Didn’t know anything about this exhibition or gallery until I read about it in “The Adelaide Review” (“Sturt Street’s contemporary art space”, Jane Llewellyn). An art gallery run by (and studio for) two Adelaide artists, Anton Hart and Craige Andrae, who along with a few others: Shaun Kirby (certainly) and John Barbour (possibly) were frequently referred to as “The A Team”, back in the ‘90s when Richard Grayson was running “The Experimental Art Foundation”. There were other “team” members: Grayson himself, Linda Marie Walker / Paul Hewson, possibly Mehmit Adil, Johnnie Dady? They were “the aAb” (“art Adelaide’s brats”) around the time of “the yBa” (“young British artists”) and the rise of Saatchi.
“Mortal Close Ups”, “SOUTHWEST’s” Project 2, (“SOUTHWEST CONTEMPORARY” will host only five projects per year) curated by Hart, features the work of the aforementioned Barbour (“Untitled Object”), Andrae (“Fly”), Kirby (“Blowhole (Gasbag)”) as well as Paloma Concierta (“Still”).
I’ve not heard anything of Andrae for some time, Hart seems most recently mentioned, almost exclusively, in the context of public art works, last I heard Kirby had moved to Melbourne, around about 1996, and was doing work at “Thylacine”, a design / display company (his departing exhibition at, where else?, the EAF (“International Headache Congress”?) was beautiful and mesmerising, though I often found his work hard to decipher / interpret. Kirby’s work in this show is suitably arcane and oblique, reminiscent of a lot of his work of that time. For some reason, maybe it’s the MDF, “Blowhole (Gasbag)” reminds me of his work (“Mick the Miller, my fine beige grey hound (Don’s paper work)”, did I mention “oblique”?) in the “ruins in reverse” exhibition, curated by Susan Fereday, at the RMIT Gallery in 1996. The late John Barbour is represented in this show by “Untitled Object”, a more or less life-sized, though (of course) lifeless, roughly fashioned, dusty, lead heart. The poignancy of the object is heightened by the fact that it was made in 2011, the year of Barbour’s death. And it’s hard, now, not to read the work in that context (“heavy of heart”? etc, lead also having funerary associations and lead being a metal that is almost inert, it is slowly reactive, as maybe Barbour’s heart was at the time, his health declined over the twelve months prior to his death, the result of pancreatic cancer). “Untitled Object” benefits from being positioned, very sympathetically, adjacent to Concierta’s “Still”, a colour print / photo of a glass half empty /  half full (a “nod” in the direction of “Untitled Object”?), which is roughly the same size as “Untitled Object” and muted in tones not dis-similar to the greyness of “…Object’s” lead. Some of Barbour’s work was / is plainly obtuse, even obstinately so, at times requiring insider knowledge to get to the “meaning” of the work. Others were somewhat “jokey”, I’m thinking here of a half remembered story that went something like: Barbour rose to the challenge of making an art work from materials that were to be found discarded on the campus where he worked. The result was a “clothes locker” with crooked and poorly attached galv “chimney” (actually a cone capped sewer “stink pipe”, I think). I thought of it as something Ed “Big Daddy” Roth would admire, or maybe the haunt of Roth’s very famous “Rat Fink”. I liked it a lot. I think I saw it in an exhibition at, what was then, “The Contemporary Art Society Gallery” (or maybe it was already “The Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia”), in Parkside. To be honest, I always seem to think of Barbour in conjunction with George Popperwell, rather than “the A Team”, not exactly sure why. Contemporaries? Exhibited in the same sorts of places? Both teacher / lecturers? Their work, to be sure, I remember as being wildly different: Popperwell’s work always meticulously crafted / Babour’s work always, seemingly, indifferent to craft, though (of course) what we know of craft, in the context of art, is that it is irrelevant. Because it must be perfect.
The hanging of and the show itself, both appear stern, austere (none of that “cabinet of curiosities “ mix that Nick Mitzevich has left as a legacy at the AGSA, for the time being): intentionally, fundamentally and confidently didactic, though what it seeks to teach is not immediately obvious, well, to me at least. It is quite beautiful, in an arresting, but not cold way. Hart and Andrae must ascribe to Claes Oldenburg’s famous aphorism, “Anyone who listens to what an artist has to say should have their eyes examined” because there is a dearth of information about the artists, the works, the exhibition, the gallery. Some might be sufficient. Hart (as was Andrae) was in attendance and volunteered that he was happy to talk about the show. Me? I’m not keen on relying on an interpreter. (I do ascribe to Oldenburg’s aphorism.)
Not the first time “A Team” members have been involved in a gallery, “E.A.F.” not withstanding. They were instrumental in “post west”*, a gallery run by Alan Cruickshank, Linda Marie Walker, Paul Hewson and David O’Halloran in 1992 / 3, located in the (at the time, very even less than fashionable) west end of Adelaide’s CBD.
Of the four, artists showing in “Mortal Close Ups” only Concierta’s work (“Still” (still water? / still life? / still photograph?)) is recent (2019). The works by Andrae, Barbour and Kirby all date from the ‘90s** so there is a somewhat “museum like” function to the show.  According to Llewellyn, Hart’s stated “desire” is for “SOUTHWEST” “to exhibit artists whose work isn’t getting an airing anywhere else”.
“SOUTHWEST CONTEMPORARY” might, yet, find itself in an art precinct (just as “post west” didn’t): the west end of Sturt St is currently home to both “Kintaloi Gallery”, the ever redoubtable “James Music” and well known outsider artist Steve Langdon has long maintained a gallery / studio / house at number 213, on the corner of Sturt and Little Sturt Sts. A very official sign on West Tce pointing down Sturt St proclaimed “Community Arts Network”: I couldn’t find it. “Windmill Theatre Company”, is just off Sturt in Arthur St, there are a couple of good looking eateries ( I can vouch for the food at “The Vietnamese Laundromat”). “Jet Trading” looks interesting as does Adelaide South West Community Centre and there’s a couple of run down, and maybe vacant, properties that might be worth investigating.
To be honest / I have to admit, I was a bit sceptical, in fact a lot sceptical, but it turns out I’m looking forward to Project 3. “SOUTHWEST CONTEMPORARY” looks like an interesting and very welcome addition to the vis arts landscape of Adelaide. And can’t we do with it?
*“post west” / “SOUTHWEST”, no caps / all caps? Still “west / WEST”.
** I’m wondering if there is an “A Team” storage facility somewhere, a bit like at the end of “Raiders of the Lost Ark”.  Or maybe an  “aAb Roswell”.