Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, February 15, 2017


ART SEEN: Performance art protest gets cheeky in downtown Vancouver.  Rick Gibson, the performance artist who made Sniffy the Rat famous 27 years ago, was back Friday in a performance that bared his body to passersby.  Gibson framed as performance art what some people might simply call a protest. He said his ideas about art go back when he was a youngster growing up and reading political cartoons in newspapers. He loved their combination of politics and humour. He still does.  Vancouver Sun, February 10, 2017


Robert Amos: Artist chronicles a failing ‘perfect society’  Neil McClelland is a person who likes to paint. I visited him in a gallery full of his painted panels, and he is also a sessional instructor at University of Victoria’s Fine Arts Department, where he teaches the “foundations” course. He also teaches at the Vancouver Island School of Art, offering introductory drawing, and courses in advanced painting.  Times Colonist, February 12, 2017


Art Gallery of Windsor exhibition explores history of African Canadians. Kenneth Montague said his exposure to visual culture on television and in movies in the early 1970s and his first experiences with art at the Detroit Institute of Art, along with his volunteer work at the North American Black Historical Museum (now the Amherstburg Freedom Museum) showed him that there was a rich black cultural heritage that he wasn’t learning about in school. The touring exhibition was co-organized in 2010 by Montegue and staff at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, where he lives and works as a dentist. It includes a wide variety of photographic works from his personal archive — the Wedge Collection — ranging from rare vintage portraits of the first African immigrants to Canada to contemporary works by established artists.  Windsor Star, February 12, 2017


Video: In the Studio with Laurie Kang. In Toronto-based artist Laurie Kang’s studio, you’ll find surfaces littered with debris that feels a little bit primordial and a little bit post-apocalyptic. Desiccated orange peels and stone-fruit pits are strewn among lumps of molten metal, twisted ropes of polymer clay, plastic tubes, sticky gels and silicone moulds of eggs. A length of wire curls like a tendril around a putty-coloured piece of silicone that looks like a flap of skin. These are the discarded materials from Kang’s explorations in photography, sculpture and installation.  Canadian Art, February 14, 2017

Looking past bans, burkas and oppression.  Surgical precision has hardly been a hallmark of the American administration’s policy-making in its early days, as it lurches from one calamitous executive order to the next. Its blundering, broad brush-stroke divisiveness was exactly what the Aga Khan Museum intended to counter when it opened here in 2014, with its unmatched collection of Islamic antiquities and an invitation to all. This was a museum meant to erode barriers between people: a tall enough order in the pre-Trump era, and now one of Everestian proportions.  Toronto Star, February 10, 2017


Provocative, experimental, challenging: 2017 Governor General’s Media and Visual Arts winners announced  A sculptor whose best-known ceramics work was once rejected for display at a World Expo by the federal government is among the winners of this year’s Governor General’s Awards in Visual and Media Arts.  Glenn Lewis is one of eight laureates who will be honoured by the Canada Council for the Arts, the organization announced Wednesday.  The Vancouver artist shook the art scene with his 1970 piece Artifact, which was commissioned by Canada for the World Expo in Osaka, Japan but rejected by the pavilion’s commissioner Patrick Reid as too provocative. The winners of the 2017 Governor General’s Visual and Media Arts Awards include Montreal filmmaker Michèle Cournoyer, Toronto filmmaker Mike Hoolboom, Toronto artist Shelagh Keeley, Vancouver artist Glenn Lewis, Vancouver painter Landon Mackenzie, Toronto writer/curator Philip Monk, multimedia artist Shelley Niro of the Six Nations Of The Grand River and Halifax jewelry artist Pamela Ritchie.  CBC, February 15, 2017  see also 2017 Governor General’s Awards Winners Announced.  Canadian Art, February 15, 2017

Sculptor once rejected by Canadian government to get Governor General’s Award  Glenn Lewis is one of eight laureates who will be honoured by the Canada Council for the Arts, the organization announced Wednesday.  Lewis also joined the live performance art community with his synchronized swimming routines featuring shark-fin aquatic caps designed by artist Kate Craig.  Vancouver Sun, February 15, 2017


Seven decades on, painting is still a mystery for Montreal’s dancer in the snow.  When Françoise Sullivan’s paintings were first shown at Montreal’s Dominion Galleries in 1943, Mackenzie King was still Canada’s prime minister and Jackson Pollock had yet to make his first “drip” paintings. Sullivan’s latest exhibitions are going on right now, at the Galerie de l’UQAM in Montreal and the Musée d’art contemporain de Baie-Saint-Paul, northeast of Quebec City.  Sullivan, who is 91, has been making art for seven decades, as a painter, sculptor and dancer-choreographer. She is one of the last remaining signatories of Refus global (Total Refusal), the 1948 artistic manifesto that marked a turning point in Quebec’s cultural and social history. Globe & Mail, February 10, 2017


The Social-Mediafication of Museums. The growth of user-generated content and social media, known rhetorically as Web 2.0, has also impressed the logic of corporate personhood onto art institutions. Museums and galleries worldwide increasingly find and define audiences as “Users,” posting institutional announcements on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram using a kind of doublespeak that mimics human speech and personality…In a mad rush to motivate Users and make an impact on the web, museums have sponsored gamified, crowdsourcing projects and ushered in a new breed of social-media driven labour and engagement.  Canadian Art, February 13, 2017


Seattle’s Jen Graves Resigns as Art Critic of The Stranger.  Jen Graves, who has been the art critic for the Seattle alternative paper The Stranger since 2006, has resigned. “I spent months resisting the reality that The Stranger is not currently a viable place for me to do the work I’ve always cared about,” she said, announcing her departure on Twitter this morning.  Graves, who was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for criticism and a nominee for the best art reporting award from the U.S. section of the International Association of Art Critics, was an increasing rare entity: an art critic working full time at a major city newspaper. The number of people in that role has dwindled in recent years as the media business has struggled and publications have cut staff.  Explaining her decision, Graves said she had been asked to do more general art and pop culture stories and to take on management duties that would have limited her time to write.  “It’s important to note that there should be other options for those of us who do critical work, and instead there seems to be a real, somewhat unfounded misunderstanding and disregard for what we bring to a city,” she said.  ArtNews February 8, 2017

Los Angeles

Hammer Museum Announces Curators for ‘Made in L.A.’ Biennial in 2018.  The Hammer Museum in Los Angeles has announced the curators for its 2018 “Made in L.A.” biennial: senior curator at the Hammer Museum Anne Ellegood and independent LA based curator Erin Christovale.  ArtNews, February 14, 2017

Mexico City

In Mexico City, a PST LA/LA presentation becomes a cultural salvo in favor of U.S.-Mexico exchange.  Under ordinary circumstances, the gathering of several dozen artists, U.S. museum leaders and journalists for a news conference at the Museo Jumex, the contemporary art museum in Mexico City’s tony Polanco neighborhood, wouldn’t be noticed beyond art world insiders interested in upcoming programs and collaborations for this fall’s Pacific Standard Time exhibitions to be held all over Southern California. But these days, as tensions grow between the Trump administration and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto, hardly any exchange between the United States and Mexico could be qualified as ordinary.  Los Angeles Times, February 14, 2017


Wolfgang Tillmans at Tate Modern: Eight things to know about the artist. Wolfgang Tillmans: 2017 explores the work that the artist has made since 2003, all of which has led him to this current point. An artist deeply engaged in social and political times, it’s particular prudent to focus on his work at this moment in time; destabilisation is one of the recurrent themes of his work.  Evening Standard, February 14, 2017

A room of her own. History has often dismissed the work of Vanessa Bell. A new London exhibition makes a compelling case for her re-evaluation   Globe & Mail, February 10, 2017

United Kingdom

The Problem of Public Sculpture.  Attempts to present British sculpture en plein air outside the capital—most notably in 1968, with “New British Sculpture/Bristol” and the touring show “Sculpture in a City,” which temporarily installed works in Birmingham, Liverpool, and Southampton—were sporadic. The City Sculpture works were displayed for six months, after which time local authorities or other interested parties had the right to buy them at cost. In the end, none did. New York Review of Books, February 12, 2017


German museum discovers it’s had a Rembrandt for nearly 250 years.  The drawing of a dog has been in the German museum’s collection since 1770, but only now have experts discovered that Dutch master Rembrandt created the artwork…Experts made comparisons, including microscopic analyses, with other Rembrandt originals in Amsterdam, Paris and Vienna to confirm that the chalk drawing indeed came from the world-renowned Dutch master’s hand. The museum noted how unusual the discovery was as worldwide only few drawings of animals by Rembrandt exist.  Deutsche Welle, February 14, 2017


Egypt’s Museum of Islamic Art Triumphantly Re-Opens. On January 2014, four bombs went off in central Cairo. According to reports from the time, the blasts, which were set off the day before the three-year anniversary of the uprising that deposed ruler Hosni Mubarak, appeared to target police officers. The first, a truck bomb that went off outside a police station, killed six people and injured at least 100, according to the BBC. There was other collateral damage: the explosion decimated the Museum of Islamic Art, one of the world’s greatest collections of artifacts from across the Muslim world. Now, Jane Arraf at NPR reports, the museum has reopened after three years of restoration and repair, and it’s better than ever. Smithsonian, February 14, 2017


Battle over Kiefer’s Beijing show escalates as curator rejects dealers’ objections . The organisers of the controversial Anselm Kiefer exhibition at the Central Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Beijing are fighting back against the Western dealers who represent the artist and who opposed the project.  Anselm Kiefer: Coagulation, was held at CAFAM between 19 November 2016 and 8 January 2017, the first stop of a planned four-city tour. However, the artist protested that it was organised against his wishes and without his consent, and refused to attend. Art Newspaper, February 14, 2017


Celebrating Design Without Contending with It.  The subjects profiled in the Netflix documentary series “Abstract: The Art of Design,” like the architect Bjarke Ingels, are unquestionably stylish visionaries. But is that all there is to design? … Thinking about the potential gap between design that’s good and design that succeeds raises the obvious question: What is “design,” anyway? This is a question that has been picked over for decades. Advocates of the profession—critics, curators, designers themselves—insist that the work is underestimated, if not flat-out marginalized. Design (they are forever pointing out) is not merely an exercise in superficial aesthetics or styling, as the public may assume. It is, rather, a far more serious matter of problem-solving and experience-shaping, driven by a uniquely rigorous approach to the human-made world in all its dimensions. The New Yorker, February 14, 2017


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