Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by the Vancouver Art Gallery Library, March 29, 2018


Revising Dada.   The Art Gallery of Ontario has just taken down its staging of “Florine Stettheimer: Painting Poetry”, an exhibition that asks us to rediscover—not for the first time—a Duchamp-adjacent woman artist. The exhibition’s premise is characteristic of one major kind of revisionist exhibition: one which inserts minor—or in some cases totally obscured or overlooked—figures into leading roles in art history, with the larger and often unrealized goal of upheaving art-historical master narratives and the plot devices on which they rely. One especially influential early exhibition in this vein was “Inside the Visible: An Elliptical Traverse of the 20th Century in, of and from the Feminine,” curated by Catherine de Zegher at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston in 1996…Natalie Brettschneider, the fictional protagonist in a long-running project by Vancouver-based artist Carol Sawyer, would have fit plausibly as the token Canadian in “Dadaglobe Reconstructed,” if she were real. “The Natalie Brettschneider Archive,” a recently closed exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery, cannily invokes the tropes of both kinds of revisionist exhibitions—ones which rewrite history with minor figures in major roles, and ones which change the objects of art history by privileging networks over individual artists.  Canadian Art, March 28, 2018

Vancouver Art Gallery launches Bombhead exhibition.  Most of us might respond to the idea of a nuclear attack by diving under a nearby table. But ever since the first mushroom cloud entered our consciousness, many artists have taken a far more considered approach to the notion of human-triggered annihilation.  Lonely Planet, March 28, 2018

Beauty and reverence illuminate Haida Now at Museum of VancouverHaida Now at the Museum of Vancouver is a stellar exhibition. Like Culture at the Centre at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, it seeks to rewrite the relationship between First Nations and the colonialist institutions that have, for so long, collected, housed, and displayed their belongings. Two years ago, the MOV’s Viviane Gosselin invited guest curator Kwiaahwah Jones to unpack—literally and metaphorically—more than 450 Haida belongings from its vaults. In turn, Jones invited a number of her fellow Haida, including artists, performers, and knowledge holders, to go through the collection with her and to share their insights and understanding.  Georgia Straight, March 28, 2018


From basement to auction: Owner says Thomson painting ’doesn’t look like much’ Glenna Gardiner, a 71-year-old retired nurse, said she used to laugh off her late father’s claims that the painting that has been in her family for some 80 years was created by Thomson, who is often considered the forefather to the Group of Seven.  The heirloom’s supposed origins became a running joke between Gardiner and a longtime friend, who insisted the work was authentic, so she gave it to her as a gag gift for her birthday.   Her friend had the painting assessed by the Heffel Fine Art Auction House, where experts verified the attribution to Thomson and valued the sketch between $125,000 to $175,000 on the auction market… The Canadian Conservation Institute determined that one of the white pigments used in the painting has only been found in works by Thomson and the Group of Seven, said Heffel, which strongly supports the attribution. But all one needs to do is see the painting in person to recognize Thomson’s skillful hand, he added… Heffel will be previewing the painting for the public as part of its spring auction in Calgary, Vancouver, Montreal and Toronto over April and May. A live auction will be held at the Design Exchange in Toronto on May 30.  Globe & Mail, March 29, 2018

With integrated artwork, Alex McLeod polishes Metrolinx’s Davenport Diamond.  For artist Alex McLeod, his studio has never been busier, right now churning out the thousands of digital jigsaw pieces – a thicket of green, next a rocky face, then the elbow formed where a tree branch joins its trunk – that will eventually become the largest digitally printed image anywhere in the world.  Best known for his sumptuous 3-D-rendered landscapes and animations, the 33-year-old Toronto-based artist was the winner of a competition to develop integrated artwork for Metrolinx’s Davenport Diamond Guideway – an overpass structure in the city’s west end that will carry commuter rail lines over freight tracks, separating what is now a choked-up crossing where the lines intersect.  Globe & Mail, March 29, 2018

Tough Love.   Kelly Mark works hard as the self-employed worker Kelly Mark. For over two decades the Toronto-based artist has been making videos, drawings, sculptures, text pieces and performances that have earned her a reputation as one of Canada’s most important conceptual artists.  Border Crossings, March 2018

The Trouble with Occupying Others: Althea Thauberger Confronts the Violence of the Archive. Gazing out from a large photograph on the second floor of Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto, Althea Thauberger wears a yellow dress, pearl earrings, and the look of someone who’s just committed the prank of the century. The Vancouver-based artist is known for her collaborations with niche communities, prompting and documenting revelatory performances by, say, military wives in San Diego, or the residents of a psychiatric hospital in Prague. With her latest exhibition, Althea Lorraine, Thauberger has entered the frame herself, to jolting effect. Momus, March 23, 2018


The Little Art School That Could. The New Brunswick College of Craft and Design has more students this year than at any other time in its nearly 80-year history, and its growth trajectory shows no sign of sagging.“It’s not an anomaly,” says Karina Wong Chong, the school’s strategic enrolment manager, of the record numbers, which topped 300 in September. But even she was surprised at this year’s figures, with 170 first-year students, almost double the average of 90 in years past. “History is just showing that every year we’re doing better,” Wong Chong says.   Canadian Art, March 27, 2018


Plan to move NSCAD, Art Gallery of Nova Scotia to waterfront ‘cultural hub’   The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and NSCAD University will both be moved from their current downtown Halifax locations to a new facility.   The project was announced Wednesday. A tender will be issued in the coming weeks to develop a detailed proposal that will consider where exactly the cultural hub should be located, how much it will cost, and look at issues like parking, according to Culture Minister Leo Glavine.   A study completed by Lord Cultural Resources indicates the two institutions are contemplating a joint facility on the Salter block of the waterfront. The report is strongly positive about that prospect.  CBC News, March 28, 2018

New York

Collection of Images of Women (and Her Own Mother) Giving Birth.  Carmen Winant’s book and a photographic installation of the same name that is currently on view as part of MOMA’s “Being: New Photography 2018” exhibit make childbirth radically visible. The MOMA piece is composed of more than two thousand found images of women in various stages of labor and childbirth, informal artifacts that come from a wide range of books, magazines, and pamphlets. “I scour estate sales, bookstores, garage sales, other people’s cabinets,” Winant told me. “It is, in some sense, the real work.” She then spent four days positioning the pictures like pieces of an elaborate jigsaw puzzle, each one affixed to the wall with blue painter’s tape, a conscious choice that, for Winant, evokes the labor of working in the studio.  New Yorker, March 27, 2018


US Government Can No Longer Fund Official Portrait Paintings. United States government workers who’d hoped their legacies would endure for decades in painted portraits were dealt a crushing blow today, when President Trump signed the “Eliminating Government-funded Oil-painting Act” into law. The title of the bill suggests that it solely targets oil paintings, although its text is less specific and covers all paintings regardless of material. The law does not, however, explicitly ban official portraits rendered in oil stick, charcoal, ink, bronze, clay, and a range of other materials….According to a 2012 report by the Washington Times, the government had, in the previous year, spent some $180,000 on official portraits. For comparison’s sake, the Congressional Budget Office projected that the Republican tax plan passed last December will add more than $1.4 trillion to the national debt over the next 10 years. Hyperallergic, March 28, 2018

An Always Fractured Order: Hal Foster’s Unromantic Avant-Garde.  There is a small historical irony in the topic of Hal Foster’s lecture for the 67th A.W. Mellon Lectures at the National Gallery of Art, set for next month: “Positive Barbarism: Brutal Aesthetics in the Postwar Period.” In the lead-up to Foster’s Mellon Lectures at the NGA, I spoke to him about the larger intellectual project [his essays] are part of, why our current political turmoil leads him to rethink the values of the European avant-garde, and the inspiration he takes from Marxist philosopher Walter Benjamin as well as from Carl Schmitt, the right-wing legal theorist of the Third Reich. Momus, March 26, 2018


In London, This Artist Rebuilt a Mythical Sculpture Destroyed by ISIS.  This morning, Michael Rakowitz ‘s sculpture The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist was unveiled on a vacant plinth in the square’s northwest corner, where it will remain until March 2020. It is the twelfth contemporary artwork to take up residence on the site, which, since 1999, has hosted one-off commissions from European and British art-world giants including Marc Quinn, Antony Gormley, and Hans Haacke.   Artsy, March 28, 2018.  See also:  Fourth plinth review – ‘My heart is in my mouth’   The Guardian, March 28, 2018


Louvre says ‘non’ to minister’s Mona Lisa grand tour.  Françoise Nyssen, France’s culture minister, made headlines when she suggested that the Louvre might send its best-known painting, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, on a “grand tour”. The museum, however, has politely rebuffed the proposal. The painting is going nowhere, it says; not even downstairs into the big Leonardo exhibition it plans for next year, in which Salvator Mundi—which sold in November for $450m—will be the guest star.  The Art Newspaper, March 27, 2018

Alice Springs

Damien Hirst’s latest artworks ‘done exactly like my people’s story’, Indigenous artist claims. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then artists from central Australia should be feeling fantastic about Damien Hirst’s latest works — but instead they’re experiencing a mixture of hurt and bewilderment.   The community of Utopia near Alice Springs produces a unique style of dot art that is internationally renowned, especially the paintings of the late pioneer Emily Kame Kngwarreye.   Now, they’re upset to see a new exhibition by Hirst, the world’s most commercial artist, which they believe bears a striking resemblance to their own work.   The provocative British artist’s latest exhibition is 24 paintings called the Veil series.   ABC News, March 28, 2018

Bandung, Indonesia

Is Rabbit Town a rip-off? The theme park with very familiar art A bizarre new theme park that claims to be designed for “selfie tourism” in Indonesia is causing consternation over accusations that it unashamedly rips off famous international works of art.  Located in the city of Bandung, West Java, the Rabbit Town theme park features a rabbit petting zoo and art installations that appear to be blatant replicas of famous works.   One installation, called the Patrico Sticker Room, which features a white room covered in colourful dots, looks a lot like renowned Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama’s work Obliteration Room.   Other international artworks that are said to have been copied include Chris Burden’s lampposts installation Urban Light – at Rabbit Town it is called Love Light – and several rooms that bear uncanny resemblances to displays at the Museum of Ice Cream in Los Angeles.  The Guardian, March 29, 2018


Dirty Words: Representation. “”Representation” has, in recent years, become both a pillar of contemporary liberal media values and a dirty word to many trans women writers and artists. Curators, producers and editors seek out trans women artists, actors and writers for the optics of “good representation”—that is to say, as tokens. As a result, the visibility of trans women in the arts has vastly increased in the past half-decade, but our sense of freedom has not. In being a trans woman of colour with a public audience, there is a sense of being watched, critically analyzed, of being placed on a wobbly platform with a long way down to fall. Representation thus becomes not liberatory, but rather dangerous and exploitative.” — Kai Cheng Thom Canadian Art, March 29, 2018


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s