Brook Andrew: The Right to Offend is Sacred

Black and white photographs of minorities, who stare with possessed, glazed over eyes, line the main gallery. A slash of red adorns the walls. ‘Negro hung alive by the ribs to a gallow,’ reads the object label of a small engraved print. The matter of factness of the card is at odds with the gruesome image; it seems a wholly inaccurate reflection of the artwork. But perhaps this discord seems right at home Brook Andrew’s latest exhibition, The Right To Offend Is Sacred. Don’t worry, this exhibition doesn’t feature work hand-picked by Andrew Bolt.

The solo exhibition features more than 100 works by the daring Australian artist, highlighting works from his 25 year career. This is includes the Gunmetal Grey series from 2007 – darkened portraits of unidentified Indigenous people that seem to appear and disappear, each face signifying a forgotten history. Andrew’s practice is very broad and the extent of it is on full display here – from collage and printmaking to his signature neon artworks.

The exhibition also features a myriad of gathered materials, collated to provide a unique commentary on colonialism and European fascination with so-called inferior cultures, or the ‘noble savage.’ A weathered book lays open on a page in a display, detailing the sexual habits of an African tribe. Although Andrews challenges these traditional, titillating, white perceptions, he doesn’t really critique, instead letting the collection speak for itself.

This retrospective exhibition is intriguing and thought-provoking, both for those already acquainted with his practice and those who want to introduce themselves to Andrew’s unique perspective.

The exhibition opens on March 3 at the Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, and entry is free.

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