Canadian Art

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Faces: The Eyes Have It

Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver Jan 14 to Apr 10 2011
Jerry Allen
 <i>To Sir with Love (1967)</i> 2007
 Courtesy the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery / photo Michael Barrick  Jerry Allen
 To Sir with Love (1967) 2007
 Courtesy the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery / photo Michael Barrick

Jerry Allen
 <i>To Sir with Love (1967)</i> 2007
 Courtesy the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery / photo Michael Barrick

Leave it to Scott Watson to put a rich curatorial spin on a permanent-collection show. In the Belkin’s current exhibition, more than 90 paintings, photographs, sculptures and videos from the collections and archives of the Belkin have been recontextualized with loans by the Museum of Anthropology at UBC, the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Gatineau and the American Museum of Natural History Library in New York to explore how the human face relates to ideas of gender, race, class and history. (In keeping with this diverse sourcing, small portions of the exhibition are also being presented at UBC’s Walter C. Koerner Library and downtown’s Belkin Satellite.)

Works by BC stalwarts like bill bissett, Claude Breeze, Kate Craig, Dana Claxton, Ken Lum, Myfanwy MacLeod, Liz Magor and Al Neil take their place alongside a wide range of Canadian and international works to raise questions about the nature of the portrait. “We used the lens or filter of Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s notion of faciality to unsettle ideas about pictures of faces,” says Watson, “Deleuze and Guattari propose that the face is inhuman, political… As a foil to this view we allowed other texts to enter our dialogue, notably Emmanuel Levinas for whom the face is epiphanic and utterly human.” It is a fluctuating, sometimes self-cancelling dialectic between signs and subjects where the face is both a wall and a window, a cipher or a key, to understanding. (1825 Main Mall, Vancouver BC)

This article was first published online on January 27, 2011.

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