New Aberhart exhibition rolls back the decades

Laurence Aberhart Arcade, Ashburton, Canterbury, February 1978 8 x 10" contact print. 
Collection of the artist.

A new exhibition at Christchurch Art Gallery—captured entirely through the lens of one of New Zealand’s most respected photographers, Laurence Aberhart—is set to roll back the decades and show the city as it once was.

Aberhart Starts Here, opening this Friday, features 60 black-and-white photographic works taken by the artist while living in Christchurch in the 1970s and 80s, including a number never publicly exhibited before.

Christchurch Art Gallery senior curator Lara Strongman says the works are both extraordinary art and important historical documents.

“Aberhart’s photographs give us a sense of not only how the city used to look, but how it used to feel. They capture a way of life that no longer exists in Christchurch, shown through his framing of everyday ‘unpeopled’ scenes—the ordinary suburban houses, abandoned shops, masonic lodges and long-lost fast-food joints—some of them now iconic, others unseen or little-known.

“They also reveal a young artist training himself to see critical moments in the everyday world around him, developing his eye for the things that would later bring his work to international attention.”

Aberhart began his first series of photographic typologies, the Domestic Architecture series, in 1976. The first two images, Black House and White House, were taken with his 35mm camera. They were pictures of twinned post-war state houses, similar to the one he grew up in.

He moved on to taking large-format photos of the eccentric flat-roofed stucco houses of east Christchurch, many decorated with lightning bolts or chevrons and emblazoned with American-sounding names, such as Nirvana, Santa Maria or Bel Air.

From the late 1970s, Aberhart began to focus on his now-major series of photographs, the masonic lodges. Over the past thirty years, he has taken more than two hundred photographs of lodge buildings—the halls where Freemasons meet—on trips which have taken him and his antique 8x10 camera across the entire country.

Aberhart Starts Here is on display at Christchurch Art Gallery from 15 September 2017 to 6 February 2018. Entry is free.

The exhibition is also accompanied by a 136-page book, Aberhart Starts Here, featuring all of the photographic works on display and an essay by senior curator Lara Strongman.




About Laurence Aberhart

Laurence Aberhart is a Photographer based in Russell, New Zealand. His first solo exhibition was at the Peter McLeavey Gallery, Wellington, in 1978. He regularly exhibits in Wellington, Auckland, Sydney and Hong Kong and has exhibited work in Los Angeles, Europe, throughout New Zealand and Australia. Aberhart has received a number of Arts Council of New Zealand Awards, a Fulbright Travel Grant (USA, 1988), a Fulbright Research Fellowship (USA, 2010) and a Moet et Chandon Fellowship in France (1994).