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

Vancouver

‘I’m applying for disability’: Not-so-Average artist’s life takes a new turn.   Artist Joe Average has been living with HIV for 33 years. But he’s managed to make a living off his art, in spite of some challenging health issues. Unfortunately, the commissions have slowed down. This week the 59-year-old announced that he’s finally going to apply for disability benefits from the province.   The Province, March 13, 2017

Guelph

Shirin Neshat on Exile and Feminism.  This wasn’t Shirin Neshat’s first time coming to Canada amid sweeping Islamophobic sentiment. In 2001, shortly after 9/11, she had a mid-career survey scheduled to open at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal. She was surprised, she said, that the museum not only didn’t cancel her exhibition, but also used it as a platform for discussion about misconceptions of Muslims in North America.  Fast-forward to March 8, 2017— International Women’s Day—and Neshat was back in Canada, to present the Shenkman Lecture at the University of Guelph. She began her lecture by addressing the elephant in the room: since the Trump administration has issued and re-issued travel bans targeting Muslim countries and their citizens in diaspora.  Canadian Art, March 15, 2017

Toronto

Can ambitious highrise architect Jeanne Gang and big developers build a better city together? Chicago architect Jeanne Gang is coming to Canada, and her firm Studio Gang has ambitions that undercut everything we think we know about tower living.   In an interview this week, Gang revealed that her firm will be designing a rental apartment building in midtown Toronto. Gang is widely seen as one of the profession’s leaders, and the most prominent female architect in the world. She was a winner of the $500,000 MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant” in 2011.  Globe & Mail, March 13, 2017

‘Less different, more alike’: This versatile collective uses art to find global common ground.  If you are a Canadian artist, you’ve heard the following too many times: in order to “make it” in Canada, you have to do well somewhere else. But what if you already come from “somewhere else”?  The Canadian-Polish multimedia artist collective Blue Republic worked out this particular post-colonial problem years ago: when they show in Canada and other countries of equal measure, they tailor each project to the environments and sociopolitical climates of their hosts. It’s a smart approach that is paying off handsomely.  CBC News, March 14, 2017

How the AGO moved its 700-pound ‘Floor Burger’  Here’s an order that the cashier at Harvey’s never gets to hear: one 700-pound hamburger, pickle on top, to go.   The Art Gallery of Ontario put a lid on its collection of pop art this week, which meant putting Claes Oldenburg’s giant foam rubber-filled Floor Burger — a well-loved 1962 work measuring more than two metres in diameter — into storage.  Toronto Star, March 12, 2017

Ydessa Hendeles: At the Power Plant, a homecoming. In June, the Power Plant will open The Milliner’s Daughter, the first survey of Ydessa Hendeles’ work here in her hometown, and a more momentous occasion in the Canadian art world would be hard to imagine. It’s historic for another reason too: It marks the first time in its 30-year history that the gallery will give over its entire space to a solo female artist. Toronto Star, March 12, 2017

When Menstruation Meets Decoration. While Dion Fletcher has long been interested in the “complexities of what defines a body physically and culturally”—some of her earlier work, for instance, consists of installing large-scale wampum belts in public space—her practice didn’t start to address menstruation until about four years ago.  Vanessa Dion Fletcher’s “Own Your Cervix” continues until March 31 at Tangled Art Gallery in Toronto. Fletcher will also perform at Vancouver’s Queer Arts Festival in June.  Canadian Art, March 9, 2017

Halifax

Lucky find unearths Group of Seven artist’s lost drawing.  A collection of Group of Seven drawings has emerged from Dalhousie University’s archives — validating the Halifax author and researcher who insisted they were there.  Alan Ruffman suspected a collection of drawings by Group of Seven artist Arthur Lismer were held in the archives, even though they hadn’t been seen for decades. Ruffman knew the drawings existed somewhere, as two of them had been part of an exhibit on Lismer organized by the Dalhousie Art Gallery in the 1980s.   But when he went to the archive in 2015 to ask about the drawings, Ruffman was told the archives had no record of the holding. CBC News, March 14, 2017

New York

What Canada’s Art World Could Learn from the Whitney Biennial.  Could Canada ever produce an exhibition like the Whitney Biennial? Would we even want to? A national survey of contemporary art comprised primarily of newly commissioned work is no small task, and the Whitney Biennial has, inevitably, been a lightning rod for controversy in past years.  But this time around, the whole event left me feeling a little envious. It was the first iteration in the Renzo Piano–designed building, and the (relatively emerging) curators, Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, have walked a careful balance.  Canadian Art, March 14, 2017

The 2017 Whitney Biennial Is the Most Politically Charged in Decades.  The 2017 Whitney Biennial was organized in one era and exists in another. I leadingly asked the show’s two 30-something Asian-American curators, Christopher Y. Lew and Mia Locks, if they altered anything after the election. Nodding with patient understanding but unshaken, both firmly said, “We didn’t change course.” By all rights then, this is the first, last, and only Hillary Clinton biennial. But that doesn’t mean it is out of step, nice-y nice, disconnected, or just so many snowflakes from another era. Instead and pressingly, even with wild up and downs, flaws and all, the 2017 Whitney Biennial is the best of its kind in some time for the multiple ways it reveals how — selected as it is, without overdetermined political and aesthetic dogma, and curators remaining open to the exigencies of pleasure and the mysterious ways that art mutates but doesn’t play catch-up — that artists are always addressing and channeling issues of the day. New York Magazine, March 14, 2017

The 2017 Whitney Biennial Is a Moving, Forward-Looking Tour de Force—a Triumph.  After a three-year hiatus intended to allow Whitney Museum curators to break in their palatial new home in the Meatpacking District, the Whitney Biennial has returned in very fine form, with an intensely satisfying display of 63 artists and collectives across two full floors and a few other spaces.   Artnews, March 14, 2017

Money-losing Met hands execs hefty raises  The Metropolitan Museum of Art gave hefty pay raises and six-figure bonuses to top executives despite a looming deficit that threatened to reach $40 million, records show. Although the museum was already losing millions when Daniel Weiss took the helm as president in July 2015, he still got a $300,000 bonus for less than half a year on the job, according to the museum’s 2015 federal tax filings, the latest available for the troubled arts institution.  New York Post, March 14, 2017

The Sculpture of a “Fearless Girl” on Wall Street Is Fake Corporate Feminism.  Last night, I spent half an hour with “Fearless Girl,” the bronze sculpture created by artist Kristen Visbal and installed by financial firm State Street Global Advisors (SSGA) on Wall Street for International Women’s Day.  I do not think it’s a stretch to say “Fearless Girl” represents basically everything that’s wrong with our society.  Hyperallergic, March 14, 2017

Freiburg im Breisgau

Science Confirms Mona Lisa Is Happy. Researchers in Germany believe they have identified once and for all the emotion encapsulated in Mona Lisa’s enigmatic facial expression. Those averse to ambiguity and soured by sadness will be happy to know that the study determined that the figure in Leonardo da Vinci’s 16th-century portrait “La Gioconda” is happy.  Hyperallergic, March 14, 2017

International

Museum Expansions That Think Inside the Footprint  Seeking new audiences looking for novel ways to interact with art, museums big and small across the United States and Europe are remaking their existing footprints, creating new spaces for rapidly unfolding innovation in the art world.  The Philadelphia Museum of Art, for example — whose neo-Classical-style building dates to 1928 — is undergoing a transformation by Frank Gehry, creator of the Guggenheim Bilbao, which opened to great acclaim in Spain in 1997.  New York Times, March 14, 2017

 

 

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