Melbourne: Get some culture up ya!

It’s been a change for me being back in Melbourne for Easter, catching the last heat of summer and seeing the pre-autumn city the way I haven’t seen it for more than 5 years. With the first tinges of brown on the leaves and the water still warm down on the Surf Coast, I’m starting to again see some of the attractions of this city.  And with a couple of interesting exhibits on, I thought it was time I headed into town and took a look at my city through the eyes, and lens of a tourist…

First up was a trip to the NGV International to see the inspirational work by Ron Mueck, with a handy free-entry pass from a school friend Caterina, who now works at NGV. Mueck is an amazing artist, with an ability to capture “life” of a figure in his sculptures not seen since Michaelangelo. It is absolutely mind blowing what he is able to do with some resin, fiberglass, paint and synthetic hair. If it wasn’t for the hyper- and micro- scale of his sculpures you could think that real humans are right in front of you, and their nudity is so life-like and confronting, sometimes you don’t know where to look. His ability to capture the sponginess and detail of skin, complete with moles, wrinkles, goosebumps and hair is a true wonder. It reminded me of the ‘lightness” and deftness of touch Michaelangelo achieved with his Pieta. Yes, the old master was carving out of marble 500 years ago, but I reckon if he was around today he might take inspiration from Mueck and try the equally as solid fiberglass as a medium for his statue to celebrate the city of Florence. Don’t you think that in black and white, and if you added some horns, this face could almost be Moses?

And the great thing about the exhibit is that Mueck wants viewers to be able to take photos of the work. It was great seeing so many people enjoying the sculptures and so amazed by them that they just had to capture a likeness on their iPhone. But from this article in The Age, I guess Myf Warhurst doesn’t share my enthusiasm. Take a look at the detail of these feet – this photo could be of a real person, as you can’t tell they are at least two-times scale.

Unfortunately the NGV Ron Mueck exhibition just ended, but for more information about him click here and here. And here’s an article which goes into Mueck’s actual production of his artworks, showing some photos from start to finish.

Next on the culture hit was my first visit to ACMI, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, for Dennis Hopper and the New Hollywood. ACMI is hidden amongst Federation Square and overshadowed by the amazing NGV Australia. ACMI is all about film and TV, and so I wasn’t all that interested in the permanent display, although there are a few cool interactive exhibits, and it might be just about the only place in the world where video games (which you can play on big screens) are heralded as a true artform. Dennis Hopper, as I found out, was much more than the pretentious Hollywood actor who is now warding off life-ending cancer whilst embroiled in a bitter divorce and child custody battle (check out this creepy photo of him and his daughter – Yes! Daughter!) Hopper was part of the LA art scene in the 60’s and onwards, producing some notable photos, assemblages and paintings, as well as writing, directing and starring in Easy Rider, and being a west coast champion for the artworks of Roy Lichtenstein and Andy Warhol.

Unfortunately this exhibition didn’t allow cameras, but I did like Hopper’s super-sized painting reproductions of his photos, as well as his 60’s and 70’s Hollywood photos and large photos of grafitti detail. ACMI is a strangely laid out exhibition space, and with the emphasis on “moving image” the static artworks by Hopper and others was interrupted by video walls playing snippets from Hopper’s movies. So it wasn’t as impressive an exhibition as Ron Mueck, but I certainly learned more about a very interesting Hollywood character and may have even picked up some more inspiration of my own. While I wasn’t fully impressed with Hopper’s work and the collection in general, I don’t think I fully agree with this other article from The Age: I’m glad that Hopper didn’t just stick to his day job and managed to record Hollywood through a lens, and expressed himselves in other way than film. But perhaps the notoriety of his art has had more to do with the clique of famous artists he hung out with, and then with his Hollywood cache, rather than the actual finished works?

Here’s some info on Dennis Hopper’s various artworks and photography, if you are interested. Otherwise, enjoy my photos from in and around the city and from inside the NGV.

Californication

Wow – where has the time gone? The 10 or so days back in California after the whirlwind that was Vancouver 2010 and my side trip to New York have been even more hectic. No rest for the wicked I guess…and I prefer to have projects to work on. It makes me less likely to waste those rare free-ride days by sleeping in.

 A lot of snow has disappeared in Tahoe since early Feb, but Pete Long and Darragh Walsh both found some warm-up features to shoot one night near home. Longy’s air-through-tree-branches to flat was pretty gnarly, but got a little interrupted when some local douchebags came out to heckle him. You’ll see an “atmospheric” shot (ie – only one of the three flashes fired) in the attached gallery.

A couple days later on the Monday we started the long drive south down US Hwy 395 through Carson City, and Mammoth (to pick up Jake McCarthy) all the way to magical Los Angeles. I took the three guys down as part of a magazine trip idea I had had for a while: basically, a surf, snowboard, skate and party trip to the City of Angels. Very few Australians realise that California actually has mountains and skifields, let alone that there are handful of progressive freestyle resorts within 3 hours drive of Hollywood!

I’d organised some cheap rooms at the pimping Hotel Erwin right on the famous Venice Beach Boardwalk, and directly opposite the brand new skatepark, basketball courts (where I got my white-men-can-dunk on) and Muscle Beach (where Darragh, inspired by Mr Muscle Robbie Walker, sparred up against the local hard bodies). Longy was in his element (not least because the hotel restaurant was called “Hash”, and the rooftop bar “High”) as he was surrounded by skaters, surfers, tattoo parlours, cafes…and hot California girls. Ol’ Pete is pretty impressive riding transitions and we got some nice shots in Venice before heading south to the semi-ghetto docks and refineries of San Pedro to an underground community skatepark. The San Pedro skatepark was started illegally on a vacant lot under a freeway overpass, and slowly grew through the work of volunteers into a legit triple-bowl setup that the council had to then recognise and authorise. It was great from a photography point of view as it was quite dark under the freeway and meant the three small Canon Speedlight flashes I had didn’t need to overpower the sun and could be utilised to the maximum. Again Longy shredded concrete, and Jake nailed a nice backside smith grind and frontside crailslide. A local grommet was ripping, and I snapped a couple shots of him (not everyone worked out exactly as I wanted though, but I was happy with the shots of the Aussie crew).

The next day we finally got to hit the snow, checking out of Hotel Erwin and making the Mt Baldy carpark in under 1 hour 30! Mt Baldy reminded of a dodgy Mt Hotham: run-down and haphazard, but great steep terrain, deep gullies and twisting banked trails for jibbing everywhere. Bear Mountain was another great mountain, and lived up to expectations – jib and freestyle city. And I was amazed at how much snow was down in SoCal: so much more than up in Tahoe!

The weather was forecast to roll in, so we high-tailed it back to Hollywood (in under 2 and a half hours) to fulfil the other trip requirement: partying! The others were pretty tired from a few days skating and snowboarding, and low on cash so we headed to the famous rock ‘n’ rollin’ Rainbow Bar and Grill for a few beers…and bumped into Ron Jeremy and his massive package. Man, he looks so seedy in person with his salt and pepper porn mo’. Saturday was for shopping and exploring Fairfax Avenue (and seeing Darragh froth out over a bunch of “exclusive” streetware shop labels I’d never heard of) and a mellow night out again before we hit the road again to Mountain High.

Again we were there within one and a half hours (and without the winding access road that both Baldy and Bear had), and with the West resort all lit up, we had till 10pm to get the goods. We’d been cruisin’ round West Hollywood in 20 degrees and sunshine, and rock ‘n’ roll McCarthy was in jeans, denim jacket, fingerless gloves and sunglasses to shred…shame about the wicked blizzard and fog that rolled in off the Pacific Ocean to ruin his fun. He nearly had a major spaz attack, he was so cold. But after he found some extra layers to rug up with we got some shots and by 8pm were on the road north again. The boys were keen to get back home, but with food and petrol stops we didn’t get back to Mammoth till 2am, and to Tahoe till 5am!. To say we were knackered would be an understatement. But it was a great, action packed 6 days: we got the shots, had a heap of fun, saw a lot of new things (and a few celebrities). You’ll be able to check out the full report in Australian-New Zealand Snowboarder Magazine this winter, but here’s a few shots to whet your appetite.