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Frank MALERBA (b.1950)

Frank Malerba (b1950) is a St Kilda based artist who is best known for his beautiful line drawings and lineal steel sculptures. He is also a gifted painter as well as being a director and owner of Jackman Gallery in St Kilda.

Malerba has lived and worked in St Kilda for many years. His roots are in the areas of graphic design and advertising - however it is in the arena of the fine arts that Malerba has devoted himself for the past twenty years or so.

Malerba and his Jackman Gallery are something of an institution within the St Kilda
art and social scene. As a director of Jackman Gallery he has been influential in showcasing many established and emerging artists since the galleries inception in 1994. Within this environment he has also been no stranger to controversy - especially that which occurred over several commission proposals for public art pieces that were envisaged for the public space outside James Fagan's Tolarno Hotel. Some opponents to the proposals saw the works as being demeaning, disrespectful, and sexualising of women. Malerba's own view of the pieces was that he found inspiration in the "contemporary identity of women, emanating the strong, cool, authoritarian characteristics empowering women of today"*  Malerba said of his sculpture: "In this work I aimed to create a cool iconic edgy sculpture which depicts the women behind the uniform...depicting how women have the same power, confidence and authority as their male counterparts but with a touch of glamour. Behind the uniform there is a softer more obviously feminine aspect of the contemporary female."**

The most contentious of the sculptures was a steel linear piece depicting three policewomen in attitudes of playful dominatrix type expression with the women dressed in fishnet stockings, boots and revealing leather or latex outfits - brandishing their weapons and their bodies in a sexually playful manner. Perhaps in the age of "Me Too" this type of subject matter and expression was always going to find itself out of step with contemporary societal demands and values. Artistic expression and its manifestation doesn't always find itself a hospitable reception within the society of its day.

Bill Henson - arguably Australia's greatest ever photographic artist - has similarly found himself the subject of attack over the perceived appropriateness of his images and their origins. Egon Schiele - one of the 20th centuries greatest lineal artists - was thrown into prison for daring to draw, and have sit for him; young girls in highly sexualised poses.

A less controversial public sculptural piece of Malerba's can be found in Cecil Street, South Melbourne. This is a large painted steel installation that depicts a busy urban scene complete with tram, clock tower and pedestrians. It adorns the corner of a block of apartments in Cecil Street where it was commissioned by the developer and approved by the Port Philip City Council. It's an impressive piece and shows how versatile Malerba can be.

Frank Malerba has had many solo exhibitions throughout Melbourne and Sydney. He has shown with Jackman Gallery in Melbourne, Robin Gibson, Sydney; Global Gallery, Sydney; and Saatchi and Saatchi, Sydney. He has participated in over twenty group shows (his sculptures have been a particular feature in Sydney's "Sculpture by the Sea" festivals), completed numerous commissions, been a finalist in many award and festival exhibitions as well as being the winner of the 2008 Contempora Public Choice award.


*       The Age 20/11/11 article by Cameron Houston

**>tag>frank.m... 21/11/11


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