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Major Hotere exhibition at Hocken Library to honour 80th birthday

Ornamental stone carving

Tuesday 5 July 2011 9:26am

To celebrate Ralph Hotere’s momentous 80th birthday, the Hocken is mounting a large and exciting exhibition of approximately fifty of his artworks, to open at the Library’s gallery this coming Saturday July 9.

Hocken Curator of Pictorial Collections Natalie Poland says that the exhibition Ralph Hotere: Zero to Infinity highlights milestones and lesser known moments in the prodigious career of Ralph Hotere – New Zealand’s most significant living artist.

The selection, made by Ms Poland, spans more than four decades of Ralph Hotere’s career from the 1960s to the current decade and draws on several different Dunedin collections including the Hocken collection, the Hotere Foundation Trust collection, Ralph Hotere’s collection and other private art collections.

The exhibition’s title references both Hotere’s Zero series of 1966-7 and the infinity symbol, which is a recurring motif visible in his work as recently as 2005.

“Much of the art by Hotere now in the Hocken has been acquired by gift, either by the artist, in the years immediately following his tenure as the Frances Hodgkins Fellow, or given by Dunedin residents,” Ms Poland says.

“The Hocken has amassed a collection of nearly 200 artworks by Hotere and such a collection could not have eventuated without this generous support.”

The exhibition will run until 1 October.

Another event planned to coincide with Hotere’s birthday is the restoration of the popular Hotere artwork - Rain (1979) owned by the University of Otago.

Rain (1979) comprises three five-metre high banners that incorporate the poem ‘Rain’ by the Hotere’s long-time friend and the University’s former Burns Fellow, the late Hone Tuwhare.

The banners were commissioned by the University of Otago in 1979 when the Hocken Library building, designed by Ted McCoy, was being built.

The work hung in the foyer of that building, now known as the Richardson Building, for almost thirty years. It was removed in 2007 and has been in storage at the Hocken awaiting conservation. The necessary restoration work, carried out by Auckland paintings conservator Lydia Gutierrez, will be completed in July. The banners will then be re-hung at a location that is yet to be decided.

More about “Ralph Hotere: Zero to Infinity.”

Dunedin’s surrounding landscape and local events have often been the subject of Hotere’s works. Anger over the aluminium smelter, proposed for the coastal settlement of Aramoana near Dunedin, was the motivation for several works included in the exhibition. One of these Black Window Port Chalmers (1982), a painting encased by a colonial sash window. An austere black painting included in the show, simply titled Port Chalmers Painting No. 9 (1972), further references the place that Hotere made his home foremost of the period he has lived in Dunedin, since moving here in 1969.

Hotere’s works have often responded to current events, both local and international. For example Le Pape est Mort was inspired by a newspaper headline announcing the deaths of two modern popes in 1978, while Hotere was studying in France.

In 2003 Hotere responded to broadcaster Paul Holmes’ racist comment ‘cheeky darky’ by creating a series of artworks including White Drip to Mister Paul Holmes (2003), a work painted on a 2.7 metre length of corrugated iron, now a signature material for Hotere, painted in black with a drip of white paint extending nearly the full height of the work. The reference to Holmes is expressed through the stencilled type ‘To Mister Paul Holmes’ printed at the top of the work.

To acknowledge Hotere’s friendships and collaborations with many of this country’s leading poets the exhibition includes a body of his work that incorporates text from the poetry of Bill Manhire. The pair collaborated on The Elaboration, an illustrated publication of Manhire’s poems (Square and Circle, 1972) with Hotere creating ink drawings that were reproduced alongside each of the poems.

Works sourced from the Hocken’s own collection include The Voyage (1975-6), which is a ‘Song Cycle’ banner, conceived to accompany a sound, movement and theatre performance, which incorporates the Bill Manhire poem of the same title.

Photo opportunities

1. Lydia Gutierrez will be at the Hocken restoring the banners 4-8 July.
2. The exhibition being installed 5-8 July.

For further information or publicity images please contact

Natalie Poland, Curator of Pictorial Collections, Hocken Library
Tel 64 4 379 5600

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