Canadian Art

Review

to show, to give, to make it be there: In the Beginning, the Word

SFU Gallery, Burnaby Jan 9 to Mar 13 2010
Michael Morris  <I>The Problem of Nothing</I>  1966  Courtesy the Vancouver Art Gallery  /  photo Robert Keziere Michael Morris The Problem of Nothing 1966 Courtesy the Vancouver Art Gallery / photo Robert Keziere

Michael Morris <I>The Problem of Nothing</I> 1966 Courtesy the Vancouver Art Gallery / photo Robert Keziere

From the mid-1950s to the end of the 1960s, Vancouver was the site of particularly fruitful cross-disciplinary meanderings. Artists wrote, poets made art—not as explanations or illustrations of their mainstay jobs, but rather as lateral extensions of them. The title of this compact exhibition, drawn from a bill bissett editorial poem in the journal blewointment, underlines the motivations of this cross-media transcendence: to bissett, the “visual poem” was the artistic solution that allowed artists “to show, to give, to make it be there.”

In the centre of the compact gallery space stands a kind of semiotic homage to the age: a vintage fake-wood arborite table, on which stands a Gestetner carbon-copier—that clunky machine whose brazenly purple type so deftly bespeaks the age. The Gestetner is surrounded by facsimiles of the epoch’s humbly produced but vibrantly irreverent journals—TISH, blewointment et al. Around this epicentre are a selection of texts, correspondences, sketches, prints, dioramas and photo-based art. Together they project a richly variegated conversation, all the way from Malcolm Lowry to a contemporary exemplar, Stan Douglas.

Curator Michael Turner is himself an interdisciplinary traveller. As well as being an acclaimed novelist (Hard Core Logo, The Pornographer’s Poem), he is a regular commentator on visual art and also an occasional co-producer of it. (To cite one example, he has written screenplays with Stan Douglas.) He’s comfortable with placing overtly dissimilar media together and mapping out their correlations. The installations and displays have a visual appeal, although the exhibition as a whole feels more like archaeology than art. (Visitors can pull out any of the glass-topped drawers of a cabinet to view sketchbooks and scrapbooks from Judith Copithorne, Ian Wallace and others, the way a museum might display the tools and residue of a bygone age.) Yet other than a general synopsis on the wall, there are no explanatory texts. For those without a preliminary knowledge of this time and place, or without the illuminating benefit of the curator’s talks, each installation has to be accepted as a portal to a larger world.

So much is revealed in certain details, though, such as Western Front co-founder Glenn Lewis’ correspondence affixed to one wall. It includes a hand-scrawled postcard, mailed from the United States to Canada, with a small firecracker taped to one side. Clearly, this was an age when borders of all kinds were astoundingly free. (8888 University Dr, Burnaby BC)

This article was first published online on January 28, 2010.

RELATED STORIES

  • The Malcolmson Collection: A Passion for Photography, and its Evolution

    Over the years, Toronto couple Harry and Ann Malcolmson have assembled one of the most important private photography collections in North America. Now, with a show of their collection on in Vancouver, the Malcolmsons sit down for an in-depth chat with critic Nancy Tousley.

  • Newsfront

    Ydessa Hendeles joins U of T as professor; Ian Wallace's big honour; MacKenzie Art Gallery names Stuart Reid as head; New mandate for DHC/ART; The New Art Gallery of Alberta; Bob Rennie collection moves to Chinatown; Vancouver's "Offsite" showcase

  • Ian Wallace: That ’70s Show

    This spring, pioneering Vancouver artist Ian Wallace added the $50,000 Molson Prize to his long list of achievements. Now, with museum shows on the horizon, Catriona Jeffries provides a timely display of Wallace’s 1970s touchstones.

 

FOUNDATION NEWS

[an error occurred while processing this directive]

ONLINE

  • Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller: Black Birds

    New York critic Joseph R. Wolin heads to the Park Avenue Armory where Janet Cardiff and George Bures Miller are creating a buzz (and other sounds) at the US premiere of a dark, nightmarish installation originally created for the 2008 Biennale of Sydney.

  • Grange Prize 2012: Hot Shots

    One of Canada’s largest cash-value art prizes—$65,000 in total with $50,000 going to the winner, $5,000 to three runners-up—announced its finalists this week. Take in their wide-ranging works in this slideshow.

  • Wanda Koop: Into the Woods

    A visit to Wanda Koop’s cabin near Riding Mountain National Park in southern Manitoba proves intriguing for Vancouver critic Robin Laurence. There, Laurence writes, Koop bridges old Grey Owl myths with a new series of paintings on our increasingly digital culture.

  • Brad Tinmouth: Survival Strategies

    The basement of an art gallery may seem an unlikely place to create an emergency shelter. However, Xpace's lower gallery is an ideal setting for Brad Tinmouth's “If Times Get Tough or Even If They Don't,” which evokes a cold-war bunker.

  • Wim Delvoye: Blame it on Paris

    Silk-covered pigs, lattice-cut car tires and a tattooed man are just a few of the works that Belgian artist Wim Delvoye has shuttled into the old, Gothic wing of the Louvre this summer. Jill Glessing reviews, finding a terrific amalgam of high and low.

More Online

Report a problem