RMIT Gallery: Chaos and Order, 120 years of collecting at RMIT

Michael Cook

13 Apr - 9 Jun 2018

Chaos & Order celebrates over 80 Australian and international artists in an ambitious survey of the RMIT Art Collection including Michael Cook, Juan Ford and Yhonnie Scarce.

A riot of painting, sculpture, photography, sound and new media, the exhibition embraces the contradictions inherent in public art collections. How does one reconcile the academic style of Rupert Bunny with the minimalism of Robert Hunter, or the hyperrealism of Sam Jinks, without retreating to historical narrative?

Public collections can be paradoxical beasts. They strive to adhere to strict criteria (chronology, style or taxonomy; art history, theory and criticism) or be encyclopaedic in their holdings, but are as frequently defined by what they have failed to acquire. Just as often, the curiosities, outsiders and novelties that fall outside the stated ambit of a collection prove to be its great successes: serendipity uncovers many hidden treasures. Chaos underlies the myth of order.

The intended purpose of the RMIT art collection is to tell the story of the university, its ideals and aspirations. Curated by Jon Buckingham Chaos & Order takes this broad remit, and demonstrates the impossibility of a definitive narrative that accurately traces the evolution of artistic style, thought and technique across decades and generations. Instead, it suggests visual, poetic, thematic, and emotional relationships between works created over the past 100 years, and dispenses with the restrictive dictates of historical, technical or stylistic categories.