Top Five New Books in the E H McCormick Research Library
The E H McCormick Research Library has been collecting books for reference and research since July 1953. The Auckland Art Gallery Reference Library Register of Books records the two volume Art and Everyman by Margaret H Bulley as its very first purchase. Since then, acquisitions, gifts and exchanges have built up a collection of over 30,000 books, which sit alongside the Research Library’s broad collection of serials, artist files and archives.
Today, the Library acquires books which relate either to exhibitions at Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki and other art galleries across Aotearoa New Zealand, artworks in the Gallery’s broad collections or topics related to art, design and history to keep the Research Library relevant, up-to-date and diverse.
We’re delighted to share a selection of some of our recent acquisitions, which are available for reference use in the Library’s reading room. All have been published in the last year and profile contemporary female artists.
IMOGEN TAYLOR, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland: Michael Lett Gallery, 2022
This is the first publication dedicated to contemporary New Zealand artist Imogen Taylor, and a gorgeous one it is too. There are two different covers available; our copy is bound in a striking green cloth with vibrant salmon pink endpapers. This book is a rich offering of Taylor’s colourful abstract practice over the last decade. The preface by Victoria Wynne-Jones and essays by Simon Gennard and Julia Waite take us through Taylor’s personal and artistic history, her place in queer history-making and her humour and her dialogue with European Modernism.
Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki recently acquired Taylor’s painting Al Fresco, 2021, which was first exhibited in Taylor’s solo exhibition Thirsty Work at Michael Lett gallery in Auckland (28 January – 27 February 2021). IMOGEN TAYLOR shows the wider context and interpretation of Taylor’s work, enabling readers to follow the journey of her practice. Her paintings are laid uncluttered and singular each on its own clean white page; these are followed by installation images that show the works in various exhibitions. In doing so, readers can trace the subtle changes in Taylor’s practice from coded to figurative abstraction, an approach which Michael Lett gallery describes as ‘a space for Taylor to address the queer modernist legacies she operates in’.
Jasmine Togo-Brisby: Hom Swit Hom, Mackay, Queensland: Artspace Mackay, 2022.
Jasmine Togo Brisby: Hom Swit Hom is one of several books that the Library acquired to support the exhibition Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda, which was on display at the Gallery from 26 March to 31 July this year.
Hom Swit Hom shows the breadth of Jasmine Togo-Brisby’s work shown in her recent solo exhibition at Artspace Mackay in Australia (28 January – 27 March 2022). Togo-Brisby is a fourth-generation Australian South Sea Islander and her powerful art practice explores cultural memory and the Pacific slave trade. Ships feature often in her work, representing the coercive practice and legacy of blackbirding, in which an estimated 62,000 Melanesian people were abducted and taken by sea to Australia during the mid-19th century until the turn of the 20th century, often to work on the sugar plantations. In the case of Togo-Brisby’s great-great grandparents, they were taken from Vanuatu and were acquired as house slaves by the wealthy Wunderlich family in Sydney. A newer artwork not featured in the catalogue, Open City (In Suspension), 2022, was commissioned for Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki’s exhibition Declaration: A Pacific Feminist Agenda and further explores these themes. Referencing the elaborate pressed-tin ceilings produced by the Wunderlich family, Open City (In Suspension) is a large, ominous site-specific artwork that takes the form of a ship, into which silhouettes and motifs of the slave trade are moulded.
The catalogue shows the varied materials and forms of expression in Togo-Brisby’s work, including painted pressed-tin pieces and sculpture made of feathers, photography, and resin-cast skulls of unrefined sugar. Insightful essays by Imelda Miller, curator of Pacific and Torres Strait Islander Studies at Queensland Museum, and Nina Tonga, curator of contemporary Art at Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongerewa, explore the role of memory, whakapapa and resilience in Togo-Brisby’s practice. It is a fascinating, impactful publication for a moving exhibition.
Kate Newby, YES TOMORROW, Wellington: Te Pātaka Toi Adam Art Gallery 2021.
Kate Newby is a New Zealand artist currently living and working in the United States. With an impressive international exhibiting history, the 2021 exhibition YES TOMORROW brought her back to Aotearoa New Zealand during the Covid-19 pandemic, offering her the opportunity to reconnect with people and places. For YES TOMORROW Newby created a series of sculptural moments out of found and handmade objects which responded to the particular architecture and environment of Adam Art Gallery Te Pātaka Toi in Wellington.
The accompanying catalogue, acquired by the Research Library this year, comprises two photographic series produced or selected by the artist: On the benefits of building, and YES TOMORROW. These are divided by an essay, ‘Seven Notes (for Kate)’, written by Adam Art Gallery director Christina Barton, which discusses the processes of making the exhibition during the Covid-19 pandemic as well as its relationship to Newby’s practice. Described as an artist book as well as a gallery publication, the book immerses you in the artist’s lens as you retrace her travel in Aotearoa New Zealand and her personal vision of the exhibition, with no extraneous text around the images to distract you from the journey. Presented in a tactile, soft brown cardboard-style binding, the publication’s cover enhances this intimacy; a loose colour photograph taken by Newby is slipped inside.
Newby’s practice is further represented in the Research Library through other exhibition catalogues, an artist file and an object-based archive. In 2011 Newby was commissioned by the Gallery to create an installation for its reopening following extensive redevelopment. Alongside drawings and proposal paperwork, the archive comprises material samples and examples of the concrete floor and walls employed in her work I’m just like a pile of leaves, 2011.
Cora Allan-Wickcliffe, From OtĪtori Bay Rd, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland: McCahon House Trust, 2022.
This richly illustrated limited edition publication profiles a selection of the 320 works that Aotearoa New Zealand artist Cora-Allan Wickliffe (Māori, Niue) made during her McCahon House Residency in Titirangi from September–December 2021.
Painted with whenua pigments harvested and created by Wickliffe from the earth in and around Titirangi, the finished Hiapo, watercolour paper and panel works were exhibited at Te Uru Waitākere Contemporary Art Gallery (28 February – 5 June 2022), where the extensive views of the surrounding landscape echoed Wickliffe’s ‘palette of Waitākere’. Bottled and presented in the 2022 exhibition at Te Uru, the pigments are listed and illustrated in the publication.
In an interview entitled ‘Place, Pigments, and Land Back’, Lana Lopesi and Wicklife discuss the influences informing this body of work: the painting trips in a little rowboat called Koro, the impact of storms on the colours of the pigments, the processes of harvesting and processing the earth for pigments. Madeleine Gifford explores Wickliffe’s experience in the residency as a family affair, bringing her fiancé and two sons to live in the studio also, and the various contributions and interactions with her wider whanau.
This book nicely complements Wickliffe’s previous publication from 2020 – Hiapo: A Collection of Patterns and Motifs – which is also in the Research Library.
Dr Sarah Farrar, Jill Trevelyan, Dr Nina Tonga, Robin White: Something is Happening Here, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki & Te Papa Press, 2022
This is the first comprehensive book to be dedicated to New Zealand artist Robin White in 40 years. Covering the entirety of White’s 50-year art practice, the publication takes you on a journey through time and place: we join White in Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, Paremata, Ōtepoti Dunedin, Kiribati and Whakaoriori Masterton, gaining rich understanding of how her distinctive yet diverse art practice has consistently evolved in response to her changing environments and the artists she met, friendships she forged, and the communities she became part of.
Written and edited by exhibition curators Sarah Farrar and Nina Tonga as well as art historian Jill Trevelyan, the text is further enriched by the contributions of numerous other writers, who each respond to a particular artwork of White’s, encouraging us to consider her works in greater depth and with fresh perspective. Nina Tonga discusses Brigid and Florence in White’s woodblock print series and artist book Twenty-eight Days in Kiribati, 1985. The series was created for Robin White’s daughter Brigid, who with her mother took a trip to Kiribati in January 1984 with fellow artist and close friend Claudia Pond Eyley. In the following section of the book we then meet Florence in person, who is featured in conversation with Meria Russell. As someone who has long admired this woodblock series, these contributions offered me wonderful insight about the people in the prints and their relationship with White.
In the final short essay, Robin White talks about her recent work, Aio ngaira – This is us, 2021. Based on drawings she made of Bikenibeu village in Tarawa, the watercolour paintings represent her and her family’s time in Kiribati. In considering the work, White discusses the cultural and environmental concerns for the island as well as the legacy of portrayals of the Pacific by European artists such as Joseph Dufour and Paul Gauguin.
The catalogue accompanies a major exhibition – Robin White: Te Whanaketanga | Something is Happening Here – which has been produced by Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in conjunction with Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa. It is currently on display at Te Papa before coming to Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki in October this year
To find out more about this landmark publication, check out the July issue of the Gallery's Art Toi magazine, which features an article that interweaves quotes by White and the publications editors to explore the significance of time, place and people in Something is Happening Here.
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