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Karin Bubaš: Return of the Hills People

Last month, artists lined up around the block in New York City to try out for America’s first art-themed reality TV show. Buzz for the show and tryouts was amplified, no doubt, by actor Sarah Jessica Parker’s involvement as a producer. But the sheer number of curious applicants can also be read as an indication of the grip that reality TV—often dismissed as low-end pop entertainment—holds on even the most supposedly sophisticated echelons of cultural production. Similar tensions come to mind in “With Friends Like These…” an exhibition of recent pastel portraits by artist Karin Bubaš at Vancouver’s Charles H. Scott Gallery. Each portrait in the exhibition focuses on a star from The Hills, a popular reality program that focuses on a group of young people living in Los Angeles. The moments Bubaš selects to portray are often, in keeping with the tenor of the show, rather emotional or dramatic ones—mascara-drenched tears flow, glaring eyes peek out from under locks of carefully coiffed hair and expensively manicured hands are clapped over gloss-laden mouths in shock. To show fans, the portraits may well evoke the moments of interpersonal intimacy that these characters, quite incredibly, shared with an audience of millions. To others, these portraits may simply serve as phenotypes of contemporary fashion. Either way, Bubaš’ portraits here, like the Dynasty-based drawings and noir-styled photographs she’s created previously, speak to the subliminal power of pop—as well as its related constructions of beauty, glamour and emotional experience. (1399 Johnston St, Vancouver BC)

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