Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery, August 10, 2017


Syrian photographer shows inside look at refugee camps at Harmony Arts Festival.  Hani Al Moulia knows what it’s like to live in a cozy house, to sleep in a warm bed, and to consider life in a refugee camp a far-off, unthinkable reality.  Visitors to the Harmony fest will see his images that show the hardships of camp life, yet they also contain enough  hope to contrast the pictures of misery that make their way into news stories about the camps.  He adds: “I’m sharing how home is different from one place to another but it is still home.” That idea plays directly into Home/Shelter/Belonging, put together by the West Vancouver Museum’s Darrin Morrison and guest curator Robin Laurence (a long-time contributor to the Straight). Putting Al Moulia’s work alongside that of Sylvia Borda, Jim Breukelman, Germaine Koh, Annie Pootoogook, Itee Pootoogook, and Gu Xiong, the show encompasses themes of settlement and immigration, as well as diverse structural concepts of “home”.  Georgia Straight, August 4, 2017

Oh brother where art thou: These siblings are connecting through a cross-Canada painting project. It’s a sweltering Friday evening in East Vancouver and Cody Smith is trying to call his brother in St. Catharines, Ont.  “Connor, I told you to stand by!” He laughs and shakes his head as the phone rings and rings. “See? This is like the paintings. It’s brutal.”  The paintings he’s referring to are the product of an ongoing collaborative project between him and his brother, Connor Smith.   CBC News, August 8, 2017

Donald Lawrence’s Coastal Camera Obscura turns city on its head.  Until August 13 off Habitat Island in Olympic Village, Other Sights, a nonprofit group devoted to showing art in unexpected settings, will welcome kayakers, canoeists, and paddleboarders to artist Donald Lawrence’s Coastal Camera ObscuraGeorgia Straight, August 9, 2017


Tristin Hopper: Why public art is so consistently awful.  It’s almost a cliché by this point: A city unveils a six-figure public art installation, and a horrified public is left to gape at a pile of twisted, rusty postmodern shapes.  And lately, Calgary seems to be getting the worst of it. First, there was Bloom, a much-maligned $500,000 sculpture of various streetlights fused together. Then there was Traveling Light, a giant blue $500,000 ring that even the city’s public art-loving mayor couldn’t help to disparage.  National Post, August 9, 2017


Museum makes exhibits accessible for autistic kids. A place with bright lights, loud noises and permission to run amok is usually a safe bet for keeping a kid happy for a few hours, unless that kid has sensory processing disorder.  Sensory processing disorder is associated with autism spectrum disorder, a lifelong condition that one in 68 Canadian children are currently diagnosed with, according to Autism Speaks Canada. It’s a problem that organizers of Explore-Abilities Morning at the Children’s Museum of Manitoba are looking to help solve. Winnipeg Free Press, August 10, 2017


Terrance Houle conjures spirits with Ghost Days performance.  The final day of this year’s SummerWorks festival includes an otherworldly performance of Ghost Days from Terrance Houle, an interdisciplinary media artist and Blood Tribe member whose work touches upon themes of colonialism.  Globe & Mail, August 9, 2017 See also:  SummerWorks, Terrance Houle’s Ghost Days is truly a work in progressToronto Star, August 9, 2017 

Video: In the Studio with Deanna Bowen.  For almost a decade, Toronto artist Deanna Bowen has been excavating her family’s genealogy—who they were and how generations of them have experienced anti-Blackness in 20th-century Canada. Canadian Art, August 10, 2017

Ottawa and Hull

Ottawa Report: Go to Hull.  The National Gallery draws the bulk of art attention in our capital region. But some of the area’s best shows right now are across the river in Hull.  Canadian Art, August 9, 2017


Chicago Celebrates 50th Anniversary of Its Picasso Sculpture, a Gift Many Residents Didn’t Want.  Fifty years after its public unveiling, the untitled Picasso sculpture that sits in the center of Daley Plaza continues to elicit a wide range of interpretations from mystified passersby. The 50-foot-tall steel figure certainly caused a ruckus when it was first dedicated on August 15, 1967: Many people were simply baffled by the abstract sculpture; others showed up with signs that deemed it a “colossal booboo” and “an insult to Chicago’s greatness.”  No protestors turned up yesterday afternoon (though that would have made for a fun spectacle), when the city restaged the sculpture’s dedication to celebrate the 50th anniversary of an oddity that’s gradually grown into a beloved Chicago icon.  Hyperallergic, August 9, 2017

New York

Metropolitan Museum of Art displays work by Haida artist Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas.  Visitors to New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art can now expect to spot a work by B.C.’s own Michael Nicoll Yahgulanaas in Gallery 399. The museum announced today that the Haida artist’s piece Yelthadaas is on display in the museum’s permanent collection.  Georgia Straight, August 9, 2017

Why I “Like” but Don’t Love Cindy Sherman’s Instagram Photos.  Social media is intoxicated with the images of Cindy Sherman. The famed photographer recently made her private Instagram account public, and people are going crazy because she’s using filters and apps to produce versions of her trademark self-portraits as characters.  Hyperallergic, August 6, 2017  See also: How Cindy Sherman’s Instagram selfies are changing the face of photographyThe Guardian, August 9, 2017

NY MoMA to Sell More Than Four Hundred Photographs to Support Its Acquisition Fund  The Museum of Modern Art in New York will sell more than four hundred photographs in a series of auctions over the course of this year beginning with four works that will be on the block at Christie’s New York’s Photographs Day Sale on October 10. The monies raised will support the acquisition fund of the institution’s photography department.  Artforum, August 9, 2017

Aman Mojadidi  Afghan-American artist Aman Mojadidi works largely on site-specific projects that combine qualitative research, traditional storytelling, postmodern narrative strategies, and mixed-media installations to approach themes such as belonging, identity politics, conflict, and migration. His latest installation, Once Upon a Place, 2017, comprises three phone booths that are wired to relay dozens of oral histories told by immigrants living throughout New York City.  Artforum, August 8, 2017

North Korean Artists Defy Kim Jong-un by Participating in United Nations Exhibition  The International Youth Exhibition at New York’s United Nations headquarters in Manhattan includes works submitted in secret by four North Korean artists.  Organized by the Beijing-based nonprofit Eye Art International in partnership with the UN-affiliated journal Society & Diplomatic Review, the exhibition is part of a cultural offensive established by China.  Artforum, August 9, 2017


In Washington, a Truly Underground Arts Scene.  Roaming the streets of the Dupont Circle neighborhood about 20 years ago, Julian Hunt spotted a grimy staircase leading down from the pavement to a boarded-up door.  He spent many hours on the phone and in the city’s archives, which led Mr. Hunt to crawl through filthy tunnels with a flashlight to discover an old trolley tunnel inhabited by a small group of homeless people. Since the city’s trolley service shut down in 1962, the 75,000-square-foot labyrinth had been the site of a subterranean murder, rumored ’80s rave parties and a Cold War-era bomb shelter. Now, Mr. Hunt, an architect who was a founder of the Hunt Laudi Studio, has turned the tunnels into the Dupont Underground art space, which draws 3,000 visitors every month…the tunnels are now part of a wave of spaces — from small galleries that host artists to sitting rooms that accommodate musicians — where local talent can showcase work in the capital rather than fleeing to New York. And DuPont Underground is looking at other ambitious projects as inspiration, like the Serpentine Galleries in London and the Lowline underground park project in New York.  New York Times, August 10, 2017

Mexico City

A Blind Artist Looks Back at Growing Up in the ’90s.  Manuel Solano is one of few emerging painters finding success in Mexico City, which can be hostile toward the traditional medium. But in Solano’s case, the artist’s aura and identity — he is a blind painter — are as much a part of the work as his loosely rendered narrative paintings. In his solo show Desafiando a la Autoridad (“Defying Authority”), currently up at Karen Huber gallery, Solano is exhibiting new paintings, videos, and a literary project in collaboration with the writer Benoît Loiseau.   Hyperallergic, August 7, 2017


+/- Human review – Is this the future of artificial intelligence? Bring it on. In the darkened heights of the Roundhouse in north London, a flying flock of white spheres that uncannily resemble Magritte’s dream objects float intelligently and curiously, checking out the humans below, hovering downward to see us better. They are the most convincing embodiment of artificial intelligence I have ever seen. For these responsive, even sensitive machines truly create a sense of encounter with a digital life form that mirrors, or mocks, human free will.  The Guardian, August 9, 2017

First public art works for Battersea Power Station site selected.  The artists Jesse Wine and Haffendi Anuar have been awarded the inaugural Powerhouse sculpture commission based at Battersea Power Station, beating off competition from other shortlisted artists such as Conrad Shawcross and Bedwyr Williams. The works, to be unveiled in September at Battersea Power Station’s Circus West Village, will stay in situ for three months.  The Art Newspaper, August 9, 2017


Striking Images of America’s Dark Side. Walker Evans’ black-and-white photographs captured the tough realities of US life in the 1930s. They still have resonance today, writes Alastair Sooke.  BBC News, August 9, 2017


Chinese Artist Transforms Surveillance Footage Into Feature Film. Xu Bing describes how he created a fictional film by piecing together footage taken from ubiquitous surveillance cameras recording the daily lives of Chinese citizens.    Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2017


The Outdated Architecture of Parliaments Around the World. Does the architecture of a nation’s parliament building help shape its politics? According to the architecture firm XML, the structure of spaces of assembly wields some influence over the exchange of ideas and, consequently, the room’s collective decision-making. Since 2010, the pair behind the Amsterdam-based company, Max Cohen de Lara and David Mulder van der Vegt, has been researching the layouts of the plenary halls of the parliaments of all 193 member states of the United Nations and comparing how their seating charts align with their government types.  Hyperallergic, August 8, 2017

How to Act Ethically in Art.  Don’t fuck the curator. Or the artist, the gallerist, the writer, or their editor. Unless, of course, you really want to. And, it almost goes without saying, they also really want to. But it’s best avoided, really, as the power dynamics are messy. But so is love. So is desire. So, it turns out, is art…  There is no guide for what’s right and wrong in art…We’re on our own to suss out our own personal code of ethics, observing what others get away with, what we personally find honest or distasteful.  Momus, July 28, 2017




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