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Sitely Premises: The Backyard as Studio

Surrey Art Gallery April 9 to June 12 2011
Kara Uzelman <em>Backyard Dig</em> 2006 / photo Jacob Gleeson Kara Uzelman Backyard Dig 2006 / photo Jacob Gleeson

Kara Uzelman <em>Backyard Dig</em> 2006 / photo Jacob Gleeson

Often in movies, television and magazines, artists and their work are imagined as having an exotic, glamorous or authoritative backdrop: cue the opening parties of Venice, the romantic streets of Paris and the imposing museums of New York. But the Surrey Art Gallery’s exhibition “Sitely Premises” promises to expose a locus of creative production and exhibition that’s heck of a lot closer to home—as close as one’s own backyard, in fact. In it, SAG curator Jordan Strom highlights several West Coast artists who have turned their own outdoor spaces into surprising studios and galleries. Kara Uzelman, for instance, is represented by a project where she had a team of volunteers tear up her backyard for a four-month archaeological dig. Reece Terris shows a scale model and print of a 37-foot-long, four-storey-high footbridge that he built between a neighbour’s house and his own in fall 2006. (Up for six weeks, the bridge was open to visitors 24 hours a day.)

Bridge (2006) from Reece Terris on Vimeo / video documentation Vince Arvidson

Andrew Dadson’s ongoing series of monochrome property paintings, for which he paints entire lawns white or black, started at home but have grown into public art commissions, most recently taking over the Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle. And while some of Strom’s choices seem particularly au courant—Terris has just won a VIVA Award, and Dadson a Brink Award—the curator also makes pains to acknowledge local precendents, like architect Deborah Koenker and artist Roberto Pacheco’s 1987 project bridging three Vancouver gardens surrounding a large cherry tree. Rounded out with historic works by Al Neil and Carole Itter, Julia Feyrer’s recent backyard-turned-Gastown-saloon-turned-film-set, Heidi Nagtegaal’s Hammock Residency (which has hosted dozens of artists in her home over the past three years) and more, “Sitely Premises” bodes well for the unexpected benefits of being a bad neighbour. (13750 88 Ave, Surrey BC)

This article was first published online on April 28, 2011.

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