October 17, 2006
MAO occasionally has late opening nights where there's food, music and conversation (at least, if the ace Big Village have anything to do with it) to complement the work on display. On Fri 13 Oct the gallery was open (7-10.30pm) to celebrate Black History Month. I went along primarily for the music - local vocalist Asher Dust (ex Big Speakers), and impressive Zimbabwean male a cappella group Amanguni - but stumbled on the best exhibition I've seen at the gallery in some time. A mix of beautiful drawings, graphic work, sculpture and huge painterly canvases incorporating collage, there are surprises and delights at every turn. I rarely get the feeling of being touched by an artwork (more often experiencing a kind of neutral, intellectual process of disinterested looking), but in this case the work went straight to my guts. It's political, and it references familiar popular culture, so it draws you in, cleverly and subtly compelling you to feel a bit of what the depicted figures might be feeling. It's also beautiful. In the small room between the main galleries upstairs the viewer faces two large glass-framed pictures side by side, one plain white, one plain black but for some grinning teeth and eyes. Examine the title of the piece, look closer and you might find out something about yourself! I love this kind of thing - not trickery, but beautiful, witty prodding of your mind. Which is what I wish art could do more often.