It’s All About the Image,by Dick Frizzell (Godwit, 2011), 280 pp., $65.
Something about Dick Frizzell either irks or delights people: there is no scope for the in-between. I’ve just had my third student in as many years asking whether they might please write their Honours dissertation on him. Is there comparable demand, I wonder, at the Elam School of Art, where Frizzell taught for many years? Largely spurned by the curatorial and art historical world and simultaneously loved by the public, there are certain parallels between Frizzell (as he ruefully notes) and Peter McIntyre half a century ago. But whereas the literati — Landfall included — could pretend that McIntyre never existed, such mandarin hauteur is impossible to sustain in a noisier contemporary world. Frizzell is the favourite of the gallery shop if not of the gallery itself, and the time will surely come, one hopes before the master’s dotage, when he will be accorded an already overdue retrospective exhibition.
It’s All About the Image is not so much about the art of Frizzell but — something deeply suspect, and a word that he does not use himself — his taste. ‘Only a perverse form of prejudice emerges from taste’, claims the right-on contemporary art curator Okwui Enwezor, but it is precisely this prejudice (and indeed the perversion) that is guaranteed to pique any reader — or rather viewer — of this book. The cover, a-spoof-cum-tribute to Colin McCahon, with a background the colour of cherry yoghurt, sets the tone and invites a dip that soon becomes a gorge.