Exhibitions Auckland



I still have a vivid impression of the moment I walked into Frank Womble's Zpace Zhow one lunchtime back in June. The smile that crossed my face when first confronted by the rich clusters of assemblages and collages that covered the walls of the Barry Lett Gallery was, I noticed, repeated on most faces as they came through the door. Ripples of delighted laughter accompanied by pointing and tugging of sleeves were much in evidence during each of my subsequent visits.

On one occasion there was another sound which cut right through the good-humoured murmuring. the sound of the artist Frank Womble in clown's make-up munching loudly and un-selfconsciously on a large carrot. In the comparative quiet of the gallery during this early morning period each bite rattled through the room like gunfire.

(Barry Lett Galleries)

San Francisco born, Frank Womble came to New Zealand about five years ago and had his first exhibition at the Barry Lett a couple of years later. It was on a smaller scale than the Zpace Zhow and incorporated ideas suggested by a Ferlinghetti poem.

The work in the Zpace Zhow ranged from large assemblages or junk sculpture, sometimes based on the crucifixion motif and employing elements as large and unlikely as a Volkswagen bonnet; to small mounted stamps or photographs of people taken from magazines and overdrawn with ink or paint. The most common image was that of a clown's mask and many of the most successful pieces were among these small altered snippets from a variety of print media.

The more interesting of the sculptural works were also very simple. Some were constructed of rough pieces of wood, rusting debris and artefacts of mass production, and machinery parts presented almost as found. They often combined a sense of whimsy with a genuine feel for primitive form.

Frank Womble openly displayed the debt he owes to Robert Rauschenberg by pinning the Time magazine article of last November to the gallery wall, along with other relevant bits and pieces. Although it pleases him that people find his work amusing there is a serious intent underlying his art, and he happily talks at length about his 'quest for the individual's soul and spirit' in the media with which we are constantly bombarded. He also hopes to extend his interest in clowns and masks by moving into a form of live theatre, and his appearances at the Zpace Zhow in make-up were only a beginning, he says.