Canadian Art

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Jerry Pethick: Visionary Giant

Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver Sep 12 to Oct 11 2008
Jerry Pethick  <I>Le Semeur/Sunlight and Flies</I> 1984/2002  Courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery Vancouver  /  photo Scott Massey Jerry Pethick Le Semeur/Sunlight and Flies 1984/2002 Courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery Vancouver / photo Scott Massey

Jerry Pethick <I>Le Semeur/Sunlight and Flies</I> 1984/2002 Courtesy Catriona Jeffries Gallery Vancouver / photo Scott Massey

In an art world with a seemingly insatiable appetite for art-star culture and a perennial occupation with “the next big thing” it’s easy to lose sight of lesser-known artists whose work provides key precedents that inform and often instruct contemporary art making. This is a systemic paradox familiar to artists, curators, critics, dealers and other art professionals but still, the opportunities to re-engage with these under-recognised though highly influential artists and their work is all-too-rare.

The current exhibition at Catriona Jeffries Gallery, featuring works by the late BC-artist Jerry Pethick, is just such an anomaly. Pethick was a consummate polymath with a formidable knowledge of art and cultural history, as well as perceptual science, complemented by an inventor’s unique sensibility for the visionary potential of basic materials. From his pioneering holographic constructions in the late-1960s to the multi-dimensional, lens-based sculptural works that followed, Pethick maintained a primary concern with disrupting expected ideas of perception and the experiential nature of art. To that end, the exhibition offers a concise survey of early works on paper as well as sculpture and wall works from the 1980s through to the 2000s—including the Canadian debut of the monumental glass-bottle-and-surveillance-mirror figure Le Semeur/Sunlight and Flies—all highlighting Pethick’s long-standing fascination with perspective and material space. Considering recent trends toward primary materials and post-consumer forms in contemporary art, Pethick’s innovations are proving to be increasingly prescient. For that fact alone, the exhibition provides a welcome contextual overview that reprises the ongoing legacy of a key contributor to the contemporary Canadian art canon. (274 E 1st Ave, Vancouver BC)

This article was first published online on September 25, 2008.

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