Michael Parekowhai’s Cosmo McMurtry is caught in the headlights or perhaps he’s looking down the barrel of a shotgun. Either way, he’s running scared. He seems to be the underdog, but don’t be fooled by his cute exterior.

Rabbits are perennially popular as cartoon characters (Bugs, Roger, Bunnikins etc.) but they are also a highly problematic presence in rural Australia and New Zealand where escalating populations have made them a noxious pest. They’re a monumental problem for local fauna and flora. The title of this sculpture is based upon New Zealand actor Jim Cosmo, best known for his portrayal of the archetypal ‘man of the land’. Cosmo McMurtry stands for the individual and the masses, hero and villain, hunter and hunted. It’s hard to know whether he’s a good guy or not.

Parekowhai also made a brother for Cosmo McMurtryΒ called Jim McMurtry, an inflatable rabbit of the same scale, this time playing dead. Jim was first exhibited at the Gwangju Biennale in Korea in 2004.

Parekowhai’s practice visually shifts quite radically and each work typically accommodates a number of interpretations, each distinct from the other. His sculptures and photographs operate within the languages of Minimalism and Pop Art. He takes basic abstract concepts such as colour, scale, number and surface quality and maps them in complex ways onto stories of art history, popular culture, cultural identity, politics and autobiography.

Cosmo McMurtryΒ was funded by the Melbourne Art Foundation and former Board members, Christopher Hodges, Leo Christie OAM, Richard Frolich, Jan Minchin, Martin Beaver and Roslyn Oxley, the Myer Foundation, the National Gallery of Victoria and Michael Lett.

Michael Parekowhai, Cosmo McMurty, 2006, (commission by Melbourne Art Foundation and donated to the collection of the National Gallery of Victoria), installation view Melbourne Art Fair 2006