Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by Vancouver Art Gallery Library, January 26, 2021


Justine A. Chambers performs as part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Art Connects series on January 28.  Dance artist Justine A. Chambers will give a virtual live performance with 27 fourth-year students from Ryerson University on January 28.   The event is part of the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Art Connects series, and will be followed by a discussion with the artist.  Georgia Straight, January 22, 2021

City council considering ways to make it easier for artists to open studios.  Last week, city staff recommended allowing “work-only” artist studios in industrial areas, providing some much-needed relief to an industry that has seen the amount of available work and performance spaces shrink dramatically as land prices rise.   The proposal is part of the city’s ten-year plan to develop and enhance affordable arts and culture spaces. Part of the plan aims to create 800,000 square feet of new arts and cultural spaces by 2030.  Vancouver Sun, January 24, 2021.  See also: City hall opens door to new work-only artist studios in first step to addressing shortageCreate a Stir, January 25, 2021

Vancouver to provide over $8.4 million in grants for arts and culture recovery from COVID-19 financial impact.  Vancouver is allocating over $8.4 million in funding to help arts and culture organizations recover from the financial wallop of the COVID-19 pandemic.  The City of Vancouver announced today (January 19) that city council approved a total of $8,406,150 in grants for 144 cultural organizations to help ensure their programs and services remain accessible to artists, cultural communities, and citizens. Five grants for a total of $3,948,400 will go to major institutions, or large-scale established groups with other City support and budgets over $1 million. Recipients include the Vancouver Art Gallery ($2,166,000), the Museum of Vancouver ($758,000), the H.R. MacMillan Space Centre ($519,400), the Vancouver Maritime Museum ($400,000), and Science World ($105,000).  A total of 59 grants worth $2,896,550 will be distributed to operating organizations, or established groups with budgets between $300,000 to $1 million.  Georgia Straight, January 19, 2021

Indigenous B.C. artist creates COVID-19 mask in Northwest Coast style. We’ve heard a lot about masks during the COVID-19 pandemic, but never like this.   Indigenous B.C. multimedia artist David Neel has created a carved mask in the Northwest Coast style to symbolize the pandemic.  “It’s probably the largest event in any of our lifetimes,” Neel told Global News.  The mask depicts a black-painted face with flared nostrils and barred teeth. It also features red protrusions that call to mind the oft-depicted protein spikes on the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19.  Global News, January 22, 2021

Gallery Crawl: What’s on around Metro Vancouver this winter.  Due to provincial health regulations, a ban on live performances will continue until at least February 5.  However, it’s still possible to visit local art galleries and museums. Here are a few exhibitions taking place in Metro Vancouver: Victor Vasarely at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Selected Stories: 1980–2020 at Richmond Art Gallery, Everything Leaks at Polygon Gallery, In a Different Light at the Museum of Anthropology (UBC), and Oblique Trajectories at the Burnaby Art Gallery.  Georgia Straight, January 21, 2021

Stir Q&A: Tiko Kerr on the artistic process behind PLEXUS. Tiko Kerr, one of Canada’s most prolific and renowned artists, is also a philanthropist, educator, and social activist. Mentored by Jack Shadbolt, he has said that the job of an artist is to enhance the lives of those around them.   To do that in the era of COVID-19, Kerr has taken paintbrush to plexiglass. His new exhibition, PLEXUS: A Vaccine Against the Conventional, is now showing at Mónica Reyes Gallery.   Shatter-proof plastic is now a part of daily life, hung or bolted in places never before seen, from high-end restaurants to grocery checkouts. As Kerr describes in his artist statement, it protects us, and it also isolates us.   In the tradition of Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollock, Kerr’s paintings “may also offer a small window onto an indescribable cosmos”.    Create a Stir, January 23, 2021

Graffiti overwhelms Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and Chinatown.  Pigeon Park Savings used to inject some much-needed beauty into the troubled Downtown Eastside in Vancouver.  Since 2017 the building at Columbia and Hastings streets has been covered with a mural featuring giant pigeons painted in a Haida style, set against a black backdrop. The work by First Nations artist Corey Bulpitt was striking, elegant and beautiful, a stark contrast to the visual chaos surrounding it. No more. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the DTES and the city’s Chinatown area have been hit with wave-after-wave of graffiti and tagging. And now Bulpitt’s mural is quickly being covered.”  Vancouver Sun, January 24, 2021

North Vancouver

Whose Chinatown? creates an art history with a spirit of activism and advocacy. Karen Tam’s second home while she was growing up in Montreal was the Chinese restaurant her parents ran in the city’s east end. Originally from China, her mom and dad operated Restaurant Aux Sept Bonheurs from the late 1970s until they sold it in 2004. For her Master of Fine Arts thesis exhibition at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Tam documented memories of that environment through photos, drawings, videos, and keepsakes. The idea took on a life of its own.    Tam went on to interview owners of Chinese-Canadian restaurants and cafes across Canada about their experiences. Using found, fabricated, and borrowed items—think vintage menus, tables, chairs, placemats, lanterns, match covers, knick-knacks, dishware, and more—she re-created such dining establishments for various exhibitions nationwide. With a PhD in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths (University of London) who has sculpted realistic jade ornaments out of soap and crafted porcelain of papier-mâché, Tam expanded her portfolio to include karaoke lounges, opium dens, curio shops, and other “ethnic” spaces. Incorporating archival research, she has exhibited work and participated in residencies throughout North America, Europe, and China. Now, Tam is curating Whose Chinatown? Examining Chinatown Gazes in Art, Archives, and Collections, an ambitious new group exhibition for Griffin Art Projects in North Vancouver from January 23 to April 24.  Create a Stir, January 22, 2021

Port Alberni

NIC’s Artist Talk Series moves to Zoom for winter session.  North Island College’s Artist Talk is returning for the winter 2021 season with a new, virtual format.  The series kicks off with artist, writer and arts educator Jim Holyoak, who will speak this coming Monday, Jan. 25 at 6 p.m. His practice is comprised of drawing, ink-painting, artists’ books and room-sized drawing installations… The second artist in the winter series is Campbell River’s own Sonny Assu.  Assu’s artistic practice is diverse, spanning painting, sculpture, photography, digital art and printmaking. He negotiates Western and Kwakwaka’wakw principles of art making as a means of exploring his family history and the experiences of being an Indigenous person in the colonial state of Canada.  BC Local News, January 24, 2021

British Columbia

B.C. Arts Council provides over $1 million to Lower Mainland arts and culture organizations for COVID-19 recovery.  The B.C. Tourism, Arts, Culture, and Sport Ministry announced today (January 22) that 50 B.C. arts and culture organizations are receiving almost $2 million in grants to help improve arts and culture spaces through the B.C. Arts Council’s new Arts Infrastructure Program.  Vancouver recipients include City Opera Vancouver ($15,000), Electric Company Theatre ($28,644), Firehall Arts Centre ($28,000), Full Circle: First Nations Performance ($42,528), Gallery Gachet ($14,000), Indian Summer Arts Society ($32,000), Museum of Vancouver ($75,000), Or Gallery ($4,758), Rumble Theatre ($40,000), The Cultch ($40,000), UBC Museum of Anthropology ($40,000), and more.  Georgia Straight, January 22, 2021


Edmonton sculptor creating Churchill statue to be unveiled in Calgary this August.  The Sir Winston Churchill Society of Calgary has commissioned the monument from a prolific Edmonton artist and hopes to unveil it in a to-be-determined location this August… The statue will be created by Danek Mozdzenski, an Edmonton sculptor whose previous works include a monument for former prime minister Lester B. Pearson at Parliament Hill.  Edmonton Journal, January 23, 2021


Remai Modern’s incoming chief curator dedicated to breaking down systemic barriers in museums.  The Remai Modern’s incoming chief curator, Michelle Jacques, has been working in mainstream public art museums since the mid-’90s, and in those early days, she was one of the only Black curators working in Canadian public art museums.  “I’ve always thought a lot about how to shift the structures of the museum to make them equitable and accessible to everybody, because often I didn’t feel like I belonged in the museum even though I was working there,” Jacques told CBC’s Saskatoon Morning, as she discussed taking the reins of the museum of modern and contemporary art in Saskatoon.  CBC News, January 22, 2021


New Dunlop director Alyssa Fearon committed to BIPOC artists. Alyssa Fearon has crossed a few borders since moving to the Prairies from Toronto 2 1/2 years ago.  The first was when she relocated to Brandon, to become curator of the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.  Then, in summer 2020, she moved to Regina to work at the Dunlop Art Gallery as director/curator.   The pandemic has presented metaphorical border crossings, too.  “Because we’ve moved a lot of our programming online, it’s really allowed us to I’d say bring Regina to the world and bring the world to Regina,” said Fearon, who was born and raised in Scarborough, Ont.  Star Phoenix, January 23, 2021

Connecting Thru Grasses explores Prairie ecology and social issues. Christina Battle’s exhibition at the MacKenzie Art Gallery is as the title suggests, and so much more.  Battle, an Edmonton-based artist, created Connecting Thru Grasses to literally connect people through grasses. A participatory angle of the project is that Battle will send native prairie grass seeds to anyone who requests them, to be replanted across the Prairies and beyond.   Star Phoenix, January 23, 2021


New marble carving will welcome visitors to Qaumajuq, WAG’s Inuit art centre.  If you’re in downtown Winnipeg, you may notice a new, large marble sculpture outside of Qaumajuq, the Inuit art centre at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.  Tuniigusiia/The Gift, commissioned by the Manitoba Teachers’ Society, is the work of Inuit artist Goota Ashoona.   It is meant to represent how knowledge is passed down through education and storytelling, and the important role teachers play in our communities, says a news release from the Winnipeg Art Gallery.   CBC News, January 23, 2021


AGO returned looted art without flagging it to experts.  The Art Gallery of Ontario shipped a valuable piece of Nazi-looted art to a Jewish family in Britain under rules that allow museums to lend art back and forth but which don’t warn the federal government if an important piece of cultural property is about to leave the country permanently.  After the David family in London made a successful claim for restitution, Jan van Kessel’s painting Still Life with Flowers left Canada in November, 2020, under the AGO’s general export permit, an authorization allowing the museum to ship art that would routinely be approved for export with less paperwork. Under such a permit, federal officials would not have had the opportunity to seek an independent opinion as to the importance of the art before it left. Canada has no special previsions for returning Holocaust-era loot under its rules controlling the export of cultural property and the AGO’s treatment of Still Life with Flowers as a routine shipment exposes that gap in the system.  Globe & Mail, January 21, 2021

The Aga Khan Awards for Architecture: Design can change the world.  Peek down a narrow street in Muharraq, in the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain. A coral-stone building extends a tower above neighbouring rooftops; next door to it, streetlights stand in a small plaza, illuminating benches and a few shade trees.. This is a complex combined effort of architecture, landscape architecture and historic preservation to write a new chapter for a centuries-old district. The project, led by Noura Al-Sayeh of the Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities, is smart and very subtle. It demands a close look.   It’s also a winner of an Aga Khan Award for Architecture. That program, now in its 40th year, captures architecture, landscape and heritage projects from across the world that go beyond aesthetics to improve the lives of people in meaningful ways.  Globe & Mail, January 20, 2021

Need to see original art? DesignTO’s festival is designed to be seen from outdoors. This year’s DesignTO proves that it’s not the size, but how a message is delivered that gives it power.  The citywide festival, which kicks off Jan. 22 and goes to Jan. 31, features digital exhibitions and window installations by architects, artisans and designers that can be viewed safely from outdoors.   Toronto Star, January 22, 2021


Ottawa artist completes hyperreal masterpiece for international collection.  Tackling a piece of this size and scope was a major challenge for Sheryl Luxenburg, a retired psychotherapist who’s been painting since childhood, and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of an important international collector from Germany. Glancing at the work of Sheryl Luxenburg, you’d swear you were looking at a photograph.  The 66-year-old Ottawa artist specializes in expressive hyperrealism, a style of painting that demands a high level of technical skill, careful attention to detail and meticulous planning of each step in the creative process, from the initial photographs down to individual brushstrokes.  Ottawa Citizen, January 22, 2021

Kapwani Kiwanga’s paintings offer a way of seeing the distance between us  We are told, in these pandemic days, to stay six feet away from each other. It’s for our safety, and to keep others safe, too. This is not the first time in history physical distance has been encouraged.   “Linear Painting #6” by Kapwani Kiwanga, from Hamilton, Ont., but now based in Paris, is part of the National Gallery of Canada’s collection. It is an example of colour field painting.  Toronto Star, January 24, 2021


At Seattle’s Little Free Art Gallery on Queen Anne, you can take a tiny piece of art or leave one Anyone can leave a work of art in the Little Free Art Gallery and anyone can take a piece home — the only rule is that you can’t take the furniture or the patrons — and “it’s not an even exchange,” says Milrany, meaning you don’t have to leave something behind if you feel moved to take a piece home with you. You can just take it.   But if you do feel inspired to drop off your art, Milrany would welcome it. One hundred such pieces have come and gone over the life of the piece. “It’s kind of taking over my life,” she says, opening the glass door to see the latest contributions — a postcard-sized block print of a bird and a tiny line drawing, of a fur-faced creature, about half the size of a business card.   Seattle Times, January 25, 2021

New York

‘His work is a testament’: the ever-relevant photography of Gordon Parks.  The groundbreaking work of the acclaimed photographer is being celebrated at a new two-part exhibition showcasing black American life.  Gordon Parks’s photographs are timeless,” said Peter W Kunhardt Jr, executive director of the Gordon Parks Foundation. “As we reflect on what has happened in recent months, his photographs remind us to stand up, speak out and demand justice. This exhibition does just that, highlighting images that inspire resilience and empathy that the photographer made over many years.”  The two-part exhibition, on view at both Jack Shainman Gallery locations in New York, is called Gordon Parks: Half and the Whole and until 20 February, photos from Parks taken between 1942 and 1970 will be showcased.  The Guardian, January 21, 2021


Audrey Walker obituary.  The textile artist Audrey Walker, who has died aged 92, was renowned for embroideries built up from pointillist layers of thread – machine and hand-stitched. Her finest works, seen at a retrospective exhibition in 2000 at Ruthin Craft Centre in north Wales, were created after her retirement from teaching in the late 1980s.   Psychologically unsettling figurative wall pieces, monumental in mood, they were inspired by historical textiles, by archaic Greek sculpture, and by the art of the early Renaissance. Capturing subtle gazes and glances, Walker’s haunting embroideries led Philip Hughes, the centre’s director, to observe: “If Virginia Woolf had stitched, this is what it would be like.”  The Guardian, January 25, 2021


Art Basel Has Again Postponed Its Flagship Swiss Fair, Rolling Out Three Online Viewing Rooms Instead to Keep Business Afloat. In another blow to Art Basel and its owner, MCH Group, the art fair’s organizers have postponed its flagship edition in Switzerland for the second year straight due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Basel fair, which usually takes place in June, is now scheduled for September 23 through 26, with VIP days from September 21.  Ongoing travel restrictions and uncertainty regarding the rollout of coronavirus vaccines are the primary culprits.   Artnet News, January 21, 2021


As Lockdowns Remain in Force Across Europe, Museums Are Grappling With the Reality of Several More Weeks of Closed Doors.  Seventy-seven days after it closed, the Uffizi Gallery in Florence was reopened by director Eike Schmidt on January 21, welcoming nearly 800 visitors in its first week. For a museum of its scale and stature, it is a low number.   But as many museums in the UK and Europe remain closed indefinitely, it’s a figure worth bragging about.   The situation in the UK, where a new variant of the coronavirus was identified in September, is especially critical, say experts.  “The latest lockdown is a body blow and is leaving our museums and galleries fighting for survival,” Jenny Waldman, director of the Art Fund, said in a statement. The UK charity released another £750,000 in grants in emergency funds to help 23 museums this month, but it says more help is needed.  Artnet News, January 25, 2021

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