The Beverley Hills Gun Club
July 4 - 29, 2000
Michael Parekowhai chips away at things, metaphorically that is, and with a sense of humour. He is a sculptor with a swagger, who also makes photographs. An artist whose terrain lies along the rich interface we have in Aotearoa/New Zealand between cultures, the overlay of things European, things Maori, and things American.
In 2000 Parekowhai presented The Beverley Hills Gun Club. Birds and bunnies stare us down from perches, or from behind glass, trophy-like in shallow box frames. Named after American hand guns, with appropriate marfia-like titles, Jeff Cooper and Lou Lombardi are examples, two taxidermied survivors from The Beverley Hills Gun Club.
From the same period, come the larger than life photographs Night At The Opera and You're My Best Friend. In the former, the high camp of Batman and Robin stand (taut and tall) before the other television super-heroes of the period, the Lone Ranger and Tonto. Seventies popular culture is here, at its absolute best. Sensation and masquerade are masked alongside Tonto - the epitome of the loyal, the indigenous and the good. All dolls are from the collection of the artist himself.
The Consolation of Philosophy / Piko Nei Te Matenga are also large scale, framed photographs. Exhibited in the 2002 Sydney Biennale, they comprise 12 different arrangements of flowers in cream Crown Lynn vases - on one level, a terrific spray of colour for the lounge. This embodiment of good taste however, is also studied memoriam, as each is titled after a WWI battlefield upon which the Maori Battalion fought. So Ypres for example, comprises a coloured array of roses; while Calais is perhaps more autumnal in palette. Richly coloured still, but unlike Parekowhai's other photographs, cool against their white grounds. And appropriate too - for a young man trained in the gentle art of flower arranging, fresh out of high school.
All There Is completed Parekowhai's 2002. Inspired by his son's attachment to his cowboy hat and badge, Dad raided the $2 Shop's stock of sherriff's badges, and snapped them directly and symmetrically (as is his habit), against a hot pink ground. Justin Paton has written a marvellous article describing this period of Michael's practise in Art New Zealand 103. Earlier, helpful articles on Parekowhai are Robert Leonard's essay "Patriotism" in the catalogue Ten Guitars, published by Artspace, Auckland in 1999; and Mark Amery's "Know just where you are", New Zealand Listener, 24/6/2000: pp 36-37.