Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery, March 15, 2018


Horror and false hope: Bombhead artists respond to the nuclear age.  Blaine Campbell’s 2017 colour photograph The Last Days no. 1 depicts a nuclear attack–warning siren, installed in a leafy North Vancouver neighbourhood in 1960. Not tested since 1968, it remains in place as an “artifact” of the hottest years of the Cold War. It stands, too, as a public reminder of a time when Canadian and American school children were faced with the prospect of running home to their basement bomb shelters when sirens sounded, or remaining behind, crouched under their desks and crying for their mothers.  One of the many powerful works in Bombhead at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Campbell’s image speaks not only to the Cold War period of nuclear anxiety, but also to our current age of renewed nuclear brinkmanship.  As guest curator John O’Brian has written in a small publication designed to resemble a 1960s nuclear-preparedness pamphlet, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the breakup of the Soviet Union folded many of us into a state of complacency.  Georgia Straight, March 13, 2018

Transcendence/Destruction lights FUSE at Vancouver Art Gallery.  The biggest art party of the season happens when FUSE: Transcendence/Destruction takes over the Vancouver Art Gallery on Friday night (March 16).  Among the array of events, look for Toronto-based performance artist Bridget Moser’s This Poem Does Not Help Me at All (shown here), a seemingly improvised but carefully scripted collection of short works featuring bizarre interactions with everyday inanimate objects. Elsewhere, the VAG’s rooftop pavilion comes to life with Indigenous new-wavers Pooper and See Monsters.  Georgia Straight, March 14, 2018

Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory taps into fear and humour for mask dance.  Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory, the Greenlandic mask dancer, is very much at home in the Nunavut capital. But she is also keen to take Inuk traditions out into the rest of the world, as she will when she presents her mesmerizing art form this week in performances with her collaborator, friend, and artistic soulmate, throat singer Tanya Tagaq.  In the show, she’ll be transformed by the ancient dance called uaajeerneq that’s by turns frightening, sexual, and hilarious. Bathory will be unrecognizable, her face covered in sinister black, cut through with red and white markings. Her cheeks will be puffed out with big wooden beads and her short hair will stand wildly on end. Her teeth will flash and her eyes will blaze. The performance is the perfect fierce, otherworldly complement to Tagaq’s vocalizations. “It’s shocking and challenging to people,” the affable artist says of uaajeerneq. “You get to be more of yourself with a mask…Tanya Tagaq and Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory are at the Chan Centre for the Performing Arts’ Telus Studio Theatre from Friday to Sunday (March 16 to 18). Georgia Straight, March 14, 2018


Wildlife: Tim Mikula’s Endless Portrait Project hits Jasper Avenue.   A new, trial window gallery named Art Hole has popped up at 10520 Jasper Ave., downstairs from and supported by Edmonton-born business software company Jobber.  Local actor and painter Tim Mikula is the first in-your-face artist in the bus-shelter sized window box, bringing us an extension of his ongoing Endless Portrait Project, a series of colourful abstract-impressionist busts.  Edmonton Journal, March 14, 2018


“More Than Those Who Despised Her”: Unforgetting on the Prairies. How can – how should – the ghosts of our brutalized bodies be ushered into public space? This was the enigma posed by Gregory Scofiled’s She is Spitting a Mouthful of Stars (nikâwi’s song). For two winter months, the poem could be read on a billboard above Saskatoon’s AKA Artist-Run. Comprised of yellow lines over a chalk-dust starscape, it described ten actions, undertaken by an enigmatic “She.” Public texts compel collective negotiations of meaning – and in this city, Scofield’s “She” bears weight.   Momus, March 9, 2018


The Politics of the Archive.   Who has access to and authority over the archive? How does power seep into, circulate and extend itself through curation of the archive? What do our archives reveal about whiteness, bias and nationalism in Canada—and, depending on how they are presented, what can we learn from them?  These are reflections I mulled over while visiting “Althea Lorraine,” Althea Thauberger’s latest exhibition at Susan Hobbs Gallery. In this project, Thauberger appears as Lorraine Althea Monk, the real-life executive producer of the NFB’s Still Photography Division from 1960 to 1980; Monk created numerous photographic books and exhibitions defining “Canadian” identity during the 1967 Centennial and beyond.   Canadian Art, March 14, 2018

U of T student-curated art exhibition offers a different view of Toronto’s neighbourhoods and people.  If you search for “Toronto” in Google Images, you’ll find endless photos of the city’s iconic skyline – with the CN Tower and Rogers Centre front and centre.  But that’s not the image of the city Nikita Lorenzo-Vicente and Amanda McNeil want to project in their new art exhibition Toronto: The Views Are Different Here at the John B. Aird Gallery.  UofT News, March 2018


Science and technology museum example of poor ‘strategic planning,’ architect says.  The president of an Ottawa architectural firm says the Canada Science and Technology Museum has organized its new construction without a clear strategy, and is “slapping some money at something and hoping it will do.”  Toon Dreessen of Dreessen Cardinal Architects took to Twitter Tuesday to argue that the Crown corporation is building an undersized Collections Centre (for storage) with no clear idea of when or how it will enlarge it.  “What this suggests is there’s a general lack of strategic planning on how we’re going to do something,” he said in an interview Wednesday.  Ottawa Citizen, March 14, 2018


Construction begins on Seattle Asian Art Museum expansion.  Wednesday morning, Seattle Art Museum broke ground on a long-awaited expansion to Seattle Asian Art Museum (SAAM), located in the middle of Volunteer Park in Capitol Hill.  The art deco building was the original home of SAM (one A) but became SAAM (two As) after SAM moved to its downtown location in the early 1990s. It’s now home to a large collection of Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Indian, Himalayan, and southeast Asian art.  Seattle Curbed, March 14, 2018


How Public Art Can Serve As Philanthropy’s Calling Card The work, created by contemporary sculptor Tom Queoff, is intended to honor the Milwaukee Public Museum, an institution whose mission is to preserve and protect cultural and natural diversity (and has an actual taxidermy passenger pigeon among its own exhibits). It’s one of 25 pieces that include paintings, photography, and mixed-media art, each of which honors a separate nonprofit that’s been supported by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the same-named financial firm.  Fast Company, March 13, 2018

New York

Paintings of Toxic Landscapes Where Politics and Aesthetics Are in Perfect Balance A selection of paintings by Greg Lindquist on view at Lennon, Weinberg, Inc. demonstrates how an artist may prevail over the challenges of fitting an aesthetic sensibility to the requirements of a political issue without sacrificing one for the other. It’s not easy to overcome the inevitable imbalance that develops between one’s passion for art and for a forensic purpose to which that art may be committed.  Hyperallergic, March 14, 2018

Sotheby’s Closes Richard Meier Art Exhibition Early in Response to Allegations of Sexual Harassment.   Hours after the New York Times published five women’s allegations of Richard Meier’s sexual misconduct toward them, Sotheby’s announced the early closure of an exhibition of the architect’s artwork for sale in its S2 Gallery.   Architectural Digest, March 14, 2018


Tacita Dean: Portrait and Still Life review – ‘I find myself holding my breath’  In  a room in the National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection, hung with portraits including John Donne and William Shakespeare, three groups of jewel-like miniatures, lit in such a way that they appear from a distance as glimmering points of light, sit on the grey wall. The rhythmic clattering sound of a projector rumbles…All of them have at some time played Hamlet on the London stage, and the title of Tacita Dean’s film, His Picture in Little, is taken from the play. Sometimes appearing to exchange glances, at others ignoring one another entirely, the three actors have nothing to do, no part to play, except to be there and to be filmed. There are private expressions, appeals to the camera (and by implications, ourselves), smiles and twitches and wry glances. You watch them thinking, waiting, being.   The Guardian, March 14, 2018


Oscar Murillo, Hans-Ulrich Obrist, and 77 Others Decry Firing of Museum Director in Bordeaux.  Last week, Maria Inés Rodriguez, the director of Bordeaux’s Contemporary Art Museum, was abruptly fired. In response, a group of 79 artists, curators, and arts workers — including artists Christian Boltanski and Oscar Murillo, curators Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Pablo Leon de la Barra, and Tate Modern director Frances Morris — published an open letter in Libération in support of Rodriguez and calling on France’s Culture Minister, Françoise Nyssen, to look into the issue.  Hyperallergic, March 14, 2018

Berlin and London

We’re All Individuals, Fighting Alone’: Dealer Johann König on Why Art Galleries Need Smart Branding.  With Brutalist buildings and a multifaceted outreach program, König is re-envisioning how galleries can market themselves. The Berlin gallery is located in the breathtaking deconsecrated St. Agnes church designed by the Brutalist architect Werner Düttmann, while the London space is located in a converted parking garage that was also built in the Brutalist style. At a time when foot traffic is falling in galleries (and other retail spaces), the dealer has also championed a number of unconventional—and sometimes controversial—outreach programs to pull in audiences from all walks of life.  Artnet News, March 14, 2018


How social media is driving the culture of public art.  This is Instagram art, which exists solely to be photographed and posted to social media. Which means that even if you do your level best to avoid the oversharing culture of the web, you can still come across these Instagram-ready murals, which have become some of the most popular landmarks among the service’s 600 million or so users.  Social media isn’t just changing the way we interact with each other; it’s driving the culture, especially in cities full of tourists eager to beef up their photo feeds with dispatches from elsewhere. At the same time, it is redefining the nature and intent of public art.  Globe & Mail, March 15, 2018

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