. ‘Terra Australis Incognita? - Perspectives on Cultural Identity’, Southern Crossings, exhibition catalogue, London: Camerawork, 1992, p. 7-20.

Smith, Bernard. Australian Painting 1788-1990, South Melbourne, Australia: Oxford University Press, 1991 (first ed.1962).

Smith, Terry. ‘Australia’s Anxiety’, History and Memory in the Art of Gordon Bennett, exhibition catalogue, Birmingham: Ikon Gallery & Oslo: Henie Onstad Kunstsenter, 1999, pp. 10-21.

‘Aboriginal Art Now: Writing Its Variety and Vitality’, Contemporary Aboriginal Art 1990-From Australia, Glasgow: Aboriginal Arts Management Association and Third Eye Centre, 1990, p. 12.

Spendlove, Cherene. ‘Gordon Bennett’, Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, exhibition catalogue, -Adelaide: Art Gallery of South Australia, 1990, pp. 20-21.

Stanhope, Zara. ‘The Territory of the Face’, Faciality, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Monash  --University Gallery, 1994, pp. 17-21.

‘How Do You Think it Feels? Response and Riposte in the Art of Gordon Bennett and Peter Robinson’, Three Colours, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2004.

‘… and When Do You Think it Stops? Response and Riposte in the Art of Gordon Bennett and Peter Robinson’, Three Colours, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Heide Museum of Modern Art, 2004.

Thomas, Nicholas. ‘Home Decor and Dance: The Abstraction of Aboriginality’, In Place (Out of Time) Contemporary Art In Australia, exhibition catalogue, Oxford: Museum Modern Art, 1997, pp. 24-28.

Gordon Bennett’s Notes to Basquiat, ‘The Australian Drawing Biennale’, exhibition catalogue, The Australian National Universtiy, Drill Hall Gallery, Canberra, 1998, pp 14-15.

Possessions: Indigenous Art/Colonial Culture, 1999, London: Thames and Hudson, pp. 181, 199-223.

Thompson, Liz. Aboriginal Voices: Contemporary Aboriginal Artists, Writers and Performers, ------Brookvale, Australia: Simon and Schuster, 1990, pp. 147-153.

Williams, Donald. ‘In Our Own Image, The Story of Australian Art, Fourth Edition’, Australia: McGraw Hill Australia Pty Ltd, 2002, pp 200-201.

Williamson, Clare. ‘Seven Histories of Australia’, Seven Histories of Australia, exhibition catalogue, Melbourne: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 1995.

Wright, Simon. ‘Into the Printout’, Out of Print, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Griffith Artworks, 2005, pp 72 – 79.

‘Borderlines’, Gordon Bennett New Work, exhibition catalogue, Sydney: Sherman Galleries, 2006.

Wright, William. ‘William Wright in Conversation with Tony Bond’, Twenty, Sherman Galleries 1986 – 2006, Australia: Craftsman House, 2006, pp.68-69.

Zurbrugg, Nicholas. Visual Poetics: Concrete Poetry and Its Contexts, exhibition catalogue, Brisbane: Museum of Contemporary Art, 1989, p. 52.

‘Gordon Bennett’, Art & Text, no.44 January 1993, Sydney: College of Fine Arts, University of New South Wales, p. 5.

‘Gordon Bennett - Between the Lines’, Antipodean Currents, exhibition catalogue, Washington, D.C.: The Kennedy Centre & New York: Guggenheim Museum SoHo, 1994, pp. 40-51.