January 19, 2011 — Artist Reko Rennie, a Kamilaroi/Gamilaraay/Gummaroi man from Melbourne, Australia, is spending two weeks at the University of Virginia, where he is painting the interior walls of U.Va.'s Kluge-Ruhe Collection's rotating gallery through Jan. 21.
The exhibit, "Patternation," opens to the public Jan. 28 with a public reception from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Stephen Gilchrist (Yamatji), curator of indigenous art at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, is curator of Rennie's exhibit. He worked with Rennie to develop the concept and will be present to consult on the installation.
According to Gilchrist, the exhibit's title refers both to the repetitive "patter" of national discourse concerning indigenous people in both Australia and the U.S., and to the bold, geometric patterns used by Rennie.
Although his father is an artist, Rennie came to his own art practice through contemporary youth culture – hip hop, break dancing and graffiti. Equally comfortable working in the street or the gallery, Rennie uses stencils and spray paint to produce intricate images addressing themes of identity, justice and tradition. Rennie's kangaroo, dubbed "Big Red," is both a national emblem seen on Australia's coat of arms and a symbol of Aboriginal survival.
Prior to becoming an artist, Rennie worked as a journalist in television, radio and print, including several years at The Age newspaper in Melbourne. In 2009, he was awarded an Australian Council of the Arts residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.
While in Charlottesville, Rennie will collaborate on a public art project at The Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative with Native American artist Frank Buffalo Hyde (Nez Perce/Onondaga) from Jan. 25 to 27.
Hyde, who lives in Pittsburgh, mixes Indian imagery with icons of pop culture, expressing what he calls the "fragmented contemporary life" of a Native American U.S. citizen. Although not a street artist, Hyde incorporates stencils in his paintings on canvas.
Hyde attended the Santa Fe Fine Arts Institute and the Institute of American Indian Arts. He has exhibited his work for more than 15 years in many Santa Fe galleries as well as in Chicago, New York and San Francisco.
Rennie, Hyde and studio art professor Dean Dass of the College of Arts & Sciences will present new work inspired by street art at the "Beyond Walls" symposium at U.Va. on Jan. 28, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., in Campbell Hall, room 153, followed by a reception in the Ruffin Hall lobby.