James Angus’s installation at The Art Gallery of NSW is called Truck Corridor. The artist has taken a full sized 16 wheel Mack Truck and put it in the Contemporary Project Space on Level Two.
We liked the idea of it before we saw it but someone said, as we were on our way into town to the AGNSW, ‘so, you’re going to see a truck in an art gallery?’ and we said, yeah, sounds good, doesn’t it?’ Our friend looked a bit doubtful, as though just taking an object and putting it in a gallery was an easy option. It is an easy option, after all, and there is no doubting the power of the white space as framing device around any old thing you choose to chuck in there. As we traveled along George Street we began to think that maybe we were suckers for an artistic stunt, no matter how cunning. If someone said they had put up a diving pool in the middle of the AGNSW we would probably go and check it out – we just like that kind of stuff and we know we’re pretty uncritical about it. Still, it was a big truck and it was in a gallery and so we went.
And we are so glad we did. Angus was the artist who installed an upside down hot air balloon in the foyer of the Opera House for the 2002 Biennale of Sydney. In that work, called Shangri-la, Angus had chosen an object that seemed to fit the space perfectly, the balloon forming a kind of mirror image to the roof space, the lines on the balloon’s skin echoing the ribs of the ceiling construction and the volume of the balloon was almost equal to the space it occupied. If you had taken an object that was smaller or larger, or had a different colour, you would have had a very different kind of art work and one that wasn’t nearly as elegant and simple as the one Angus created.
Truck Corridor creates a similar kind of intervention into an existing space. The Project Space at the AGNSW is a rectangle with doors at two ends. As you step into the space, when other exhibitions are in there, you step into a corridor-like gallery from a bigger space. By some incredible, miraculous coincidence the distance between the two doorways on opposite sides is exactly the same length as a Mack Truck. So, when you go to see the Angus work, you can either look through one door at the front of the truck, or from the other door at the back of the truck, but you can’t get into the gallery because the truck is just that bit too wide and blocks your entry. By taking an pre-existing object, Angus has created a sculpture that deals with architectural space and the mass and weight of the truck.
Naturally you begin to wonder how the artist got the truck in there and how he (and the AGNSW) will get it out again. You also find yourself pressing against the truck to see into the Project Space but there is nothing in there, just an empty blank whiteness and you feel foolish for wanting to see nothing. But are you seeing nothing? Or are you seeing the enforced presence of the truck into this inexplicable collision between and existing object and conceptual space? This is a brilliant work, a sensational contemporary art object that seems so easy yet is so conceptually sophisticated. From what we can tell, this is only the artist’s second large scale installation work, but if he manages to keep up this level of brilliance, he’s destined for a glittering international art career.
Sadly, not everyone quite sees the work this way, zeroing on in the allegedly ‘easy’ aspects of the work. That paragon of bad writing Jack Marx, had a go in the pages of the Herald’s style guide Radar. We encourage our readers to do as we did, and let Jack know what you think of him