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



Kevin Schmidt’s far-out We Are the Robots invites you into a DIY world where you can spin vinyl and play keyboards.  “Alas, I forgot that the public is invited to bring vinyl records to the Vancouver Art Gallery, to play in Kevin Schmidt’s audio installation DIY HIFI. I wasn’t able to appreciate what one of my old LPs would sound like through Schmidt’s enormous, hand-built speakers. On the plus side, this lapse spared me judgment on my musical tastes by other, more hip visitors to the show, not to mention that of the young volunteer who stood behind the turntable. On a busy Saturday afternoon, she answered questions about the work, told us that the artist “likes to play around with opposition and paradox”, and kept repeating the phrase “back in the day”.”   Georgia Straight, July 31, 2018

Vancouver Art Gallery and grunt gallery catch cabin fever.  “This summer, two separate exhibitions take on the cabin as subject. Occupying the entire second floor of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Cabin Fever is a sweeping survey of an evolving architectural form. From its early association with westward expansion by European settlers, as the show demonstrates, the cabin has come to function as a powerful symbol within North American culture. Across town, at grunt gallery, The Blue Cabin is an examination of a very specific small structure, one that connects us to a particular time, place, and creative life.”  Georgia Straight, July 11, 2018

Seven things to do in Metro Vancouver Aug. 17-23: Goto and Peter Morin: how do you carry the land?,…  What happens when two artists — one a Japanese diasporic woman and the other a Tahltan First Nation man — reflect on how their bodies and experiences are shaped by the legacy of colonialism. Using history, philosophy, cultural practices and more, the artist’s work attempts to convey voices and ideas that are often marginalized and study the interaction of cultures in making art. Their large photos are often representative of physical action embracing the land. The exhibition also includes commissioned works by Corey Bulpitt, Roxanne Charles, Navarana Igloliorte, Cheryl L’Hirondelle, Haruko Okano and Juliane Okot Bitek.  Vancouver Sun, August 15, 2018

In the age of Trump, the art on racism by African-American Kerry James Marshall seems absolutely vital. In the scope of his 62 years, Kerry James Marshall has seen many changes across the span of the racially fraught country he documents in his artwork. Though his documentation has always been important and topical, right now, in a Trump-led United States, Marshall’s work seems absolutely vital… Kerry James Marshall: Collected Works, at Vancouver’s Rennie Museum, draws attention to historic and contemporary racism in the United States and also asks the viewer to consider other aspects of the African-American experience. Globe & Mail, August 14, 2018

This monster-sized anvil is like a giant violin conch shell bringing you the sounds of the ocean.  Huge works of art are standard fare at the Vancouver Biennale — the exhibition regularly includes large-scale sculpture that confronts the audience in big ways. But this year, the giant anvil that’s been dropped in its midst by artist Maskull Lasserre might seem a little incongruous with its surroundings…until you get closer. CBC News, August 14, 2018


Sculptor calls for restoration of Sir John A. Macdonald statue.  Thirty-seven years ago Montreal sculptor John Dann was commissioned to do a statue of Sir John A. Macdonald. It was installed in Victoria on Canada Day, 1982.  “Peter Pollen was the mayor at the time, and we arranged to put the piece in front of city hall,” said Dann, who now lives in Vancouver.  “We should talk about (the residential school issue), acknowledge the horrors that have been perpetrated on the native people.” That said, he doesn’t think removing his statue with limited public debate was a good idea.  Vancouver Sun, August 15, 2018


Van Gogh and Monet on display at Kelowna Art Gallery.  A Cultivating Journey: The Herman H. Levy Legacy has been keeping the Kelowna Art Gallery busy this summer, drawing crowds with major works by painters including Claude Monet and Vincent Van Gogh.  Laura Wyllie, the public programming co-ordinator at the gallery, said the exhibition has been so popular, more than twice as many attendees as usual have been coming into the gallery to enjoy the artwork.  Global News, August 13, 2018


A Conversation with Jordan Bennett.  In striking contrast to the cold steel of Brookfield Place, Tepkik’s vibrant Polysilk fabric sways in the air-conditioning gusts of the downtown Toronto office complex. Adorned with intricate designs and symbols, it is a site-specific sculptural work by Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett, who has been shortlisted for the 2018 Sobey Art Award.   Canadian Art, August 9, 2018

Sidewalk Toronto: Wood buildings, smart streets and big questions.  Shadows and light dapple my arms, and I hear the warbling of birds somewhere above. I am not, however, out in the trees: I’m inside 307, a former industrial shed on Toronto’s waterfront, talking with staff of the smart-city project Sidewalk Toronto. That scattered light is coming from LEDs, and the birdsong is synthetic.   “Here, you feel sheltered, and yet open,” says Karim Khalifa, the director of buildings innovation for Sidewalk Labs, the sister company of Alphabet Inc.’s Google that is working on Sidewalk Toronto. (A low warble sounds from a speaker.) “That’s one of the ideas that we are trying to use in creating a really nice place to live.”  Globe & Mail, August 10, 2018


Ottawa appeals court ruling allowing export of another artwork it deems important to Canadian heritage.  A French Impressionist painting bought by a British art dealer at a Toronto auction is once again at the centre of a legal battle over whether the artwork is too important to Canada’s national heritage to be allowed to leave the country.   The federal government is appealing a court ruling made in June that cleared the way for the painting to be shipped to its London buyer.  Globe & Mail, August 7, 2018


Robert Murray. Robert Murray’s new exhibition in Halifax, “Models, Paintings and Sculpture,” features recent work, much of it completed in the last three years. A series of models sit on plinths and range in scale from about 10 to 20 inches in height. Mostly painted in bright primary colours, these small works have an outsized presence. An accompanying group of watercolours revisits the theme of blue columns (as seen in two of the models in the show) and illustrates how Murray thinks through his forms before making them in three dimensions…“Models, Paintings and Sculpture” is a quiet exhibition, unapologetically Modernist in its approach, and its cerebral formalism is refreshing. Canadian Art, August 9, 2018

St. John’s, NL

Mary Pratt, acclaimed East Coast painter, dies at 83.  East Coast painter Mary Pratt, whose vivid depictions of everyday objects won her international acclaim, has died. She was 83.  Her family says in a statement that Pratt died peacefully at her home in St. John’s, N.L., on Tuesday.  Her works featured in galleries across the country, the Fredericton-born artist was named a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1996.   Globe & Mail, August 15, 2018  See also: Mary Pratt, famed Canadian painter, dead at 83CBC News NFLD, Labrador, August 15, 2018

San Francisco

Casanova as Case Study: How Should Art Museums Present Problematic Aspects of the Past? In 2014, when staffers at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco began planning the exhibition “Casanova: The Seduction of Europe,” they could not have foreseen the two-word hashtag that would trigger an unprecedented national awakening regarding sexual harassment and assault.   Four months after #MeToo made its debut online last fall, the institution rolled out a lavish exhibition at its Legion of Honor location devoted to Giacomo Casanova, the storied 18th-century adventurer whose behavior with women would—as he described it—in some cases be understood today as sexual assault.   ArtNews, August 13, 2018

Los Angeles

What to Do About Klaus: How Arts Communities Assert Their Agency.  As first impressions go, it wasn’t ideal. On the week he was announced as MOCA Los Angeles’s new director, Klaus Biesenbach managed to alienate the city’s faithful by comparing its art scene to that of Berlin. The comment rankled locals who wanted the director of L.A.’s only public, explicitly contemporary art museum to appreciate their city’s long, distinct legacy of cultural diversity. Then, in his ensuing correction, Biesenbach erroneously championed L.A.’s affordability for artists, which didn’t sit well among a community in which many have been evicted from studios in recent years, as rents leapt to match New York City prices and developers preyed on anyone in precariously zoned live-work spaces. His correction, in fact, sunk easily to the ignorance of his previous sentiment. Momus, August 2018


Dream of a Common Language. It seems that in the making of international exhibitions, we’ve come a long way, very fast. It’s hard to imagine that the landmark French exhibition “Magiciens de la Terre”—whose title alone belies its exoticizing attitude to the “outposts” of the art world—was staged in 1989, a scant eleven years ago. Even as recently as 1997, we had a Documenta, led by the ostensibly high-minded French scholar Catherine David, in which Asian culture was almost entirely unrepresented (unless you count Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas’s gigantic photo-text analysis of the real estate market in the new China—which I don’t—or Austrian artist Edgar Honetschläger’s embarrassing series of photographs of Japanese people without their clothes on). The assumption that the international art world has a centre is being fast eroded by air travel, the art press and Internet communication.  But as I moved from room to room of epically scaled installations, large-format photographic works and monumental video projections, I sometimes felt that the spectacular scale and ambition of international exhibitions have changed the way art is being made.  Canadian Art, August 13, 2018


Cleveland Museum of Art unveils first ‘Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan’  Helen Forbes Fields, a trustee at the Cleveland Museum of Art, said that she recently saw a guard turn away a young black man when he pushed open the North Lobby doors as the museum was about to close.  Forbes Fields, who is black, said she feared that the abrupt tone in the guard’s voice might have made the visitor feel unwanted. So she told the young man he would be welcome to come back the next day at 10 a.m.  Forbes Fields described the incident as one example of why the museum needs the new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Plan that it is formally announcing today. August 12, 2018


Judy Chicago Responds to Criticisms About the “Dinner Party”  Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party” (1974–79) has been the focus of combative discourse for nearly 40 years, heralded as revelatory by some, labeled “vulgar,” by conservative critics like Hilton Kramer, and challenged for its racial politics (or lack thereof) by others. Recently, Chicago challenged a recent assessment of the work by Esther Allen, who accused the artist overlooking Latin American figures like La Malinche and Frida Kahlo.  Hyperallergic, August 12, 2018


The British Museum’s “Looting” Problem.  This weekend, headlines across the internet announced that the British Museum was to “return looted antiquities to Iraq.” Eight tiny artifacts, some of them 5,000 years old, were handed to Iraqi officials in a ceremony on Friday, to be transported to the National Museum of Iraq in Baghdad. But the antiquities were not, as the headlines implied, a part of the British Museum’s own collection; they were just identified there after police seized them from a dealer. The distinction is crucial, because the Museum houses one of the largest permanent collections of human culture on earth, some of which came from the old-school kind of “looting”—colonialism. The New Republic, August 14, 2018


Heads Roll review – an exhibition for narcissists everywhere. Portraiture is an enduring art form, thanks to the narcissistic tendencies of the human race. As far back as 28,000BC we were carving our image into rocks in Brazil, and this obsession with our own appearance has remained popular ever since: in 2017, 8.1 million visitors traipsed round the Louvre to stare at the lingering smile of the Mona Lisa, while every single day, social media is awash with selfies. Which is why the aptly named Heads Roll at Graves Gallery, Sheffield – a show that focuses entirely on portraits and the depiction of the human form – is a mesmerising treasure trove. Curated by Sheffield-based artist Paul Morrison (best known for monochrome botanical paintings, prints and sculptures), the exhibition includes a dazzling array of portraiture spanning over 400 years and features 60 artists working across print, paint, sculpture and word art.  The Guardian, August 14, 2018


The Criminally Overlooked Talent of Baroque Painter Michaelina Wautier.  An oft-repeated tagline throughout the promotion for “Michaelina: Baroque’s Leading Lady” is “Mysterious Michaelina”. The first-ever retrospective of the work of Baroque artist Michaelina Wautier (1604–89)—a joint enterprise between the Museum aan de Stroom and the Rubenshuis, in Antwerp, Belgium—has very little material to work with. Scant documentary evidence means the only biographical details we have indicate that Wautier was born in Mons, Belgium; that she moved to Brussels after 1640 with her brother Charles (1609–1703); and that she probably shared a studio with him.  The exhibition also rides on the back of the current push to highlight strong female cultural figures. The programmers may not have consciously decided to focus on a female artist, yet in a year when London’s National Gallery’s £3.6 million purchase of a self-portrait by Artemisia Gentileschi was accompanied by statistics highlighting the fact that male artists starkly outnumber female artists in the gallery’s collection, gender is a front-and-center issue in our collective consciousness. It would be unrealistic to suggest that the show will not benefit from such timeliness. Indeed, tagged on the end of the exhibit is a room entitled “Gender Questions”, which discusses the various artistic disciplines open to women in the 17th century.  What emerges throughout is the impression that Wautier’s gender, combined with elevated social status, wealth, and, somewhat ironically, her superlative talent, have all contributed to her obscurity.  Hyperallergic, August 15, 2018


What Do Photographers Owe Their Subjects? Four Photographers Weigh In.   It’s a common sentiment from photographers that they like to think of the [photographer-subject] relationship as a creative collaboration. Yet even the language with which we describe the medium—“take” someone’s picture, “capture” him, “shoot” them—implies a fraught process with an inherent power imbalance. Over the years, photographers have reconsidered what they owe the people in their frames. Artsy, August 10, 2018


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