Kiss The Baby Goodbye

Michael Parekowhai1994

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki

Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
Auckland, New Zealand

The smooth powder-coated surface of Michael Parekowhai’s Kiss the Baby Goodbye disguises its layers of densely packed meaning. With tongue in cheek, Parekowhai has appropriated Gordon Walters’s classic 1969 painting Kahukura. He transforms Walters’s coolly modernist painting into a sculpture resembling an oversized child’s toy – a plastic kitset model with snap out, glue together components.

Parekowhai’s barbed homage refers in part to the debate surrounding Walters’s appropriation of the koru, a traditional Māori art form. Walters, a New Zealander of European ancestry, made his signature works of the 1960s and 1970s with a stripped-back version of the traditional koru – a move that has been seen by some as divesting the koru of its cultural significance. Parekowhai is of European and Māori descent, but his work neither prosecutes or defends Walters’s use of the koru. Instead, he appropriates the appropriation. Kiss the Baby Goodbye’s industrial finish, with its connotations of assembly line production, further unsettles any distinction between what is authentic and what is borrowed.

Walters’s paintings create a play of positive and negative space, with light and dark graphic elements curving into and forming each other. Of course, in Parekowhai’s sculptural version these interlocking dark and light elements become actual solids and voids. While the ‘kitset’ format seems to invite us to snap the koru components out of their frame and build something new – do-it-yourself sculpture – this would cause the negative space to disappear and the tension and balance of the composition to be lost. Ambiguous, mischievious and subversive, Parekowhai’s work dismantles easy categories and simple oppositions, opening a field of play.

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  • Title: Kiss The Baby Goodbye
  • Creator: Michael Parekowhai
  • Date Created: 1994
  • Physical Dimensions: w4600 x h3600 mm (entire)
  • More Info: View this artwork on the Chartwell Trust website
  • Description: Michael Parekowhai was born in Porirua in 1968 and now lives and works in Auckland, New Zealand. Of European and Māori descent, his Māori whakapapa is Ngā Ariki, Ngāti Whakarongō and Te Aitangā a Māhaki. Parekowhai studied at Elam School of Fine Arts, University of Auckland, graduating as a Bachelor of Fine Arts in 1990 and a Master of Fine Arts in 2000. In 2001 Parekowhai was awarded an Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureate, and he represented New Zealand at the 54th Venice Biennale in 2011 with On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer. Michael Parekowhai is Associate Professor in Fine Arts at the University of Auckland.
  • Type: Sculpture
  • Rights: Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki, 1994 <a href="http://www.chartwell.org.nz/Collection/ArtworkDetails/artwork/396/title/kiss-the-baby-goodbye.aspx">Visit the Chartwell Collection website</a>, http://www.aucklandartgallery.com/terms-of-use
  • External Link: Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tāmaki
  • Medium: powder coated steel