Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, May 17, 2017


Canada 150: Gu Xiong turned garbage into art after leaving China following Tiananmen Square. Gu Xiong has known many low points in his life. One of the lowest was shortly after he moved to Canada from China following the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.  After arriving in Vancouver, he worked at three jobs in the first month: in a laundry, a car wash, and then making pizza. His job as a busboy at UBC was a big improvement as his hourly wage doubled to $10.  Gu turned his job working as a busboy into art about garbage. Two years later, Gu’s World opened at the Diane Farris Gallery. Vancouver Sun, May 13, 2017

Mike Bourscheid: From Vancouver to Venice. Just down the street from Geoffrey Farmer’s East Vancouver studio, a few blocks south along a busy truck thoroughfare, another Vancouver artist has been preparing for the Venice Biennale. While Farmer, with his show A way out of the mirror, will represent Canada, Mike Bourscheid is in Venice for Luxembourg. Bourscheid is a permanent Canadian resident and, since 2012, a Vancouverite.  Globe & Mail, May 16, 2017


Art Gallery of Alberta offering free admission evenings. The Art Gallery of Alberta is offering free admission to everyone on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings, beginning tonight, in an effort to get more people through their doors.   Over the last five weeks we’ve seen about 1,100 more people coming through,” said Catherine Crowston, AGA executive director.  That is double the number of visitors over the previous five weeks.  CBC News, May 16, 2017


Meet the artist drawing a ‘naturally unnatural’ world in contrast with her war-torn childhood. The playful work of Winnipeg’s Matea Radic is all about women who are at peace with their own bodies.  CBC Arts, May 16, 2017


Have art, will travel: Bunker 2 is a new gallery in a shipping container  When Matthew Kyba says “we’ll always have a home,” as he did one recent afternoon, it’s instructive to define the terms. As a co-founder of Bunker 2, a new, not-for-profit art space recently launched into the troubled waters of Toronto’s infamously unaffordable property market, it seems less a statement of certainty than hopeful dreaming.  Toronto Star, May 14, 2017


The Catalogue Is Not the Exhibition.  “I have been thinking a lot lately about my dependence, as a writer and teacher, on exhibition catalogues. I am particularly wondering whether the two principal and often competing aims of exhibition catalogues—to serve as a supplement to the exhibition and to serve as a document of the exhibition—ought to be reconsidered in the digital age.  This came to a head for me while trying to assemble the list of eight texts on Indigenous art for my previous column. The process forced me to confront the extent to which I often elide the distinction between catalogues and exhibitions, especially once the exhibition has ended.” – Richard Hill.  Canadian Art, May 16, 2017

Moving in Place. Contemporary dance in Canada has long been defined by lack of space and funding. But this has also resulted in a host of unconventional, and surprisingly resourceful, works—ones that can happen anywhere, including online, in the gallery and on the land.  Canadian Art, May 15, 2017


‘Kusama’ wraps up its run as the ‘Hamilton’ of the D.C. art world.  Hirshhorn officials said about 475,000 visitors came to the museum and sculpture garden during the exhibition’s 11-week run. The crowds were double the normal attendance for that time of year, and set a record for the most in the museum’s history. Still, two-thirds of those visitors were shut out of the show that they probably had come to see. “It has been transformative on so many levels,” museum Director Melissa Chiu said of “Infinity Mirrors,” which will open in Seattle next month. “It has put the Hirshhorn where we want to be, at the center of a conversation about contemporary art. It has built the local community, and it has had an enormous impact on raising the visibility of the Hirshhorn.”   Washington Post, May 16, 2017

X-rays reveal lost treasures beneath paintings. While visitors to the National Gallery of Art’s new Impressionist exhibit see lush landscapes and intimate portraits, conservator Ann Hoenigswald spots clues involving an artist fixing mistakes and evidence of earlier compositions hidden underneath.   Like a detective, the National Gallery’s senior conservator of paintings compiles these observations, which later guide her work in the lab, where high-powered instruments can uncover more about the paintings and the artists.   Washington Post, May 12, 2017

How an artist managed to project messages onto the Trump International Hotel in Washington.  For a few minutes Monday night, projection artist Robin Bell tried to bring attention to the issue by shining light on it—a big, blue light.  Bell parked his van about 9:15 p.m. across the street from the west entrance of the Trump International Hotel. Bell and two friends then turned on a projector in the van and displayed animated anti-Trump messages about the president’s alleged conflicts of interest onto the upscale hotel’s facade.  Toronto Star, May 16, 2017


Gerhard Steidl Is Making Books an Art Form.  Among photographers and photography aficionados, Gerhard Steidl’s name recognition equals that of Johannes Gutenberg: he is widely regarded as the best printer in the world. His name appears on the spine of more than two hundred photography books a year, and he oversees the production of all of them personally… Gerhard has an intense quest for making an encyclopedic, wide survey of the world of photography,” Polidori says. “It is almost a race with him—to get as much done while the money lasts, and while his life lasts.”The New Yorker, May 22 (issue), 2017


Hajra Waheed Traces a Rising Tide in Venice.  In the middle of curator Christine Macel’s “Viva Arte Viva” exhibition at the Venice Biennale, Montreal artist Hajra Waheed has built another world. Not through elaborate, immersive sets, but by using small fragments and glimpses into a life remembered and documented. Canadian Art, May 11, 2017

Lani Maestro Bridges Boundaries at the Venice Biennale.  A few years ago, Lani Maestro won the Ottawa-based Hnatyshyn Foundation’s prestigious Visual Art Award for mid-career Canadian artists—an award that has also gone to Kent Monkman, Rebecca Belmore and Geoffrey Farmer. Yet Maestro is relatively low-profile in Canada at this point in time, even though, on May 13, her exhibition at the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale will be opening to the public.   Those who do know Maestro also know of her commitment to an ideal of practice that is, in her words, “independent”—as “critical” and “social as it is simultaneously wild and sensual.”  ” Canadian Art, May 11, 2017

Art of the state: how the Venice Biennale is tackling the refugee crisis.   Part art project, part political statement, a group of artists have set up the fictional state of NSK and are handing out passports to anyone who wishes to become a citizen.  It marks a trend at this year’s Biennale, an event divided so obviously down national lines. While NSK are issuing passports that disregard national borders, the Tunisian pavilion have also chosen to eschew a traditional art exhibition, and instead have created a kiosk issuing “freesas” – documents representing an idyllic world where “human beings may flow freely from one nation to the next”.   There are 15,000 passport-holding citizens of NSK across the world, including Marina Abramović, Slavoj Žižek and Hans Ulrich Obrist, yet their decision to set up a pavilion as a passport office at the Biennale is not simply to swell their numbers.  The process of applying for a passport has been curated by artist Ahmet Öğüt to verge on both the absurd and the infuriating, putting the thousands of visitors who flow easily and legally through Venice briefly into the demeaning, bureaucratic nightmare that faces every refugee seeking asylum in Europe.  The Guardian, May 16, 2017

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