Menu Close
  • When6 Nov - 13 Dec 2015
  • ArtistsDavid Aspden, Sydney Ball, Michael Johnson, Dick Watkins
  • CuratorTerence Maloon

Birth of the Cool exhibition was a selection of major works by four painters: David Aspden, Sydney Ball, Michael Johnson and Dick Watkins. It surveyed the decade between 1963 and 1973.

With the benefit of hindsight, this can be appraised as a golden era of Australian art, with a brilliant generation emerging in full confidence of its powers, determined to excel at the highest level – not just locally, but in a global context.

The art historian Bernard Smith characterised that generation as the first genuine avant-garde to appear in Australia since the Heidelberg School in the 1880s. Greeted enthusiastically as a liberation from dowdy provincialism and ingrained mediocrity, the trail-blazing art of the era was cheered on by supporters and simultaneously howled down by detractors.  Hard-edge, colour-field abstraction – a common idiom of this exhibition – may best be remembered in connection with the exhibition The Field held in Melbourne and Sydney in 1968, in which Aspden, Ball, Johnson and Watkins participated.

A reappraisal of the idiom has been in full swing during the last few years. Birth of the Cool contributes to this reconsideration with some of the finest, most dazzling works borrowed from private and institutional collections across Australia, several of which have been out of the public eye for decades.

Birth of the Cool has been organized in collaboration with the Anne and Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, curated by Terence Maloon.

Install Images


Buy Now / $25 + $10 postage

  • TitleBirth of the Cool: 1963-1973
  • SpecsPaperback, 48 pages, 24 x 22 cm
  • PublisherPublished 2015 by DHG Publishing
  • DetailsDavid Aspden, Sydney Ball, Michael Johnson, Dick Watkins; Text by Terence Maloon (Curator)
  • ISBN978-0-9942584-5-8
  • Price$25 + $10 postage / Buy Now

Art review: Birth of the Cool at Canberra’s ANU Drill Hall Gallery

Review by Sasha Grishin for the Canberra Times, 17 November 2015

Install images: Rob Little

The Drill Hall Gallery acknowledges the Ngunnawal and Ngambri peoples, the traditional custodians of the Canberra region, and recognises their continuous connection to culture, community and Country.