Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by Vancouver Art Gallery Library, April 13, 2021


Beloved artist Gordon Smith’s legacy lives on at Vancouver Art Gallery with $1M donation. Gordon Smith was a big supporter of Canadian art. He always went to exhibitions by other artists, often bought their work, and sometimes even provided financial support.  It’s one of the reasons he was hailed as the most beloved artist in B.C. when he died on Jan. 18, 2020, at age 100. Smith was also a very generous supporter of the Vancouver Art Gallery. Tuesday, the gallery announced that Smith had left a $1 million bequest to the VAG. Smith’s donation has been matched by Smith’s friends, Montreal art collectors and philanthropists Stephen and Gail Jarislowsky. The VAG will use the $2 million to create a new curatorial position, Curator of Canadian Art.  “It kind of sums up (Smith’s) spirit and his values,” said the VAG’s CEO and director Anthony Kiendl. “This will be a lasting legacy, with his name attached. That’s really fitting, I think he’d be really happy about that.”   Vancouver Art Gallery, April 6, 2021.  See also: Vancouver Art Gallery receives two million-dollar gifts, creates new curatorial position.  Georgia Straight, April 6, 2021; Major Gordon Smith and Jarislowsky Foundation gifts fund new curator of Canadian art at Vancouver Art Gallery.  Create a Stir, April 6, 2021.

Photograph installed on Vancouver power substation returns Mi’kmaq artwork to its home.  Mi’kmaq artist Jordan Bennett’s al’taqiaq: it spirals (2021) has become a signature image for this year’s Capture Photography Festival in Vancouver…Bennett, who was born in Stephenville Crossing, N.L., and now lives in Terence Bay, N.S., was shortlisted for the prestigious Sobey Award in 2018. He is a multidisciplinary artist who is not really known for his photography – and in fact former Capture director and curator Kate Henderson did not even realize his history with the medium when she approached him about doing something for the festival.  “I was interested in working with artists who work around the periphery of photography, the edges of photography and thinking about how in general we can push the medium,” Henderson said in an interview this week. “I became interested in his work having no idea that he used to study photography, so it felt really serendipitous.”  Globe & Mail, April 8, 2021.  See also: Capture Photography Festival curator makes room for Indigenous voices with Jordan Bennett’s al’taqiaq: it spirals.  Georgia Straight, April 11, 2021; Trio of Edward Burtynsky films streams at VIFF as part of Capture Photography Festival, April 9 to May 6Create a Stir, April 9, 2021

Six emerging Vancouver artists chosen for Burrard Arts Foundation residencies and exhibitions in 2021.  The nonprofit Burrard Arts Foundation has revealed the names of the six Vancouver emerging artists chosen for its 2021 Residency Program.  In this program, artists can work from the BAF Vancouver studios for up to 14 weeks during their residencies, which are tailored to each individual. The BAF provides resources and support, including a materials budget, multimedia production, and a solo exhibition in the adjacent gallery space for the work completed during the residencies.  BAF founder and director Christian Chan explained in a news release that the program, which is supported by the Chan Family Foundation and the City of Vancouver Cultural Grants Program, aims to ensure “art is accessible, relevant, and approachable” for Vancouver audiences.  The artists are:  Rydel Cerezo, Kriss Munsya, Parvin Peivandi, Maria-Margaretta, Sara Khan, and Karin Jones.  Georgia Straight, April 11, 2021

Audain Foundation donates $4 million for public art project at new St. Paul’s Hospital site.  The St. Paul’s Foundation announced on April 7 that the Audain Foundation donated $4 million for public art to be a part of the new St. Paul’s Hospital at the Jim Pattison Medical Centre. The donation represents one of the largest grants the Audain Foundation has given among its over $133 grants given to registered charities with a visual arts focus.  Georgia Straight, April 9, 2021.  See also: New St. Paul’s Hospital receives $4 million donation for public artVancouver Sun, April 8, 2021

An Artist Used Crack for 30 Years. His Last Hit Was Contaminated with Fentanyl.  In Alan Sayers’ Vancouver studio on Terminal Avenue near Main Street, his presence is everywhere. Drawings and photographs cover a drafting table by the window, and more are taped up on the walls: a drawing of John Lennon, a skull, a half-finished sketch of Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un. This is where Sayers’ office mate, Geoff Skinner, found his friend the morning of March 10… For 30 years, Sayers had a habit of having a few drinks and then smoking crack cocaine late in the evening. He’d stay up through the night, working on his art. But on March 9, the crack he smoked was contaminated with fentanyl and carfentanil, two powerful synthetic opioids. He died at age 63. The Tyee, April 10, 2021

This Week in History: 1966: A ‘paint-in’ at the courthouse captivates Vancouver.  In 1966, the provincial government announced it was going to install a fountain on the lawn of the provincial courthouse at 800 West Georgia (now the site of the Vancouver Art Gallery).  But those wacky Socreds didn’t tell anybody what it would look like, which led to all sorts of ridicule from the media over their “super-secret fountain plans…The mystery deepened when the province tore up the courthouse lawn in late March and erected construction hoarding around the site…On April 1, Vancouver Mayor Bill Rathie had a brainwave: to hold a mural competition on the construction hoarding…About 150 paintings were eventually completed. The winners of the competition were first-time painters Sid Tupper and Lindsay Frost for an “untitled geometric painting done primarily in vivid reds and yellows…”The B.C. Centennial Fountain was finally unveiled by Bennett on Dec. 15, 1966… Vancouver Sun, April 9, 2021.   [The BC Centennial Fountain was removed by the City of Vancouver in 2014 from the Vancouver Art Gallery Plaza [renamed šxʷƛ̓ənəq Xwtl’e7énḵ Square in 2018]].

City of Vancouver invites local artists to submit proposals for temporary public artworks, each commission paying $5,000. The City of Vancouver has just announced that it is inviting submissions for a public art program that will commission temporary artworks by up to 20 local artists, including new and emerging artists.  Georgia Straight, April 12, 2021


Soo’s ‘Twilight on the Edge of Town’ video work ‘an immersive choreography’ at Surrey gallery.  Surrey Art Gallery’s spring show draws on the history of science fiction film, 3D animation, documentary photography and literature.  Shown on multiple screens, Mark Soo’s video artwork “Twilight on the Edge of Town” creates “an immersive choreography” of holographic images that depict “objects and events of the seemingly everyday, where surreal log jams and raindrops mingle with flickering streetlights and backyard scenes,” an event advisory says… The Singapore-born Soo will explain his work in an exhibit-launching artist talk Saturday, April 17, from 1 to 2 p.m., online on the gallery’s Facebook and YouTube pages.  Surrey Now Leader, April 9, 2021


Siksika Nation artist Adrian Stimson takes a unique look at Calgary Stampede history with U of C map project. On Adrian Stimson’s First Nations Stampede map, which aims to tell the history of the Calgary Stampede through an Indigenous lens, the Siksika Nation artist depicts these largely forgotten snippets of history using figures on a bison robe in a traditional pictographic style of the Blackfoot. Linda/Linder One Spot is portrayed in a cowboy hat with a rope unfurled behind her head. Anna Beaver is depicted marching up front and followed by rows of girls from her community. Johnny Lefthand and George Big Crow’s adventures Down Under are represented by a little kangaroo beside two men, one with an extraordinarily large left hand. Calgary Herald, April 2, 2021


Doris Slater Titus, a forgotten Canadian artist, gets the exhibition she deserves. In the wartime Canadian comic Pat the Air Cadet, the feisty heroine flies planes and decks Nazis. The illustrator who drew this inspiring figure was also a pioneer: Doris Slater Titus was the first Canadian woman to illustrate a commercial comic book – and also an experimental abstract painter who mixed her own bathwater into her pigments. Her fine art career was cut short in 1964, when she died in a car accident at 47. It is only now, almost 60 years later, that her eclectic and neglected career is getting the retrospective it deserves.  “She was constantly changing her interests. She was uncompromising, a maverick and a rebel,” said Matthew Ryan Smith, the curator at the Glenhyrst Art Gallery in Brantford, Ont. where the retrospective has been recently installed and now waits for a safe reopening. Globe & Mail, April 9, 2021


Toronto company Treasured builds virtual spaces for museums. In late February, 2020, Vito Giovannetti took the stage at the genealogy conference RootsTech to pitch his startup Treasured as a platform for turning family histories into virtual museums. Two weeks later, the world shut down. Over the coming months, Giovannetti and his team realized there was a whole other audience for their product: real museums that were physically shuttered and struggling to get online.  Globe & Mail, April 13, 2021

Toronto artist Georgia Dickie has something to say about our world and how we live in it.  Using cardboard and found objects, and a mix of collage and sculpture, Toronto artist Georgia Dickie says something about our world and how we live in it.  In “Grease she who see you,” above, a model of the ear canal dominates one section of a cardboard shadow box; pieces of medical advertising and errant words — “page” “big” — are isolated; scraps of paper with lines of text merge with blocks of colour.   Toronto Star, April 10, 2021


Canadian Museum of History’s CEO resigns amid probe into allegations of workplace harassment. The CEO of the Canadian Museum of History, who was at the centre of a workplace harassment investigation, has resigned just two months before his official retirement date.  Mark O’Neill was the subject of a complaint last summer that prompted the investigation. Sources have told Radio-Canada that the complaint was related to O’Neill’s management style and his temperament.  The investigation was finished in late January and submitted to Heritage Minister Steven Guilbeault.   CBC, April 8, 2021


Gambletron’s Technical Submission.  Gambletron’s studio is a laboratory: overfull and messy in a way that feels just shy of a breakthrough. They have the exposed circuit boards of toys and small electronics spread out across a few wooden tables and shelves packed with dozens of radios, boom boxes and transistors. Jars and drawers full of small tools and parts are next to rolled-up cords and an array of adhesive tape. Still, these objects and materials only hint at what it’s like to be at a Gambletron performance…Gambletron arrived in Montreal in the early 1990s. At the time, the city was cheap to live in and filled with reckless, creative vitality…“The one defining factor of me using objects or finding unconventional ways to make sound was that I was poor,” Gambletron says. “I am generally not a high-income human, so I would just find all these ways to adapt sound with things that I was finding in the garbage.” Around them, their peers—artists and musicians and producers—were opening spaces to host art shows, performances and concerts. “I was part of a queer scene that was part of an indie-rock scene that was part of an art scene that was part of a dance scene…it was so mashed up. Canadian Art, April 6, 2021

New MMFA curator of contemporary art looks forward to showcasing diverse voices.  Eunice Bélidor’s career has been marked by milestones.  So she was not surprised that, in being named the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky curator of Quebec and Canadian contemporary art (1945 to today) for the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, she becomes the first Black curator in the museum’s history. Montreal Gazette, April 7, 2021.  See also: Eunice Bélidor Joins Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Curator of Contemporary Art is First Black Curator in Institution’s HistoryCulture Type, April 9, 2021

Montreal’s Festival Art Souterrain returns with 13th edition. After the coronavirus pandemic forced it to halt operations last year, April 10 marks a restart for the Festival Art Souterrain. The event is launching an in-person urban component where Montrealers can once again explore the corridors and corners of the city’s underground network and discover the work of local and international artists.Running until April 30, the network of over two dozen in-person artworks is spread out across four kilometres of traversable space between Place d’Armes and Square Victoria-OACI métro stations, from the Centre de commerce mondial and Place Victoria to l’Édifice Jacques-Parizeau and the Palais des congrès.   Montreal Gazette, April 10, 2021

Click!  The Photography of Stanley Rosenthall.  It was obvious that Stan Rosenthal was still a kid from the moment I met him over 20 years ago. I didn’t know him as a photographer then, but his playful spirit and wordplay were irresistible. A bit of a curmudgeon at the best of times, he endeared me with his no-nonsense approach to life, which he always managed to infuse with droll humour.  Stan sought me ought to assist him with a web project at his home. Walking down into his basement studio for the first time, I was confronted with walls full of mounted black and white photos, images of New York City, Europe, industry, steel workers, and a multitude of cars. When it came time to settle on payment for my services I walked out with 15 darkrooms prints. I only asked for one. Raised by his older brother in Montreal, Stan learned photography using an Argoflex E. A Jimmy Olsen-type photojournalist then, he shot hundreds of images for the West Hill High School yearbooks between 1944 and 1948.   Curated, Covert Collective, April 12, 2021


Artist Jon Claytor on the long road to sobriety and discovering ‘what I was meant to do’ Halifax-based artist Jon Claytor had been an oil painter his whole adult life before he traded the paint brush for an iPad stylus and became a digital comic-writer. His shift began with a cross-country drive and his struggle to get sober after years of alcohol addiction. Now he has a graphic novel coming out next year about both journeys, has written comics for the CBC about student life during the pandemic and is working on graphic novels about the Sixties Scoop…. Claytor recently moved to Halifax, where his friend Cheyenne Henry lives. The two are in the early stages of creating graphic novels about Indigenous people affected by the Sixties Scoop and the intergenerational trauma it caused. Interview subjects include relatives of Henry, who is Ojibwe. Her mother, as well as her aunts and uncles, were split up and taken from their family in the 1960s. Globe & Mail, April 6, 2021

Los Angeles

Mentor / Protégée Friends.  Though they started off as teacher and student, Catherine Opie and Sam Richardson have forged a bond that transcends institutional hierarchies.  New York Times, April 12, 2021

Louisville, KY

Breonna Taylor Show Puts Art Museums on a Faster Track.  People talk a lot about getting back to pre-Covid normal. But our traditional art museums can forget about that. After a year of intense racial justice reckoning, a paralyzing pandemic and crippling economic shortfalls, aging hidebound institutions are scrambling just to stay afloat. And the only way for them to do so is to change. Strategies for forward motion are needed. One is in play here at the Speed Art Museum, in the form of a quietly passionate show called “Promise, Witness, Remembrance,” which might, with profit, be studied by other institutions in survivalist mode… Until now, museums have generally ignored the country’s changing population demographics. The history that our big, general-interest art museums promote, through their preservation and display of objects, is primarily white history, with views of all other histories filtered through it. But that slanted perspective is no longer representative of audiences that museums will — speaking purely pragmatically — need to attract to survive.  Museums also tend to underestimate radical shifts in awareness of, and interest in, the past. In a social media century, attention seems increasingly focused on the 24-hour news cycle. How can that new consciousness be reflected in classical museums, which pride themselves on being slow-reacting monoliths. Only by staying limber, being ready and able to adjust, absorb and adapt, can our art institutions thrive.  New York Times, April 11, 2021

New York

Benin Bronzes Aren’t Safer in the West Than They Would Be in Nigeria, Academics Say.  At a virtual conference held by Columbia University’s Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America on Friday, academics pushed against a number of myths surrounding the Benin Bronzes, a controversial group of thousands of art objects looted from the Kingdom of Benin, in what is now Nigeria, in 1897 by British troops as part of a colonial conquest. A repeated concern at the event was the idea that the sculptures, plaques, masks, tusks, and more would be safer at the institutions that currently hold them in the U.S. and Europe than they would be in Nigeria, a country with a relatively small but growing museum ecosystem. The art historians and museum professionals who participated vigorously posed retorts to that notion, claiming that various forms of danger in the West have historically posed just as much as of a threat to the Benin Bronzes as a perceived lack of climatic control found at Nigerian museums. Artnews, April 12, 2021


Rachel Whiteread: ‘I wanted to make the opposite of what I had always been making’  The artist has taken a radical new direction, turning her back on casts and creating sculptures from scavenged material. She explains how a bipolar diagnosis has changed her work… “I was diagnosed as bipolar eight years ago. It is interesting to say that out loud. It’s not something I’ve talked about publicly. To get that diagnosis at 50 – and I’ve been hospitalised a few times – it brought a sort of clarity to things I had never had before.” She has always been an “emotional sponge”, she says. “A thing can happen and you sort of unravel.” In the past, she says, she wouldn’t have felt comfortable talking about the condition. But, she adds, “It’s a good thing for people to know that people like me – successful people – can be very ill.” These new works are part of her reaching an accommodation with the diagnosis, even harnessing it. “I’m now able to take a step back and say, ‘I know what’s going on.’ And not compartmentalise it, but to understand and use it in some way. It’s fed into my creativity in a way which I think is clear.” The Guardian, April 11, 2021


The Fascinating Lives of Vincent van Gogh’s Three Sisters.  We might sometimes forget that major artists exist as people, too, with all the trials and tribulations that might come before they reach fame. Take, for example, family dynamics. And in the van Gogh family, there were many of them.   Vincent van Gogh’s three sisters — Willemien (Wil), Elisabeth (Lies), and Anna van Gogh — are highlighted in the historical biography The Van Gogh Sisters by Willem-Jan Verlinden (Thames & Hudson).   Hyperallergic, April 11, 2021

2 thoughts on “Visual Arts News Digest, Compiled by Vancouver Art Gallery Library, April 13, 2021

    • Thanks for drawing this exhibition to our attention, Les. The reason we didn’t include the posting that you sent is that it’s an announcement, not a review. We don’t carry event listings because there are other publications like Galleries West and the Georgia Straight that are much more comprehensive. Our focus is on reviews, artist profiles, obituaries and other editorial content from art periodicals and newspapers.

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