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The Meaning is the Use: Art Fare Fever

This weekend, thousands of viewers will descend on hundreds of gallery booths at six New York art fairs—not the least of which, of course, is the Armory Show. While the buzz of seeing so much art from so many places will no doubt be exciting, it can also be overwhelming. So Vancouverites staying put for the next few days can count themselves fortunate to simply visit Blanket, where eight internationally active artists provide a small one-stop art shop in a show called “The Meaning is the Use.”

London-based French artist Olivier Garbay—who’s just released a book, The Mug, with frequent collaborator Sarah Lucas— is featured with a wall of nearly identical ink-on-paper portraits. Though the meaning of this ongoing, 9-year-old work is far from clear, and can vary in dimension depending on the venue, it would seem to reflect a simultaneous sense of serenity and obsessiveness.

Dutch artist Jeppe Hein, currently featured in a solo exhibition down the road at the Contemporary Art Gallery, offers a more humour-tinged work: a pair of Ray-Ban aviator sunglasses turned in on itself, titled Double Exposure. Riffing on issues of the gaze—as well as evoking Top Gun–flavoured, 80s-style machismo, perhaps—Hein’s witty statement resounds like a toothy grin that’s just been subverted by glinting metal braces.

Vancouver artist Neil Campbell has had worldwide successes of late, showing at Marianne Boesky in New York and Klosterfelde in Berlin, with representation by Gallery Franko Nuero in Turin. Here, he offers a surprising take on painting: namely, mounting a doubled toilet seat on the wall and painting it with acrylics. The outward side is quotidian white, the wall-facing side a bright yellow. This treatment takes the material far from its Home Depot roots into play on abstraction and form.

Also representing the west coast is the increasingly well-known Vancouver artist Corin Sworn, currently completing a master’s at the Glasgow School of Art. Sworn here keeps up the conceptual twists by remaking book covers for titles like Government of Housing, Battle for The Mind, Man And Environment and Only One Earth in ways that both mimic and diverge from their rebellious, utopian flavour.

Finally, with works by Althea Thauberger, Pauline Stella Sanchez, Erika Vogt and Ulrich Wulff rounding out the show, “The Meaning is the Use” provides a micro-art-fair snippet that balances the intrigues of the Downtown Eastside with those of Chelsea Piers.

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