This exhibition presents a selection of recent works from local private collections featuring some of Vancouver’s most prominent artists as well as significant international figures. The artworks are characterized by various kinds of surrogates, both literal and metaphoric.
Several of the artists question the act of making objects through their ambiguous relationship to authorship and notions of originality, in some cases inhabiting or invoking other personas in the production of their works. Lyman A. William, a pseudonym, displays a collection of discarded objects picked up along a walking journey in northern California; the relics are then modified and assembled into a surrealist micro-archive of his performative walk. Sarah Cain’s self-portrait, a mask of brightly coloured patterns set against a sheet of musical notation, offers yet another ironic take on artistic identity. In his lightbox tableau, Rodney Graham reenacts the artist Asger Jorn in his Amalfi studio, working on a pipe cleaner sculpture, that itself refers to a photograph by the avant-garde artist Man Ray of Jean Cocteau’s pipe cleaner film prop. Graham’s reimagined chain of references to legendary artistic expression, looping back in time, flips the idea of self-realization on its head. The source for Simon Starling’s slide projection work is also a Man Ray photograph from the 1930s. In a conflation of micro and macro worlds, the image of an ancient rock formation is transformed through a slide sequence that slowly zooms into the surface of the print to reveal its silver particles. The microscopic scrutiny of the object leads to mysterious abstractions that defy the rewards of objective information. Tim Lee’s remake of a 1918 spatial construction of squares within squares by Alexander Rodchenko recycles the wood parts of a self-assembly modernist chair. Through such performative engagements with surrogate art objects, different realities collapse into one another, with the artists as interlopers.
The vivid colour photographs of Walead Beshty and Mariah Robertson bear witness to their darkroom performances with chemicals, paper and light. Working blindly and without a camera, Beshty exposes curling paper to three colours, creating photograms that are concrete documents of the interplay of light and shadow. Robertson’s photogram, displayed as if torn from a film strip, emphasizes the materiality of photographic processes as a record of her chemical paintings. Owen Kydd would describe his moving picture as a performance of a photograph, where surface and time interact. Here a liquid object suggestive of a surrealist eyeball disintegrates through intense optical effects.
Annette Kelm’s deadpan photographs of purse clocks initially register as identical objects. Displayed as commercial products stripped of context and a sense of scale, they appear frozen in time and space, and yet the motion of the clock’s hand reveals the passing of time. Through Kelm’s use of repetition and the cumulative meanings of seriality, the objects become uncanny stand-ins that complicate the reading of photographs. Ricarda Roggan’s documents similarly present a uniform, quasi-scientific arrangement of things that trouble how we construct meaning from objects. Roggan has extracted artifacts housed in the Marbach Archive from the collections of notable individuals and presents these as charged relics. Insignificant objects in themselves, they are freighted with the owners’ histories and at the same time, freed of those origins. Laid out in an interregnum state as if waiting to be taken away, they are as the title of the series implies, apocryphal. In this work and others, surrogates take the form of auratic objects, as well as the cast off, the residual, and the remnant.
Stephen Waddell considers paradoxes of observation and the evocative power of abandoned things. The sense of exhaustion in his photograph of a decaying pile of garbage, shot at end of day at the periphery of a decommissioned airport in Berlin, is amplified by the disintegrating details of the photograph’s impressionistic surface. Kevin Beasley’s accretions of grey t-shirts covered in resin, evocative of visceral body parts, enigmatically hover on a wall. Kris Martin both dignifies and makes grotesque a styrofoam display head by casting it in bronze, as if a classical bust.
In Kim Kennedy Austin’s embroidered instructional text and watercolour of a cheerleader chant, everyday language becomes ironic. Also working at an intimate scale that intensifies the visual impact of laborious processes, Geoffrey Farmer’s intricate collage of paper fragments suggests a compressed globe of world history. Myfanwy Macleod’s reworking of vernacular materials from popular culture involves cutting up film posters for the ‘90s cult film The Exorcist. Her intervention of snowflake patterns is a witty and absurdist gesture that revives collective memories of the film. Marlo Pascual applies this impulse to reinvigorate vernacular artifacts in her refashioning of a found vintage studio photograph that has been transformed into a surreal and disturbing portrait.
These diverse artworks, infused with a sense of the absurd, suggest that what appear to be stand-ins between one state and another, point to possible ways to negotiate our place in an unstable world.
This exhibition was curated by Helga Pakasaar, with generous loans from the Freybe Collection; GreyChurch, Collection of Jane Irwin and Ross Hill; Prout-Lara Collection; Rainer Muller.
March 5 - June 4, 2016