Over the past decade Ugo Rondinone has refined a vocabulary of languid figures, candy-coloured forms and melancholy landscapes. For Project 13, Rondinone presented two solo exhibitions, his first in Australia. In addition to a configuration of works in a variety of media, he created ambitious new sculptures for each of the two venues, in Sydney at the Museum of Contemporary Art and in Melbourne at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art. Both exhibitions were realised as Kaldor Public Art Projects in partnership with Naomi Milgrom Kaldor.
From the rooftop of the Museum of Contemporary Art, shaped like a rainbow in neon colours, the words Our magic hour
beamed in an arc, shining across the harbour. This message, also the title of the exhibition, heralded the carnival figures inside and, like a down-turned smile, its melancholy ambience. The largest of a series of multicoloured neon signs that Rondinone has created around the world – Rome has Kiss tomorrow goodbye
; London, Hell, yes!
; and New York A horse with no name
– its pronouncement was double-edged, a saccharine cheer that soon evaporated into disenchantment.
Inside the museum, configurations of clowns as sculptures and in video were accompanied by Rondinone’s pastel-coloured ‘target’ paintings of concentric circles, drawing the eye with their hypnotic radiance. In a small side room, the photographic series Sleep
, 1999, was hung as a wall-to-wall installation of 165 photographs. Two solitary figures, a beautiful young girl and boy, each comb the same washed-out beachside landscape, seeming to walk endlessly yet never meeting.
In Melbourne the following year, at the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, the exhibition Clockwork for oracle
was curated by Juliana Engberg and presented in connection with the Midsumma Festival. It displayed some of the works shown in Sydney – the photographic installation Sleep
, a selection of paintings and a clown sculpture – along with a new video installation and a large new work created for the exhibition. A monolithic sculptural wooden X, titled Twentyfourhours
, 2004, was fitted with small speakers, echoing the sound of breath, in and out, in an endless loop. On either side of the sculpture, tribal masks lined the walls. Cast in rubber, moulded from wooden reproductions sold on street stalls in Paris, each one is subtitled with a month from the lunar cycle as part of the series Moonrise
A new video work filmed in Paris, Clockwork for oracle
, 2004, was also displayed for the exhibition in Melbourne, presented as three walls of 24 monitors each. As in Sleep
, two figures, male and female, walk endlessly and alone across the landscape. This time the figures are set inside a cityscape of intersecting lines and patterns, a kaleidoscopic whirl of architecture that transforms around them as they move through the grid.
This text is an edited excerpt from the publication 40 Years: Kaldor Public Art Projects