Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by Vancouver Art Gallery Library, September 8, 2020


Fall arts: Victor Vasarely’s Op Art works channel the Sixties at Vancouver Art Gallery.   In October, the Vancouver Art Gallery is opening three exhibitions, all related to Victor Vasarely, considered the originator of the international art movement Op Art. Vasarely’s paintings and prints use colour and form to create optical movement that can appear to “pulse, shimmer and vibrate,” as the gallery says.  The other exhibitions are Op Art in Vancouver, which looks at how local artists created a West Coast version, and Uncommon Language, which explores similar themes in local, national and international art works.  Elsewhere in Metro Vancouver, there are some exhibitions opening at public art galleries, but it’s nothing like a pre-pandemic season. Several galleries remain closed and others are holding over exhibitions from the summer into the fall.  Because of COVID-19, galleries that charge admission have started selling timed tickets that you have to buy in advance online. Some free public galleries are often operating at reduced hours and days, so check to make sure they’re open before your visit.  Vancouver Sun, September 4, 2020

ART SEEN: Saucy Bears returning early to collector.  The raciest painting in the Kent Monkman exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology won’t be there in its original form much longer.  The acrylic on canvas painting is called The Bears of Confederation. The painting’s provocative content might not be apparent to a casual viewer. From a distance, it resembles a historic, romantic landscape painting showing dramatic clouds, towering mountains, and a placid body of water. If you look closely in the lower right corner, there are several figures, including Monkman’s gender-fluid trickster Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. She’s wearing red high-heel boots up to her thigh and snapping a whip.   Vancouver Sun, September 4, 2020  

Artist Kent Monkman drags Canadian history into 21st century with Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience.  There’s been an unusual sighting at an art exhibition at the Museum of Anthropology.  A figure rarely seen in cultural institutions is at the centre of Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience: A gender fluid Indigenous trickster. Her name is Miss Chief Eagle Testickle. She’s the alter ego of artist Kent Monkman.   Vancouver Sun, August 19, 2020

Vancouver’s contemporary Asian art gallery Centre A searches for new executive director.  Only a few months after a Vancouver art gallery for Asian art named a new executive director, it has announced that it is once again looking for a new individual to fill the position.  After Tyler Russell stepped down as executive director in October 2018, Yun-Jou Chang served as interim executive director until Derrick Chang was named in February as the executive director, effective as of March 1.  However, on September 2, Centre A announced that it has launched a search for a new permanent executive director.  In the meantime, Henry Heng Lu, who has been Centre A’s curator since July 2019, has been named interim executive director, effective as of September 2.   Georgia Straight, September 4, 2020

Q & A: Neil Wedman.  Perhaps you’ve heard of the Gastown riot? If not, the short version is this: In 1971, during the waning days of Vancouver’s late arrival at the Summer of Love, a group of Yippies organized a smoke-in at Gastown’s Maple Tree Square, where a giant fake joint would be lit and everybody could feel groovy and celebrate pot in peace…But the property value-fixated mayor of the day, Tom ‘Terrific’ Campbell, calls in the bulls and they charge over in their new riot gear, several on horseback, to bust some heads. Now this is only a year after the Kent State shootings, and the gravely out-of-step “law-and-order” mayor, as well as the Vancouver police, are eventually rebuked for their heavy-handed tactics after an inquiry headed by a Supreme Court justice dubs it a “police riot.” …Decades later, in 2008, Vancouver art star Stan Douglas turns the protest into high art, letting condo owners and students at Simon Fraser University’s downtown campus take in a massive, theatrically staged photomural, Abbott & Cordova, 7 August 1971, on their way to score a latte at JJ Bean’s.  Enter self-described wise guy Neil Wedman, a painter known for his wry visual take on just about anything. When he told me he was working on a piece based on the riot, I figured it would be unlike anything I’d seen before.  Galleries West, August 24, 2020

North Vancouver

Polygon Gallery’s Third Realm exhibit takes viewers into Asia’s art explosion.   Curator Davide Quadrio traces his fascination with Asia and its artworks back to being 13 in Italy, when two magazine spreads caught his eye. One was of Japanese butoh dancers, “moving around Tokyo like corpses”; the other, in National Geographic, showcased ornately costumed Tibetan dancers.  Quadrio founded and directed the first not-for-profit independent creative lab in Shanghai, Bizart Art Center, as a platform to foster the local contemporary art scene. A decade later, in 2007, he helped establish the Shanghai-based FarEastFarWest, which commissions and acquires contemporary artworks from China as well as Thailand, Japan, Korea, and other parts of Asia. Its collection is housed at the Museum of Contemporary Photography at Columbia College in Chicago. Its exhibits—including Third Realm—show around the globe. Third Realm will showcase pieces from the crucial period of 2004 to 2019. Included in the exhibit are works from such now-big names as Indonesia’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and China’s Cao Fei, Lu Yang, and Zhou Xiaohu. Georgia Straight, September 2, 2020

Haida Gwaii

Haida carver Ben Davidson crafted awe-inspiring totem poles.  Ben Davidson grew up not in the shadow of his world-renowned father, but under his wing. From the time he was about four, Ben and his older sister Sara would join their father, Robert Davidson, in his studio near White Rock, B.C., watching him create artwork that would travel to museums and collectors around the globe. They would learn as they watched; Ben, already a whiz with Lego, would sit with a tool and something to carve, anchored to the work bench. His father taught him to do it safely, to carve away from himself… In their final collaboration, Ben helped his father with a commission for a 22-foot totem pole. Ben, with his tremendous power saw skills, roughed out the pole – a skill he had learned from another artist, John Livingston. Ben had said he wanted to honour Mr. Livingston, who died last year, by roughing out the pole, and honour his father for teaching him to carve. It was Robert Davidson’s commission, but it became a real family project; Ben started it in the spring of 2019 and Sara Davidson helped finish it this summer, doing much of the painting.  The totem was finished at Robert Davidson’s studio on the Semiahmoo Reserve near White Rock, B.C. in August. Shortly after it was completed, Ben died – suddenly, unexpectedly, from a heart attack on Haida Gwaii, where he lived and owned a gallery and studio. Ben Davidson, Tlanang nang kingaas – “the one who is known far away;” stlaay q’aalaagaas – “ambitious hands” – was 44.  Globe & Mail, September 4, 2020

Hornby Island

Chance Elements: On Wayne Ngan (1937-2020).   Wayne Ngan was already a celebrated potter by the time he moved to the island in 1967, but his new environment catalyzed a period of experimentation and growth. Hornby is renowned for its distinct topography of craggy bluffs, erratic boulders, and undulating sandstone formations edged by wind-torqued coastal arbutus and Garry oak trees. Ngan was deeply influenced by the energy of this landscape, which he manifested in the forms and on the surfaces of his pots. These surroundings also made it possible for Ngan’s life and work to become completely integrated – the island’s rural zoning allowed him to experiment with improvised architecture and high-fired kilns in a way that would never have been allowed in a city.  Momus,  August 14, 2020


Kelowna artist explores themes of community and economy with exhibit at Alternator Centre.  An upcoming exhibition at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in Kelowna invites visitors to explore themes of community and the gift economy from September 18, until October 31, 2020.  In the exhibition Backstitch, Nicole Young displays a large-scale art piece resembling a quilt, created from sewing together hand-dyed textiles. All the textiles in the work are a mix of materials, such as plant matter used for dyes, that were donated to the artist by community members.  Kelowna Cap News, September 7, 2020


Calgary’s Glenbow museum opens new Porchtraits exhibit   A new exhibition opens at the Glenbow Saturday, showcasing images of Calgarians taken during the peak of the pandemic, in socially-distant family portrait sessions.  Porchtraits: Calgary Families in Isolation during COVID-19 is co-curated by Glenbow and local photographer Neil Zeller.  “Nothing else that I’ve done has taken me to all corners of the city to meet all these different people,” said Zeller. “Everybody that invited me to their homes are looking for the good, they’re looking for a way to pass some time in a more positive way. For me it’s just been an incredible uplifting way to spend during this while. ”  CTV News, September 5, 2020

‘Open this box up’: Glenbow Museum’s ambitious $115M expansion will shed its ’70s vibe. Calgary’s Glenbow Museum is set to undergo a $115-million renovation intended to transform the space into a local and national “cultural icon.”  The project could start as early as October and will see a complete interior and exterior makeover to better engage visitors in a “powerful and positive” manner, said museum president Nicholas Bell.   Calgary Herald, August 27, 2020.  See also: Layoffs decimate the Glenbow Museum: CUPEBusiness Wire, August 17, 2020


‘It’s important to be relevant’: From Saskatoon to L.A., Emily Elisa Halpern’s art hits at today’s society  Emily Elisa Halpern has lived all over the world.…While she still had roots in Saskatoon, it didn’t feel like home to her anymore, so Halpern chose New York City as her next destination, visiting some friends who had already moved there…  “Painting was the hardest thing for me… she says. “When things hurt you, it’s because you care about it. Because it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done, I’m really attracted to that.” She moved to the Chelsea neighbourhood in New York, where she could be close to galleries, but after her time at Pratt, she realized she had to pursue an MFA to make a career out of art. Halpern ended up at San Diego State University, completing her MFA before heading to Los Angeles. Regina Leader Post, September 3, 2020


Ottawa Art Gallery shines light on deserving local artists.  In a city studded with national museums, you don’t necessarily get much access to local art. Since it opened in its much expanded Daly Avenue headquarters in 2018, the Ottawa Art Gallery is working its way through something of a backlog of deserving artists. Its current offerings include two real veterans: Russell Yuristy and Jennifer Dickson are both octogenarians who live in Ottawa. And that is about all they have in common as artists, which makes for an invigorating visit to the gallery’s fourth floor, where their shows, which opened in February, have been held over due to the pandemic. Globe & Mail, September 4, 2020.  See also: Russell Yuristy and Jennifer Dickson at Ottawa Art Gallery.  Globe & Mail, September 4, 2020.

Neeko Paluzzi at Studio Sixty Six, Ottawa.   Ottawa-based artist Neeko Paluzzi’s works can appear as cold as the surface of the moon. Monochromatic and formal, they have a minimalist aesthetic. They are also highly conceptual. He typically works in series that fully realize a pre-established idea, such as the main body of work in his exhibition now on view at Studio Sixty Six: Harmony of the Spheres. Paluzzi has systematically produced seven photography-based works that represent the seven heavenly bodies (including the moon) that comprised the known planets when the astronomer Johannes Kepler wrote Harmonices Mundi in 1619.   Akimbo, September 3, 2020


‘Skyline Diner’ painting brings us remembrance of meals past.  Nostalgia is an interesting space these days. There’s nostalgia for a long ago past and nostalgia for what we knew mere months ago. In a city where change is a constant, we celebrate the places we’ve gone to eat for decades. They bring us comfort, grounding us in the familiar, even as the familiar continues to shift around us.  “Skyline Diner” is part of a series of paintings — “Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner” — by Toronto artist Brandon Steen, showing at the Elaine Fleck Gallery.  Toronto Star, September 6, 2020


Art Gallery of Mississauga responds to allegations of racism, calls for the gallery to cease operations.  The Art Gallery of Mississauga has responded to allegations of racism and bullying, as well as calls from people who identify as former employees to cease operations and replace all operators, staff members and board members. Earlier this summer, a website documenting allegations of racism, bullying and harassment at the city-run gallery, along with a petition calling for the temporary cessation of all operations (and the firing of all staff and board members) went live.  According to the people who created the Hold the AGM Accountable website and associated petition, the site and petition were launched after the AGM’s former community activator, Sharada Eswar, came forward with allegations of bullying, “patriarchy and white supremacy,” and “gaslighting” at the gallery.   Insauga, August 25, 2020


Montreal Mohawk artist Skawennati awarded Smithsonian fellowship.  Skawennati is off to the Smithsonian.  The Montreal-based Mohawk artist is one of the 2020 Smithsonian Artist Research Fellows. As such, she will receive a travel grant to visit the esteemed institution, which is the world’s largest museum and research complex, and have access to its vast collections, research sites and scholarly expertise for a one- to two-month period…Artists are selected “based on the strengths of their proposals and their demonstrated record of artistic accomplishment,” according to a representative for the Smithsonian. Skawennati has explored various aspects of Indigenous culture in her 25-year visual art career. She is increasingly interested in imagining Indigenous Peoples in the future, through virtual works using an array of Indigenous avatars.  Montreal Gazette, September 4, 2020

San Francisco

After SFMOMA Cuts Salaries by 20%, Employees Call Out Major Loans Granted to Executives.  In the 2000s, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art granted $1.3 million in home loans to staff in leadership positions. The museum’s board approved a reportedly interest-free $801,900 home loan for director Neal Benezra in 2002, followed by a $500,000 loan for former senior curator Gary Garrels in 2008. Now, labor union representatives and xSFMOMA, a group of former employees agitating for change at the museum, say these transactions symbolize the institutional inequity accented by recent layoffs and furloughs.   On Friday, August 28, SFMOMA announced a 20% furlough for all staff, framing the cuts in an internal announcement as an “equitable” measure designed to avoid layoffs. It is the third round of cuts to devastate the museum this year. In an interview with Hyperallergic, Nat Naylor, SFMOMA’s representative with OPEIU Local 29, bristled at the idea that the cuts are equitable: a companywide percentage reduction cannot be fair — it hurts the lowest-paid workers the most.  Hyperallergic, September 3, 2020

New York

Joseph Bartscherer, 1954-2020. The day after I learn Joseph Bartscherer had died, I opened the New York Times Magazine to a feature on the seasonal workers who harvest cherries in the same Mattawa, Washington, orchards that Joseph photographed thirty-five years earlier for “Pioneering Mattawa,” 1984–92, a series undertaken in a former desert expanse two and a half hours north of Seattle. The magazine’s freelancer Jovelle Tamayo chose to partially shoot the cherry trees during the foggy morning hours, making somber, damp photographs. By contrast, Joseph’s images of these same vineyards and orchards shine with the sharp, arid light that ricochets off the sandy soil. Artforum, August 28, 2020. 


Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer at Philadelphia Museum of Art, plans to step down next year. Gail Harrity, president and chief operating officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, will be stepping down, the museum announced Friday.  Harrity, 70, who joined the museum in 1997 as chief operating officer and was named president in 2009, has been on top of virtually every building project of note at the museum for the last 15 years.  And there have been plenty, including the current extensive interior construction effort known inside the museum as the “Core Project.”… She noted that the project worked its transformational change not through expansion across the landscape, but by looking within, utilizing the imagination of Gehry to find 90,000 square feet of new public space (including the new galleries); adding an unusual open interior, dubbed the Forum; and reopening a historic walkway that traverses the entire building from Kelly Drive to the Schuylkill.  Philadelphia Inquirer, September 4, 2020

Miami Beach

Art Basel Miami Beach Is Officially Canceled for 2020.  Art Basel announced Wednesday that it would cancel the upcoming edition of its Miami Beach fair, scheduled to take place at the Miami Beach Convention Center in early December 2020. In a statement, fair organizers cited the impact of the pandemic specifically in South Florida, but also in art hubs around the world that would have sent collectors and dealers as emissaries. They also mentioned uncertainty surrounding restrictions on large gatherings.  The cancellation comes in a year when Art Basel already had to scrap Art Basel Hong Kong, which was scheduled for March, and the flagship Art Basel fair in Switzerland, which was scheduled for June. 2020 will now officially be the first year in decades without an edition of the world’s most closely watched contemporary art expo.  Artnews, September 2, 2020


Everyday Heroes: key workers celebrated at Southbank, where hundreds face sack.  Brutish times, apparently, breed the heroes required to meet them. Those caring for the sick, the old, the young, who keep buses circulating, shops stocked, and waste disposed of. These are the Everyday Heroes portrayed – in image and verse – in this open-air exhibition at the Southbank Centre in London.  The Guardian, September 3, 2020

Tate cuts all ties with controversial patron Anthony d’Offay.  The Tate has cut all ties with its controversial benefactor and patron Anthony d’Offay after criticism over racist imagery and allegations of sexual harassment.  The Tate, which runs four internationally renowned art museums in London, Liverpool and St Ives, has also agreed to remove all public signage citing the 80-year-old collector’s name.  It first suspended links with D’Offay in January 2018 after the Observer revealed that he was facing allegations of sexual harassment and inappropriate behaviour dating from 1997 to 2004. He denies the claims.  The Guardian, September 4, 2020

Tate Makes Redundancies Official as Workers Pledge to Continue Strike.  The notifications for a WhatsApp group of Tate galleries staff—who have been striking since August 18 in response to an announcement that 313 jobs would soon be eliminated—began buzzing steadily around 9 p.m. on Friday night. “I’m in,” posted members who had just been emailed that their jobs were secure, inevitably followed by several iterations of “I’m out.” These positions are all being cut from Tate Enterprises Ltd. (TEL), which operates the retail, catering and publishing activities of the English museum, and represent nearly half of TEL’s total staff.The Observer, August 31, 2020.  See also A Very Duchampian Protest Action at Tate ModernHyperallergic, August 20, 2020







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