Visual Art News Digest, Compiled by Vancouver Art Gallery Library, February 23, 2021


Black Canadians brought to the centre at Vancouver Art Gallery.  “Attention on the Black art experience in Canada is somewhere it has never been before at the Vancouver Art Gallery — the architectural centre of the neo-classical building in the rotunda on the third floor.  A text work written on panels and directly on building surfaces by artist Nya Lewis focuses attention on the institutional promises and disappointments of Black Canadians which have largely been ignored by the VAG since it was founded in 1931.” — Kevin Griffin; Nya Lewis is guest curator for the exhibition Where Do We Go From Here? Vancouver Sun, February 23, 2021

New Vancouver Art Gallery exhibit explores consumerism through camera lens. A new exhibition featuring a wide array of lens-based works by local and international artists is opening this weekend at Vancouver Art Gallery. Pictures and Promises, the feature exhibition for the Capture Photography Festival, is drawn from the Vancouver Art Gallery’s rich photographic holdings. Opening on February 20, Pictures and Promises focuses on lens-based works that employ the structures, conventions and formal qualities used in commercial culture, mass media, fashion and advertising.   Daily Hive, February 2021.  See also: Vancouver Art Gallery opens three exhibitions February 20Georgia Straight, February 16, 2021

Howie Tsui speaks with Joni Low in ECU’s Visual Art Forum, February 25.  The Visual Art Forum lecture by artist Howie Tsui in conversation with Joni Low takes place via Zoom February 25 from 1 to 2:30 pm PST.   The Audain Faculty of Art at Emily Carr University of Art & Design is hosting the next edition of its Visual Art Forum on February 25 with Howie Tsui in conversation with Joni Low.   Born in Hong Kong and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and Thunder Bay, Tsui works in multiple forms of media, creating, as his website describes, “fictive environments that subvert venerated art forms and narrative genres, often related to the Chinese literati class.   Create a Stir, February 19, 2021


Online conversation highlights Surrey Art Gallery show.  Surrey Art Gallery is taking away the masks – figuratively speaking – to present an up-close look at the human face.  Contemporary approaches to portraiture and other types of facial representation in art and popular culture will be the subject of an online discussion Feb. 27, from 2 to 3 p.m available live (and subsequently as a recording) on the gallery’s Facebook and YouTube channels. Close Up: In Conversation will feature exhibiting artists Jaswant Guzder and María Angélica Madero from the gallery’s current Facing Time exhibit (which runs until March 27 at 13750 88 Ave.) joined by show curator Missla Libsekal and gallery curator Jordan Strom in a conversation on wide-ranging topics including artist self-portraiture, psychological ideas connected with faces, and the effects of social media and biometric surveillance of faces.   Surrey Now Leader, February 11, 2021


Lethbridge artist nominated for national photography award.  Angeline Simon of Lethbridge, Alta., is one of 24 Canadian artists nominated for the New Generation Photography Award through the National Gallery of Canada… Simon graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 2018 with a bachelor of fine arts in art studio, which helped her solidify her passion for photography.   “I’ve always been interested in taking photos ever since I (was) a kid,” Simon said.  With roots in Germany, China and Malaysia, Simon finds inspiration in discovering her own backstory.   Global News, February 21, 2021


Regina’s MacKenzie Art Gallery had a stolen statue of a Hindu god in its collection. Meet the artist who got it repatriated to India. Do you remember the opening scene from Raiders of the Lost Ark? It’s when Indiana Jones tries to swipe the golden idol from atop its temple altar by trading it for a bag of sand. This story is its moral sequel.  In September, 2019, Winnipeg-based artist Divya Mehra was in Regina. She had been invited there for a site visit at the MacKenzie Art Gallery in preparation for an exhibition featuring some of her work that was to open in the springtime.  “I was interested in learning more about the space, its history and its collection,” the artists says. So she had dedicated some time for research. Her attention was caught by a printed item discussing the gallery’s namesake, Norman MacKenzie – a prominent lawyer, prolific traveller and buff of art and antiquities – and his collection, whose 1936 bequest served as the inception of the museum. It mentioned travel to India, where MacKenzie had acquired a statue of the Hindu god Vishnu. The gallery had set Mehra up on one of its collections database computers, so she performed a search for the sculpture.  Globe & Mail, February 17, 2021


Thelma Pepper’s Last Interview.  Last year, when Thelma Pepper turned 100, she learned Saskatoon’s Remai Modern would feature her work in a major retrospective, [Thelma Pepper: Ordinary Women]. The Remai announcement about the show promised to highlight Pepper’s depictions of elderly women, women in small town and rural life, and a selection of audio interviews she recorded. The announcement also promised additional images by Rosalie Favell, Mattie Gunterman, Dorothea Lange, Frances Robson and Sandra Semchuck—works that offer what the museum called “intimate and critical insights” into Pepper’s work.  This big museum show has been a long time coming—but so had Pepper’s practice overall.   Pepper, like some other women artists of her generation, only began her own photographic practice after her four children were grown—for her, when she was 60 years of age.  Canadian Art, February 18, 2021


WAG open again, gearing up for Inuit Art Centre grand opening.  The Winnipeg Art Gallery reopened to the public last week, with some new exhibits on display and new safety protocols in place. The new additions start before you even get inside — two massive sculptures have been unveiled on the outdoor plaza. The first, titled Time to Play by Abraham Anghik Ruben, is a large limestone carving of a family of bears playing. The second, Goota Ashoona’s Tuniigusiia/The Gift, is a marble statue that is meant to reflect knowledge transfer through education and storytelling, as well as the important role played by teachers. Both sculptures mark the entrance to Qaumajug, the WAG’s new Inuit art centre.  Global News, February 21, 2021


Unrequited Love.  For [Toronto-based artist] June Clark, the completeness of the work itself then becomes the reward—the source of validation. “Nothing satisfies me more than being in the studio and having one little element placed and it clicks, it’s there, and you don’t have to do any more.” By going at her own pace, Clark finds the freedom to make art on her own terms. This exhibition is striking and powerful due to Clark’s slow, meditative approach. Each piece shows her thinking process, collected in material fragments and developed over time. When Daniel Faria approached her to create an exhibition for the gallery, she knew the works were ready to be shown together for the first time. Asked if the series is done forever, she says she doesn’t know. “You never know. You can never say I’ll never do it again. But at the moment I feel purged.”   Canadian Art, February 19, 2021

When it comes to photography and Black History Month, it’s good to look forward as well as back.  “In honouring Black Canadian achievements every Black History Month, photographs are used to inform about historical moments, convey everyday life and promote countless events across the country.  Given the month’s emphasis on looking back, it’s archival photographs that tend to get the most play. We can’t understand where we’re at unless we know where we’ve been, which necessitates recirculating the largely black-and-white images of noteworthy historical figures on an annual basis.  These pictures deservedly commemorate the stories and legacies of Black Canadians who came before us, and who made history through their work, their activism or just through living their lives. While we continue to gratefully recognize and learn from their contributions, increasingly, February has also become about looking forward. Alongside Black History Month, more and more people and organizations are spending these 28 days celebrating Black Futures Month.”  — Michèle Pearson Clarke, Toronto Star, February 21, 2021

Porn and Privacy in Mia Sandhu’s “Golden Girls”  Entering “Golden Girls,” Mia Sandhu’s latest solo exhibition [at Patel Brown Gallery] felt like stepping back into another era. Surrounded by dried plants and flowers, kitschy wallpaper, glass vases, decorative birdcage and small votive offerings, the artist’s 24 new works on paper (all 2020) navigated the pleasures and pressures of female embodiment. Reworking pin-ups and pornographic images of women from the 1970s and ’80s—the so-called Golden Age of Porn from which the show takes its name—Sandhu carefully layers pencil, watercolour and gouache to create a collage-like effect, the topmost layer of which is a frenetic scratching of black charcoal over the figures’ faces. Canadian Art, February 21, 2021


Bryce Kanbara says collaborators share credit for Governor General’s art award.   Bryce Kanbara says he can’t take sole credit for winning a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts.  The Hamilton artist and curator says he shares the honour with all of the collaborators who have influenced his wide-ranging body of work.  The Canada Council for the Arts named the eight artists Tuesday who will each receive a $25,000 prize in recognition of their creative excellence.  In the citation for the Outstanding Contribution Award, nominator Shelley Niro praised Kanbara for using his visual talents to “make the city a culturally exciting, inviting and vibrant place to live” since 1970.  But Kanbara, whose work spans painting, sculpture and printmaking, says he draws as much inspiration from the community as he gives back through public art projects….The Artist Achievement Award winners are: — Yellowknife-based Inuk artist Germaine Arnaktauyok; Lori Blondeau, a Cree/Saulteaux/Métis artist from Saskatchewan, Dempsey Bob, a Terrace, B.C.-based carver who draws from the traditional style of Tahltan-Tlingit sculptural art; — Bonnie Devine, a Toronto installation artist, whose work is influenced by Anishinaabe traditions;  Cheryl L’Hirondelle, an interdisciplinary artist of “Cree/Halfbreed and German/Polish” ancestry, according to her biography;  Montreal media artist Luc Courchesne. 570 News, February 23, 2021

Sobey Art Award drops age limit and raises purse for long-listed artists.  Canada’s most lucrative art prize is removing any age limit while raising the purse for those on its long list. The Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada announced Wednesday that the Sobey Art Award will now be open to emerging artists of all ages, without requiring candidates to be 40 or younger.  Twenty long-listed candidates will receive $10,000 each, an increase from $2,000. This brings the total purse to $400,000 from $240,000. The first prize will remain $100,000 while the four other finalists on the short list will still receive $25,000.  Globe & Mail, February 17, 2021


 New Indigenous Artist-Run Centre for Tiotia:ke / Mooniyang / Montréal. daphne is Tiohtià:ke/Mooniyang/Montreal’s first Indigenous contemporary artist-run exhibition centre. The name, daphne, recognizes and aligns the centre with the visionary Odawa-Potawatomi-Anishinaabe artist Daphne Odjig (1919-2016). Co-founded by Indigenous artists and arts advocates Hannah Claus, Nadia Myre, Skawennati and Caroline Monnet, daphne’s mission is to serve the needs of emerging, mid-career and established Indigenous artists. Through exhibitions and associated programming, they strive to encourage critical and respectful exchange with and between our Indigenous and non-Indigenous peers and audiences.  Canadian Art, February 11, 2021

Eyewitness. Sam Tata (September 30, 1911 – July 3, 2005) was described as a Montreal photographer (though he often was away from Canada more often than here), and his impressive resume of photo journalism includes Time Magazine and National Geographic. He was born in Shanghai, which would also be the place where he took some of his most relevant and evocative images.  Tata was greatly influenced by the famous photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, whom he met in Bombay in 1948. Cartier-Bresson’s genius is evident in Tata’s work, as the former “advised the young photographer to always integrate the environment with people in his photos.” The two remained life-long friends.   Curated, (Covert Collective), February 19, 2021


From 14-Storey Berry Freezer to Public Video-Art Venue.  In August 2020, Sackville’s Owens Art Gallery, Struts Gallery and Faucet Centre, and Sappyfest held a queer-centred screening on a vast industrial “cube”… The program centred queer artists, largely because the town had recently lost its lone queer-friendly bar and music venue, Thunder & Lightning, which closed in May due to the pandemic. Its closure is part of a distressing pattern, as several spaces once vital to the artistic life of Sackville have disappeared in the last five years, including George’s Fabulous Roadhouse, the former United Church and the Sackville Music Hall.   Canadian Art, February 18, 2021


Multidisciplinary artist, writer, curator Charles Campbell joins Confederation Centre Art Gallery staff,  Confederation Centre of the Arts has announced the addition of Charles Campbell as adjunct curator with the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. Campbell is a Jamaican-born multidisciplinary artist, writer and curator, who grew up in Prince Edward Island. Using performance, sculpture and installation, his work investigates the future prospects that have become possible in the wake of  colonization.   Campbell will work remotely with the CCAG on special projects from his home in Victoria, B.C., including an upcoming contribution to the national initiative, Filedtrip: Art Across Canada. Chronicle Herald, February 19, 2021


Meet Your Neighbour: Artist Alli Johnston explores relationship to nature Through her art, Alli Johnston is interested in exploring her place in, and connection with, the natural world.  The Corner Brook-based artist has taken up that exploration, which she believes helps to educate herself, and form a framework to study the world in which she is a part.  She has embraced the initiative in an entirely new, challenging but exciting way. Johnston, who primarily works in watercolour painting, has created a new series featuring 32 pieces of eco-dyed silk. Each piece incorporates dye used from wildflowers.  Johnston had been experimenting with these materials before, but it was the first time she completed an actual body of work with them.  Chronicle Herald, February 11, 2021

Los Angeles

Calida Rawles’s Ethereal Paintings of Water Push the Boundaries of Portraiture. In Calida Rawles’ world, Black bodies rise through sunlight and waves. The Los Angeles–based artist has earned widespread recognition for her exacting, ethereal depictions of water. Fittingly, Rawles’s work appeared on the cover of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s debut novel The Water Dancer in 2019. In her painting, a Black man is submerged in water. His arms are outstretched and curved like wings. The quiet of the image belies a formative point of the conflict: the protagonist, an enslaved man named Hiram Walker, is indelibly changed by the memory of his near-drowning in a carriage accident… Her first solo exhibition with the gallery will take place in New York in September 2021, to coincide with the debut of a permanent installation at the new Hollywood Park/SoFi Stadium campus in Inglewood, California.  Artnews, February 19, 2021

New York

Black Grief, White Grievance: Artists Search for Racial Justice.  In the matter of racial justice, the United States has built up terrible karma over the centuries. And in the past four divisive years, the festering badness, in the form of white nationalism, has been there for all the world to see. The Nigerian-born curator Okwui Enwezor saw it, and the impassioned exhibition “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America” at the New Museum was his direct and personal response, one that he conceived as a moral broadside and intended to deliver just ahead of the 2020 presidential election.   New  York Times, February 18 , 2021 


Happy Birthday To The Phillips Collection, America’s First Museum Of Modern Art.  One hundred years ago, America’s first museum of modern art opened in a private mansion in Washington, D.C. Founder Duncan Phillips was an early collector of Picasso, Matisse, Van Gogh. The Phillips was the first to buy a Georgia O’Keeffe. Decades ago, in this city of museums, it became my favorite one… Duncan Phillips had money, taste and the generous heart to help others see beauty. He believed in the healing power of art. One hundred years later, that belief still holds.  NPR, February 22, 2021


Young people must be at the heart of museums’ post-pandemic plans.   The pandemic has been challenging on so many fronts for the UK’s culture sector, but what has been at the front of my mind is the impact museum and gallery closures are having on young people. They’ve lost afternoons spent wandering the halls of vast galleries, whispering with mates, peering into glass display cases, encountering stories they would otherwise never come across and understanding their place in history and the world around them. These young people have to be at the heart of our efforts to rebuild our cultural institutions. The Guardian, February 22, 2021

Philip Guston’s daughter on his Klan paintings: ‘They’re about white culpability – including his own’  Musa Mayer has been “holed up” in Woodstock, upstate New York, which she describes as “a liberal community in the midst of Trump land”, since the beginning of lockdown in March of last year. She is staying in a house she inherited from her parents and nearby is a building that was once the art studio of her father, Philip Guston. It is now the Guston Foundation, which she established in 2013 to promote his work and further his legacy. Of late, she has had her hands full.  Last September Mayer answered a call from Matthew Teitelbaum, the director of the Museum of Fine Art in Boston, one of four galleries (including Tate Modern in London) that had agreed to host Philip Guston Now, a much anticipated touring retrospective of her father’s work. It had been scheduled to open in Washington DC in July, but had been pushed back to 2021 by the pandemic. Now, to Mayer’s astonishment, Teitelbaum informed her that he and the other three museum directors had decided to postpone the exhibition until 2024. (They have since announced it will go ahead from May 2022.)  The Guardian, February 21, 2021


‘Painted by a madman’: The Scream graffiti may reveal Munch’s state of mind. It is an image that has intrigued the art world for more than a century and become synonymous with existential angst, and recently inspired its own emoji, but now some graffiti has added a new layer to the story of Edvard Munch’s most iconic painting, The Scream.  A tiny pencil inscription in the top left corner of one of the four versions of the painting, which reads, “Can only have been painted by a madman”, has been the subject of debate over who wrote it – it was originally thought to be by Munch, but was later attributed to a vandal – but new analysis by experts at the National Museum of Norway suggests it is indeed in the hand of the artist.  Mai Britt Guleng, a Munch specialist and curator at the museum, began investigating the inscription, first discovered in 1904, and after consulting with colleagues deduced it was the work of the master.   The Guardian, February 22, 2021.  See alsoEdvard Munch Authored Mysterious Writing on ‘The Scream,’ New Analysis RevealsArtnews, February 22, 2021


Facebook “Unfriends” Australian Arts Organizations.  Australian arts organizations awoke Thursday morning,  February 18, to find their Facebook pages suddenly empty, and that their capacity to share news articles on the site had been stripped overnight.   The social media giant introduced the snap ban in response to the proposed News Media and Digital Platforms Mandatory Bargaining Code, which had been passed by the lower house of the Australian government the night before. The proposed code has been designed to “ensure that news media businesses are fairly remunerated for the content they generate, helping to sustain public interest journalism in Australia.”  In Facebook’s rush to react, many non-news pages — charities, emergency services, health information sites, Aboriginal services, government organizations, and cultural organizations — were caught up in the ban when the site indiscriminately applied a loose definition of “news publishers.”  Hyperallergic, February 19, 2021


3 Fateful Friendships That Empowered Revolutionary Artists to Change the Course of Art History.  In the often-solitary life of an artist, it is rare to find a trustworthy peer to take on the role of confidante. And there’s a good reason why: critique, both internal and from others, is a never-ending obsession for an artist, whose livelihood is dependent on the personal outpouring of their craft. Indeed, it takes a very special sort of friendship between artists to persist through the highs and lows of their unique lifestyles and to overcome professional jealousy, easily bruised feelings, and, at times, differing opinions on what makes good art.  But the relationships between Yayoi Kusama and Donald Judd, Andy Warhol and Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Helen Frankenthaler and Grace Hartigan succeeded in doing exactly that, crossing divisions of gender, age, background, nationality, and circumstance to cement long-lasting bonds. In the name of lifting one another up as artists and as friends alike, these pairs provided each other with constant support that helped to realize artwork that ultimately shaped the course of art history. Here, we examine these three friendships more closely.   Artnet News, February

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