John BRACK :: Australia 1920–1999 ::  The bar ::  1954, oil on canvas :: 96.4 x 140.0 cm ::  National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne :: Purchased, NGV Foundation with the assistance of donors to the John Brack Appeal, 2009 :: © Helen Brack

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2 October - 26 January 2010

More than any other artist of his generation, John Brack (1920-99) was a painter of modern Australian life. Unlike his contemporaries, Brack painted neither myth nor history and when he focused on the landscape, it was the sprawl of suburbia that caught his attention rather than the ubiquitous Australian bush.

Brack has long been considered the quintessential Melbourne artist, a reputation which rests in no small part on the renown of his painting, Collins St, 5pm 1955. Today it seems more appropriate to view him as a distinctively Australian artist who, with a penetrating gaze and keen sense of irony, documented aspects of contemporary life in what have become some of the most iconic images of twentieth-century Australian art. More than depictions of familiar subjects however, Brack’s paintings are cerebral exercises which slowly reveal references to sources as diverse as the history of art and literature within complex layers of meaning.

His was an art of ideas that aimed to speak directly to the audience, grounded in the everyday but communicated through a distinctive and highly personal language, incorporating complex visual analogy, irony and humour, and always underpinned by a deep knowledge of the history of art.

This major retrospective, the first in more than twenty years, will survey John Brack’s complete œuvre, incorporating paintings, oil paintings, watercolours, prints, pen, ink and pencil drawings and etchings, from all of his major series. It will be the first time this great artist’s work has been staged in such a spectacular exhibition in Adelaide.

Curator: Kirsty Grant, Senior Curator, Australian Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne

Coordinating Curator, Adelaide: Tracey Lock-Weir, Curator, Australian Paintings and Sculpture, Art Gallery of South Australia

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John BRACK, Australia 1920–1999, The bar, 1954, oil on canvas, 96.4 x 140.0 cm, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Purchased, NGV Foundation with the assistance of donors to the John Brack Appeal, 2009,  © Helen Brack.

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