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Contemporary art

Western art

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I guess I lose



Ronnie van Hout

New Zealand, Australia

1962 -


Encompassing sculpture, painting, photography, video and embroidery, the work of Melbourne-based artist Ronnie van Hout offers a wonderfully macabre exploration of the self. It is at once shamelessly personal, often incorporating images and documents relating to the artist or indeed depictions of the artist himself, and universally affective, using a twisted wit to bring the absurdity of our existence into keen focus. A common theme running through van Hout’s work, off which ‘I guess I lose’ riffs, is the way in which we fabricate versions of ourselves, often blindly, in the pursuit of our aspirations.

Depicting the artist’s toppled head, the sculpture I guess I lose was made for the exhibition Indians & Cowboys at 4A Centre of Contemporary Asian Art, then Gallery 4a, which explored the role of humour in confronting cultural stereotypes. The work makes reference to the 1986 movie Soul man. Pitched as a comedy, the movie can at best be described as astoundingly tone deaf. Soul man tells the story of a young, wealthy white American man who wants to get into Harvard, but without the financial support of his parents, he decides to pose as an African American student to receive a scholarship. The movie received widespread criticism for its use of blackface and its overall insensitivity towards depicting issues of race and discrimination. Using his characteristic dark humour, van Hout tackles this insensitivity head on. I guess I lose is a stinging parody of ignorance and privilege and the perpetuation of offensive stereotypes.




Media category


Materials used

cast epoxy resin fibreglass, nylon wig and metal stand


overall dimensions variable :

a - head, 33 x 27 x 20 cm

b - rock, 20 x 25 x 18 cm

c - speech bubble, 20 x 25 x 18 cm


Gift of Jim Barr and Mary Barr 2017. Founding Governors of the Friends of New Zealand Art


Not on display

Accession number


Artist information

Ronnie van Hout

Works in the collection


Shown in 1 exhibition

Exhibition history

Referenced in 1 publication


Justin Paton (Curator), Reboot: the Jim Barr and Mary Barr collection, Dunedin, 2006.