There's something rotton in the state of Ronnie. Melbourne artist Ronnie van Hout is a master of slapstick existentialism. His tragicomic works mash up Sartre and Beckett with The Two Ronnies and The Nutty Professor. Often bearing his own features, van Hout's figurative sculptures beg to be read as doppelgangers, mini-mes, and brothers from another planet. In Sick Child 2 he presents himself child scale, in his PJs, one arm in a sling, the other hand down his pants—his adult face scowling. What would Hetty Johnston make of this image? Do we read it as an adult with childish features or as a child with adult features; as sick child or childish sicko? If this work is hideously abject, the iconic Failed Robot leans the other way. Apertures in its metallic-grey geometric-block body reveal fleshy human eyeballs and human-gums-and-teeth—vestiges of the organic. The frailty of the organic body is also a theme in Van Hout's cryptic installation Hold that Thought. In a clinical-white room, we find a desicated corpse in PJs scrunched up in a bathroom cupboard—like it died and dried there. Next to casts of six ripe potatoes are wrinkly casts of the same potatoes gone to seed. Alongside a molecule-like sculpture made of spheres is another of a picturesque male head breaking out in warts. In this contemporary vanitas, the viewer is left to join the dots.
Ronnie van Hout is represented by Ivan Anthony, Auckland; Hamish McKay Gallery, Wellington; and Darren Knight Gallery, Sydney.