Michael Parekowhai's exhibition, Seldom is Herd, consists of ten (‘little’) indian boys (The Brothers Grimm) and three antelope sculptures (Seldom is Herd). Both bodies of work are classic examples of how the artist subtly navigates the salient cultural phenomena that surround indigenous identity. His themes often include introduced species and cultures, ideas of camaraderie, tools of teaching and childhood learning, divisions of nature/culture and a confrontation between the (performing) object and the viewer. All of these themes are manifest at some level in the exhibition.
The gallery is filled with ten almost identical indian figures, which, like the children’s song, is an exercise in counting learnt through melody and repetition. They are based on the artist's sons as his earlier, now iconic, Kapa Haka 'security guard' sculptures were based on his brother. Like the security guards, the indians stand looking at the viewer with arms crossed across their chests. However, where the security guards were inscrutable and imposing in scale like a human wall, the indians are diminutive, curious and almost 'chattering'. They are (brown) brothers, posing (reluctantly) perhaps for the tourist camera.
Also in the gallery are three antelope sculptures on plinths. Seldom is Herd consists of one buck and two doe—a self-sufficient community—that also take the form of bookends. While the antelopes seem to be the ‘nature’ component of the equation, they are also co-opted culturally as porcelain figurines—now life-size.
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 the W Hotel, Hong Kong (2008), 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. Parekowhai's major work, The Horn of Africa, was recently purchased by Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane. Seldom is Herd is Michael Parekowhai’s third solo exhibition with Roslyn Oxley9 Gallery.