Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, July 19, 2017


Artists Unsettle Colonized Notions of Two-Spirit Life.  This year, the Queer Arts Festival in Vancouver—themed, appropriately for Canada 150, on “UnSettled”—took a decidedly different direction, centering on art that was created and curated by Two-Spirit artists.  “Two-Spirit” is a difficult term to precisely pin down; it is often used as an umbrella term for Indigenous people of North America who are LGBTQ.  It was adopted by consensus at a conference in the 1990s to replace the degrading anthropological term “berdache,” which was derived from a term roughly translated from “male prostitute.”  However, depending on who you ask, “Two-Spirit” goes beyond a gender-identity or sexual-orientation label; it can often signal a person’s position in their community and their spiritual role within it.  Canadian Art, July 19, 2017


ART SEEN: Old Column recalls Burnaby’s former old growth forest.  Artists Annie Han and Daniel Mihalyo  ope that Old Column makes passersby stop, look and explore.  Han and Mihalyo are the team behind the 7.6-metre tall public art work in the public plaza at the corner of Willingdon Avenue and Beresford Street in Burnaby. Old Column is made from blackened stainless steel and steel wire filigree. Its form made me think of the old growth trees that once covered the site.  Vancouver Sun, July 18, 2017


Paula Simons: Pop-up street signs demand Edmonton stop, look and listen. So you’re walking down Jasper Avenue. You’re not paying much attention to the street signs. After all, they’re always the same. Don’t park here. Loading zone there. Watch out for construction. Don’t litter.  And then, just for a moment, something catches your eye. It looks like an ordinary, generic street sign. Except the icons on it are anything but ordinary. A unicorn. A man wearing what looks like a laundry basket over his head. A man playing the saxophone. And the most Edmonton of icons: that shirtless guy who plays guitar as he rollerblades.   It’s just a little summer surreality, brought to you by Edmonton visual artist Morgan Wedderspoon, and her partner, in life and art, Chris Gusen.  Wedderspoon and Gusen crafted five different signs, which each feature a quotation from the works of the great urbanist Jane Jacobs, matched with a set of quirky and cheeky sign icons. Each installation takes the mickey out of our everyday streetsigns while making a political point about the importance of urban diversity and urban amenities.  Edmonton Journal, July 17, 2017


Meet the Gatekeepers Flagging the Latest Annie Leibovitz Debacle.  Reports this week of the latest financial problem for American photographer Annie Leibovitz—who in 2009 nearly had to file for bankruptcy and in 2010 was sued by a company who says it was unpaid for helping to restructure her debt—have unexpectedly placed a spotlight on a little-known Canadian group called the Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board.  The Canadian Cultural Property Export Review Board, according to its website, “is an independent, quasi-judicial decision-making body that reports to Parliament through the Minister of Canadian Heritage.”Canadian Art, July 13, 2017

Algonquin Park, ON

100 years of haunting by Tom Thomson’s ghost.  With the lake very much in the throes of Tom Thomson mania — the centenary of his death has proved to be a marketing bonanza for local businesses — this year’s anniversary, which falls on Monday, sets a grand stage for a centennial haunting. Toronto Star, July 17, 2017

Woodstock, ON

Summer exhibits at WAG include Michael Hunter, annual juried exhibition and Stephen Livick’s Midway . Michael Hunter lets materials such as plywood and other cast-off building supplies guide his artistic vision while working with them to create his big, bold works.  The Woodstock artist, who is also a skilled carpenter, creates large-scale works depicting landscapes, animals and abstract forms.  “He really focuses on his own experience,” explained Peter Flannery, curator of the show. Whether it’s crows from Woodstock or buffalo from a trip to Alaska, they all find their way into his work.   Sentinel Review, July 17, 2017


Fugitive Portraits.  Charmaine A. Nelson, a professor of art history at McGill University in Montreal, has made groundbreaking contributions to many fields of study, including the visual culture of slavery, race and representation, Black Canadian studies and African Canadian history. Nelson’s work has put her at a unique advantage for considering kinship relations between enslaved Black and Indigenous peoples in Canada’s history—relationships that have been lost within the nationalistic and Eurocentric Canadian archive.  Canadian Art, July 17, 2017

Williamstown, MA

Helen Frankenthaler’s Panoramas of Paint. The dual exhibitions of Helen Frankenthaler’s paintings and woodcuts at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute offer a compact, revelatory, and frequently stunning look at an artist whose reputation has been all too often yoked to a single, if singular, technique.  Hyperallergic, July 14, 2017

Portland, MA

The ICA at Maine College of Art Presents American Genre: Contemporary Painting, Curated by Michelle Grabner  American Genre: Contemporary Painting is an exhibition built on a triad of traditional painting genres: still life, landscape, and portraiture. Fifty-two paintings by fifty-two American artists offers a critical balance to the conditions of atemporality, affected responses, and the material turn shaping much of contemporary painting discourse. Alternatively, this exhibition employs historically recognized groupings of subject and forms.  Hyperallergic, July 18, 2017

New York

Fixing the Met: Art Lovers Speak.  The next director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art will have a full inbox. Here, 20 well-known Met watchers offer their own bold ideas and expectations.  New York Times, July 14, 2017

ArtInfo used fictional bylines after outsourcing staff to India  The art world is still tittering about the bylines on the struggling site Blouin ArtInfo.  We’re told that after laying off staff, owner Louise Blouin outsourced the editorial to India.  But to make it seem as if there were still a cosmopolitan staff, articles were given bylines with hilariously generic international names.  For a time, there was an apparently fictional Berlin correspondent called “Hans Schneider” and a Latin American writer named “Marco Sanchez.”  The site is now using a standard “Blouin Artinfo” byline on all its stories.  New York Post, July 4, 2017

How a bunch of data geeks charmed the online art world and modernized it.  While rivals tried to challenge the art-world establishment head on, Artsy chose to partner. “We always intuitively thought those other vertical models weren’t going to be as scalable, but it’s scary at the time to see another competitor going up really fast in revenue when you’re not,” Cleveland says. “To be a partnership model, to aggregate everything into one place, means we had to wait a little bit longer until we started seeing those transactions. Now the roles have switched.” Fast Company, July 18, 2017


On Kara Springer’s A Small Matter of Engineering.  On September 22, 2016, Canadian artist Kara Springer erected an eight-foot-by-thirty-foot black sign with the words “white people. do something” painted in large, bold, uncapitalized white letters in the courtyard of Philadelphia’s Tyler School of Art. Entitled A Small Matter of Engineering, Part II, it faced the educational institution, where she was in the process of completing her MFA. The large sign was accompanied, indoors, by A Small Matter of Engineering, Part I: a magnified photograph of broken plaster.   Within days of the work going up, it became a digital spectacle and received an outpouring of both love and immense hostility. Images and opinions of the sign ricocheted throughout Twitter and Instagram.  Canadian Art, July 18, 2017

United States

At the Art Museum Ticket Office, How Much Is Too Much?   There is no doubt that, with government and corporate funding always tenuous, it can be difficult for museums to balance their budgets and commit to major changes in financial structures, but as New York Times critic Roberta Smith noted in an essential column on the status of museum admission fees in 2006, many institutions have successfully eliminated paid tickets over the years, like the Baltimore Museum, Cincinnati Art Museum (special exhibitions are still $10), the Dallas Museum of Art ($16 for special exhibitions), and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.  It is striking that, as some smaller museums have at least made general admission free, many of the most elite museums in the United States have continued to charge all comers. The logic is easy enough to understand: museums with high attendance stand to lose a lot of money by eliminating admissions fees, and some disproportionally rely on ticket sales to meet their budgets…. In the meantime, the Broad’s $25 Kusama tickets will no doubt go like hot cakes, probably in large part to Kusama fans with quick fingers and money to spend… Unfortunately, the system used by the Broad and the Seattle Art Museum for distributing and pricing the tickets mirrors the worst aspects of the contemporary world—its exclusionary behavior and its fixation on surface-level hype.  Artnews, July 18, 2017


Visitation up at Italian museums after reforms.  Italy’s Culture Ministry says the number of visitors to Italian museums continues to rise two years after reforms that included opening top museum positions to foreigners for the first time.   The ministry said Sunday that the number of museum visitors rose by 7 percent to more than 23 million in the first half of the year, more than 2 million more than the same period last year.  Yahoo News, July 16, 2016



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