From watchtowers to greenhouse to mountains — We checked out an art show called “The News From Here” at the Art Gallery of Alberta with the hopes of learning something about the places we call home.
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Picture yourself reclined on a blanket of retro geometric print, your head resting on a velvety pillow in burnt-orange hue, while headphones and modified ski goggles flood your senses with hypnotic drones and strobing lights. As you’re lulled into a dreamlike state, your subconscious thoughts run wild and you find yourself committing heinous acts, or falling victim to atrocities sourced from exaggerated or distorted elements of the everyday. You conjure up the physiologically impossible, like the ability to fly or breathe underwater, along with the socially implausible—you are naked in public, twisting a knife into the abdomen of a friend or engaging in some spontaneous sex act. Under the spell of the Mind’s Eye Plus, an antiquated psychiatric device that uses modulated frequencies of light and sound to alter brain activity, nothing is taboo, and there to guide you through the unpacking, recording and transcribing of your innermost inklings, is the Regina, Saskatchewan art collective Turner Prize*.
Time is a bitch. The funny thing is though, despite how adversarial it may seem, time is on your side; it just needs a little finessing and experience to become as subjective as art. Time is fluid and constantly changing based on the perception of the individual. Consider nostalgia then, as an off-shoot of time, and we see that it too is subjective; based on past and expected experience. Rodney Graham’s exhibition Canadian Humourist at the Vancouver Art Gallery summons these concepts of time and nostalgia. Graham’s characters are stuck in an era where all they seem to have is time, and yet, somehow it is still not enough.
Take a walk through Sean MacAlister’s latest exhibition inside Calgary’s Haight Gallery.
“Deepthroat, masking tape, magazines, breakfast, a break-in, kittens, skateboarding, an axe and a studio by the train; these few memorable details are what I recall from my first few encounters with Calgary artist Sean MacAlister. I became acquainted with Sean after a friend dialed his number and handed me the phone. Cold-calling someone that you don’t know from a number that they recognize is fun. They almost always answer and since they already know you share friends, it’s likely that they’ll be open to talking to you. It is at this point where I began my conversation with Sean and my exploration of his exhibition Crows Nest at Haight Gallery…”
Damian Moppett is an artist’s artist, but this dubious statement doesn’t refer to his audience, it means that he is haunted by the art historical canon. In his many photographs, videos, drawings, paintings and sculptures, Moppett, with wavering humility, inserts himself among art’s white European male luminaries of the past, from Andre to Brancusi and Calder, to Hollis Frampton and Fischli & Weiss, to name just a few, in alphabetical order (for no particular reason).
The environments in which we encounter stories play a big role in our remembering them. Smells, tastes, visions — all contribute to a fifth sense of a particular moment. In the instance of repeat conditions, your memory can flip back to the story without warning or conscious effort, and associate the experience of its telling as an essential element of its existence. In Cold Flows, Republic Gallery’s December show, Rose Bouthillier takes on a meandering of this exact sort. The exhibition mines her past — a journey into the psychic connections of disparate narratives and how they are created through a tally of divergent experiences. Bouthillier employs subtitles, translations, and generalized dubbing when compiling visuals. Watercolours, sculptural representations, and photographs combine to iterate the bond between time, material and representation, stretching and reconfiguring original experiences to their prospective limits.
Long before the modern day celebrity gossip rag, a revolution took place in the 1970s. Subcultures of drugs, overt sexuality, and free expression formed and begged to be documented. Photographers Larry Clark and Kohei Yoshiyuki did just that in their respective cities of Tulsa, Oklahoma and Tokyo, Japan. Though the worlds they came to inhabit were different, their methods were similar, becoming a spectator in each community and documenting their time in black and white film. Presentation House Gallery is presenting each series as separate exhibitions under one roof, creating a dialogue referencing hidden and marginalized communities.
Nuit Blanche (sorry, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche) can be frustrating: with hundreds of art projects spread across a city for one night only, it is physically impossible to see everything. Beer consumption takes precedence for many, and crowd navigation becomes a survival tactic, precluding real consideration of the work itself (the event’s purported raison d’être). But for all the commotion, every year Nuit Blanche commissions a number of excellent projects that can really give one pause in the midst of the chaos. One way to sift through the deluge is to go small-scale. In this spirit, I’m zeroing in on one curator, one zone and four projects you should probably check out.
While the Vancouver Art Gallery’s forthcoming exhibition, The Colour of My Dreams: The Surrealist Revolution in Art, enjoys the hype campaign of a blockbuster, its frugal precursor is quietly showing on the gallery’s third floor. Largely drawn from the VAG’s permanent collection, Unreal makes a case for the continuing vitality of the surrealist project in contemporary art, likely in the hope that you’ll return to see what dreams may come this summer.
Over the last eight or so years, Sandy Plotnikoff has used an antique foil stamping press to apply glittering, metallic foils onto probably thousands of objects, accumulating and transforming huge quantities of cheap, unremarkable objects, disused commodities and thrift-shop finds. He’s known for hand-printing and pasting hundreds of Value Village price stickers to unlikely or unsaleable objects, and for giving new life to bread tabs, bottoms of sneakers and, perhaps most memorably, vintage postcards, where for instance he captioned snapshots of the Grand Canyon with the wry announcement “Holidays Cancelled” and views of Mount Vesuvius with the heading “Toronto.” Snap fasteners, Velcro, buttons and second-hand socks are also among the artist’s choice material, his clusters of snaps becoming the stuff of sculptural form while simultaneously colonizing sweaters and wrist cuffs. Through his experimental adaptations of such ubiquitous material, Plotnikoff recuperates and transforms ordinary or obsolete objects into sculptural matter.
Since the Venice Biennale first opened in 1895, the ‘biennial’ exhibition has become central to the way contemporary art regions around the world represent themselves. Now spanning three centuries, the bi-annual survey exhibition continues to grow in popularity as meanings get muddled along the way. Self-described biennials are too many to count and have come to represent efforts to take the pulse of contemporary art in its global and local manifestations. Within this sprawling field, regional biennials, often folded into the programming mandates of museums and branches of government, occupy a unique role. Unlike worlds fair-styled international affairs, museums like the Orange County Museum of Art—others include the Whitney’s biennial of American art, or in Canada the triennial of Quebec artists at the Musée d’art Contemporain—organize group exhibitions that present new works to be consumed largely by audiences that reside in the same region as the artists.
Upon entering Walking, Square, Cylinder, Plane I am filled with an overwhelming anxiety. The exhibition title repeats in my mind cyclically, a rhythmic poem of seven syllables. I circumnavigate the gallery quietly with great concentration. Six paintings, oil on canvas, are hung sequentially down the length of the gallery, three to the left and three to the right. At the end of the space, almost as an after thought, stands a vitrine, its contents systematically assembled. Fourteen watercolour drawings on paper are placed two by seven. Each column and row is separated by a framework of painted balsa wood, emphasizing an involved yet illusive structure.
As Carl Sagan gazes off into the cosmos during his 1980s PBS television series of the same name, he ponders the delayed travel of light from the stars. He notes that, “space and time are interwoven,” so that “we cannot look out into space without looking back in time.” Watching him gaze out into space from 2010, I wonder if future generations will continue to look back at him looking back in time. Antique Sky, Jay Isaac’s recent solo exhibition at LES Gallery, could be seen through a similar kind of temporal imagination…
Explore the glowing work of Jay Isaac, an artist who uses unusual medium
Not the regular fare at the National Gallery of Canada. Pop Life: Art in a Material World explores the history of Pop Art.
Lee Henderson has the ablity to close up his gallery in under a minute and ramble down the road with it stowed under his arm. Leah Turner caught up with him and his travelling gallery.
As Color readers well know, in recent years Vancouver art has experienced a proliferation of representational drawing and work on paper. Drawing is situated generally within the spirit of DIY collaboration, and a tendency toward the expressively low-tech, the handmade, and the naively rendered; while its popularity might well be explained by its practicality. It’s accessible and inexpensive; essentially, it’s a fundamentally intimate practice, done in the home, or in a bedroom even. And, as Vancouver-based novelist and art critic Lee Henderson’s unique curatorial project proves, it’s also portable.
It’s an odd fit, a skateboard magazine profiling an exhibition of watercolour landscapes from the early-to-mid 20th century. Even for Color. But this retrospective of the late Charles Burchfield, who occupied an uneasy position in American art history—revered by many but overlooked amidst the emerging brand of American modernism of the postwar years—is its own curiosity. Its presentation at the institution that bears the artist’s name is but one stop along the way for a show that initiated at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles. The Hammer, an institution better known for its contemporary programming, has indeed struck up a curious pairing, inviting famed contemporary American sculptor Robert Gober to curate a monographic exhibition of an artist he would seem to bear little relation to. But judging from the rigour and sensitivity of this exhibition, the affinities run deep.
Grant Barnhart’s new solo exhibition, a collection of acrylic paintings and a couple of sculptures, is simultaneously excessive and withholding. The handling of paint is light, combining a natural, at times muted, palette with subject matter that is heavy on narrative. Both conventional and absurd, Barnhart’s imagery tempts us with familiar categories of narrative while simultaneously needling us with absurd scenarios and incongruous elements – as we attempt to reconcile the familiar with the strange, we are incessantly reminded to ask, just what is the “it” we are begging for?
One of art history’s best told tales recounts how artists learnt to convincingly render reality, hinging, of course, on the 15th century “discovery” of linear perspective and its potential for remarkable illusionism. Contrary to what the five following centuries of artistic practice might suggest, the success of Australian-born, London-based artist Ron Mueck proves that verisimilitude and technical virtuosity still holds us very much in thrall today. Organized by the National Gallery of Canada, and in large part comprised of works in their permanent collection, Real Life brings Mueck together with acclaimed Israeli and Berlin-based artist Guy Ben-Ner, to probe the philosophical territories of reality, artifice and everyday existence. Originally shown at the National Gallery’s satellite exhibition venue in Shawinigan, Quebec, in 2008, Real Life has since toured to several venues across Canada, including where I took it in, at Calgary’s Glenbow Museum
Same Same / SHOW
Video artist Breitz examines screen icons and pop culture then delves into the world of twins with edited and constructed interviews.
Creating feelings of nostalgia in his recent exhibition at East Vancouver’s LES Gallery.