When viewed from space, the continents of the Earth reveal their silhouettes, already familiar to us through our knowledge of maps. Simple abstract compositions. Lessons in form and ground. The Horn of Africa, great jutting peninsula (Somalia, Ethiopia), houses suspect links to recent global fear as well as the origins of the human race. As the title of Michael Parekowhai's major new sculpture, The Horn of Africa is also a Steinway concert grand piano balancing on the nose of a seal. A metaphor for civilization and a pop-cultural totem of the New Zealand nation is being toyed with—as though it were easy—by a mascot of the South Pacific trying to please the crowd. The north and south 'islands' of this monumental high-gloss black sculpture are precariously related. The lazy slouch of the animal's rump—its blubber—is a foil to its instinctive and ready understanding of unwieldy and complex forces (gravity, mass, form, shape, composition). In making this exclamatory gesture, this genius performance, the slacker does good and pleases her master.
Meanwhile, five black cocks, The Parliament of Fools (tool of the Pakeha, really), concoct a sham democracy and settle some old scores.
Michael Parekowhai has been exhibiting since the early 1990s. Major group exhibitions include High Tide: currents in contemporary New Zealand & Australian Art at Zacheta National Gallery of Art, Warsaw and the Contemporary Art Centre, Vilnius, Lithuania (2006), Picturing Eden, George Eastman House, at the International Museum of Photography and Film, New York (2006), the 1st Auckland Triennial (2004), Gwangju Biennale, Korea (2004), Paradise Now? Contemporary Art from the Pacific at the Asia Society in New York, the Biennale of Sydney (2002), the Asia Pacific Triennial, Brisbane (1999), Cultural Safety at the Frankfurter Kunstverein, Frankfurt (1996), The World Over, at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1996) and Localities of Desire, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (1994). A solo exhibition of Parekowhai's work, Ten Guitars, was held at the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh in 2001. He has completed major commissions for Te Papa Tongarewa, Museum of New Zealand, Wellington (2006), Deutsche Bank, Sydney (2005) and Britomart Projects, Auckland (2004). Parekowhai's work is held by every major public collection in New Zealand as well as the National Gallery of Victoria, Queensland Art Gallery, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Arario Gallery, Korea and the Musee Du Quai Branly, Paris. The Horn of Africa is the second sculpture Michael Parekowhai has exhibited involving a grand piano. The first piece, The Story of a New Zealand River (2001) is owned by Auckland Art Gallery and will be exhibited in the Asia Pacific Triennial in December 2006. Eerst me fiets (First my bicycle) is Michael Parekowhai's second exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.