This week we had the pleasure of attending the opening of an exhibition accompanying an auction of works (by online art dealers Ocula Black) from the collection of the great New Zealand modernist artist, Milan Mrkusich.
This isn't an auction of works from the secondary market, but paintings from Milan Mrkusich's own collection that have been selected for auction by his son, Lewis Mrkusich. Lewis has chosen five pairs of works, each pair combining a painting from early in his father's career with a more recent work.
The image below shows, at left on the end wall, 'Chromatic Primary Suite', completed in 1992, paired with (at right on end wall) 'Triptych: Homage to Rodchenko), painted in 1966. The pairings of all the works show the remarkable consistency of Mrkusich's exploration of geometry and colour throughout his career.
This image (below) shows 'Meta Grey Light Series No. 1' (1970) at left, and 'Meta Grey, Yellow' (1998) at right.
Here (below), Milan Mrkusich's 'Progression II' (1985-92) is shown at left alongside 'Untitled I' (2002).
At the opening, a couple of people wondered if Milan Mrkusich was still alive, as they hadn't seen any new works from him in some time. We can happily report that he is in his 80s and, although he now needs to use a walker to help him move around, he is very much alive, although he stopped painting some years ago. He didn't attend the opening but visited the gallery earlier in the day to see the works. Lewis said his father was delighted to see the paintings, and intrigued by the way they were grouped.
In the image below, Milan Mrkusich's 'Dark Painting II' (1971) hangs at left beside 'Achromatic with Cobalt Blue' (1991).
Not everyone knows that Mrkusich, who was born in Dargaville in 1925, began his career as a designer at the Auckland firm of Brenner Associates. He worked on a number of architectural projects and also designed the Auckland home that he still lives in, a modernist marvel that is still in terrific condition (but he is reticent about having it photographed).
Wellingtonians will also know his work from the mural of colour blocks on the Cable Street facade of Te Papa, commissioned as the museum was undergoing construction. And, of course, his paintings are in major public and private collections all over the country.
Ocula Black's online auction of these wonderful works continues until next Tuesday, November 26. Even if you aren't going to bid on them, we recommend you take the opportunity to visit Ocula Black's Auckland gallery space (at 25 Sale Street) to see the paintings - or see more of them at the Ocula Black link at the top of this page.