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Object: Buildings

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Title Buildings
Production Mrkusich, Milan (artist), 1955, Auckland
Medium summary oil on cotton fixed to hardboard
Materials oil paint, cotton, hardboard
Classification paintings
Dimensions Image: 632mm (Height) x 722mm (Width)
Frame: 667mm (Height) x 757mm (Width) x 52mm (Depth)
Credit line Purchased 1979 with Special Projects in the Arts funds
Registration number 1979-0035-11

This abstract oil painting by Milan Mrkusich was painted in 1955. It is one of a series of his paintings from that period that are studies of the advancing and receding qualities of certain colours. Buildings is grid of larger squares and rectangles that has been overlaid with smaller areas of bright colour. In this way Mrkusich has achieved a contrast between the order of the grid and the optical shimmer of the colour areas.

International examples
Mrkusich's painting recalls Piet Mondrian's Broadway Boogie-Woogie paintings of the 1940s. Mrkusich, who didn't travel overseas until 1982, knew of international modern art through books and magazines. Along with the geometric abstraction of Mondrian, Mrkusich was interested in the gestural and spontaneous modernism of painters like Kandinsky. Buildings' combination of broad gestural brushwork and geometric structure shows aspects of both these traditions.

A commitment to abstraction
According to Michael Dunn and Petar Vuletic, who curated the first retrospective of Mrkusich's work in 1972, Buildings suggests 'an effect of moonlight on a group of houses'. They go on to note that 'In terms of abstraction, these paintings, which have subject references, appear retrogressive; however, in their handling of colour they reveal a new degree of sophistication.'

While the atmospheric effects of Buildings do evoke a landscape at night, Mrkusich is more correctly understood as an abstract painter. The painting's formal relationships are internal, rather than toward external subjects like the twinkling lights of buildings. Mrkusich is notable for his commitment to abstract art at a time when New Zealand painting was dominated by landscape and figurative painting.

Te Papa's collection
There are thirteen paintings by Mrkusich in the Te Papa collection. He also created a mural of glass spandrels on the south facade of Te Papa's Cable Street building.

Related information

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