In celebration of its 30th Anniversary, the Contemporary Art Gallery presented an exhibition and project honoring its early years. On February 23, 1973, the Artists’ Gallery opened its doors at 555 Hamilton Street. Later to be renamed the Contemporary Art Gallery, the Artists’ Gallery was initiated by an arts advisory committee under the umbrella of the City of Vancouver. Central to its early mandate and philosophy was the promotion and creation of local visual arts.
During this time the City of Vancouver began a program, with assistance from the Federal Local Initiatives Program (LIP) to purchase works by local artists. In support of this ambitious project, the Artists’ Gallery was conceived as both a depository and exhibition space. The Contemporary Art Gallery continues to act as custodian for over 3000 collected works, many dating from the early to mid 1970s when the bulk of the collection was assembled.
The history of this important collection of art, of the Artists’ Gallery, and of the early years of the community that shaped what would become the Contemporary Art Gallery will be showcased this summer in an exhibition featuring works from the collection.
Project Organizers: Reid Shier and Shawn PreussMORE
Ed Pien has gained recognition for his large-scale works that extend traditional notions about drawing. He achieves this by developing gallery installations that retain the intimacy of the drawing process. For Beyond Here, Pien presented a large installation approximately seventy-five feet in length and consisted of ink on layers of Chinese paper and Japanese silk tissue. The translucent quality of the paper allows the drawings that lie beneath the surface to read as shadows, which intermingle with the more legible images on the surface. The contrast in scale between the expanse of paper, the large drawings, the small drawings, and the vibrantly coloured tunnels creates a dynamic relationship between the viewer and the work. One can perceive the piece as one entity or as a series of individual drawings.
In his work, Pien explores the concepts of fear and vulnerability through referencing both historical and contemporary events as well as combining Eastern and Western mythologies. In Beyond Here his drawings depict strange, hydridized creatures that are engaged in an imaginary journey that reads from left to right across the gallery walls. While not a formal narrative, the figures suggest a dream-like transformation from a state of conflict to one of liberation and self-empowerment. Pien’s work is both seductive and unsettling. While the paper offers an impression of softness and warmth, it is extremely fragile. The figures project sensuality in the way they are rendered, but are ambiguous in their interpretation.MORE
Visual Stimulants presented three artists whose work had an intense visual impact and was seemingly abstract in appearance. Angela Leach, Ken Singer and Jeremy Stanbridge were part of a young generation of artists whose artwork directly or indirectly alluded to historical forms of abstraction – in this case modernist painting from the 1960s. Although the art from that period stressed the formal properties of colour and support, and avoided references to narrative or representation, the artists in Visual Stimulants in large part questioned the autonomy of abstract painting and return it to the realm of the everyday. Visual Stimulants presented the work of three artists: Angela Leach from Toronto, and Ken Singer and Jeremy Stanbridge from Vancouver and was curated by Keith Wallace.MORE
The work in Pathology was concerned with domestic technologies as well as urban planning, and how the two relate to a desire for health, pleasure and the prolongation of life. The exhibition consisted of various works that were connected by their minimal aesthetic, architectural references, and everyday use-value. The centrepiece consisted of a cluster of more than sixty clean-mist humidifiers and negative-air ionizers. Theoretically, these machines created a “charged” atmosphere that improved the way we feel. Their clean, almost abstract, design was suggestively architectural, and Liu’s arrangement of these machines mimicked an architecture model of urban design. Humidifiers and ionizers are promoted as preventing everything from parched sinuses to furniture damage, and as most users lack an understanding of the technological principles, these “machines for improved living” have a psychological function as much as they have a physical one. Also in the exhibition were loosely-hung samples of wallpaper which Liu had imprinted with Rorschach-like patterns derived from an overhead view of Levittown, an early post-war example of ideal suburban planning. Pathology was An Te Liu’s first solo exhibition.MORE
Documents and Lies was an exhibition organized and circulated by Optica in Montréal. The exhibition presented the work of artists living in the UK. Although not photographic, the works pointed towards a number of photographic notions about truth and reality. Their particular use of traces – reproduced, modified or simply invented – allowed for the transition from a universal history to another, more personal one. By generating doubt, these projects produced a displacement of what is commonly understood by “document.” The exhibition included drawing, painting, sculpture and an installation. Curated by artist André Martin, this exhibition provided an artist’s perspective.MORE
In this exhibition by Kelly Mark the fascination with the mundane was coupled with a desire to document and bring a sense of order to things. The work Broken Meter, for example, consisted of a grid of photographs documenting ideosyncratic notes left at broken parking meters. Placed presented photographs of objects, ranging from styrofoam cups to pieces of crumpled paper, that had been specifically “placed” or tucked into spots rather than simply being tossed away. Sniff was a video loop of the artist’s cat sniffing an array of objects placed in front of him. Origami Transfer was comprised of dozens of bus transfers that had been obsessively folded and shaped into miniature sculptures.MORE
Liz Magor is a Canadian artist who lives in Vancouver. She began exhibiting her work in 1973 and has been included in numerous prestigious international exhibitions such as the Venice Biennial, Sydney Biennial, Documenta VIII in Kassel, and inSITE in San Diego/Tijuana. While she is widely known across Canada and beyond, this was Magor’s first solo exhibition in a public gallery in Vancouver in a decade.
Magor is primarily recognized for her sculptural work – although she has developed significant projects in other mediums such as photography – which is expressed in various forms ranging from full-scale installations to individual pieces. Stores presented her most recent sculptural work and incorporated non-traditional materials such as silicone rubber and pigmented plaster and resin. With these materials, she made casts of objects with startlingly realistic results. However, while the large pile of rocks placed on the floor is convincingly real, the discovery of actual junk food stashed within its hollow cavity renders the mantle of reality questionable, bringing forward a focus on the work’s materiality.
Magor’s sculptures at first resemble literal, easily accessible representations, but the play between what is real and what is an illusion, and the curious combination of food with other unrelated objects, complicate their apparent simplicity. The minimal yet evocative presentation suggests narratives and the activity of unknown personae obsessed with squirreling things away as insurance against anticipated disasters or shortages. It also implies larger social/psychological issues about the relationship between the desire for security in the face of unidentifiable fears, and the fundamental question of what people store away and why.
Eleanor Bond is recognized internationally for her large-scale oil paintings of urban landscapes in which a labyrinth of forms include both the actual and the imaginary. Although Bond’s paintings do not represent a specific built environment, their starting point is a specific urban place, space and landscape. This exhibition presented 2 works produced from research undertaken in Vancouver during February of 1999. Bond spent ten days walking and driving throughout Vancouver and its environs making photographic and video documentation which influenced the painting of Glass City and Tent City. - Curator, Petra Watson.MORE
Button Wall was created for the CAG by Rethink Communications as the first step in the CAG’s first-ever public awareness media campaign. Fifty thousand buttons, each bearing a word that might describe your response to an artwork, were attached to the façade of our building. In less than 48 hours almost all of them have gone walking, attached to gallery visitors and now circulating among a vast potential audience for contemporary art in the city.MORE
“Hello & welcome to the Contemporary Art Gallery!”
Have you been by in the last few months? There are 3 great exhibits showing right now, and you should make time to come visit! When you’re by & chatting with the friendly front desk volunteer, you might spy a few Artist Edition prints behind them. Don’t forget to look behind you as well, because there is another print hanging to the left of the BC Binning Gallery entrance. Let me tell you about these pieces that we have displayed in the entrance foyer. For even more information, visit the publication page at www.contemporaryartgallery.ca
Thomas Bewick, Limited Edition Print, Apr 2009
Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, Edition of 75.
A limited edition printed on a hand press by Iain Bain from the original wood-blocks. Of the 3 subjects, the Bulldog was engraved for the 1790 edition of the Quadrupeds; the Lesser Redpole, and the tail-piece of the man relieving himself beside a fragment of ruined wall were made for the first 1797 volume of the British Birds. What is amazing about Thomas Bewick’s work is both the delicate and intricate marks he was able to make with the tools of the time, and the witty narrative that Bewick injected into his work. To quote the exhibition notes:
Intended as illustrations of ‘some truth or point of some moral’ they provide an invaluable insight into social history while also demonstrating the artist’s imagination and wit. As such these narrative works will provide an interesting counterpoint to the work of many internationally established artists in Vancouver, engaging in image making which critically examines and reflects on the city and conditions which surround them.
Robert Orchardson, Study for Endless Façade ,Limited Edition Giclée print, Nov 17, 2011
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver / Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, Edition of 50.
This limited edition print, 13″ x 18.5″, was produced to coincide with the exhibition Robert Orchardson Endless façade which ran from November 2011 until January 2012. The show transformed half of the gallery into another world as visitors walked through a giant triangular entrance way into a science-fiction-like set featuring Robert’s work. I quite liked the following quote from the exhibit notes:
He also sees this sense of possibility inherent in stage sets, where a narrative exists between the material character of the set itself, and the ‘other’ identity it adopts within the context of a play.
His installation partially revisited stage sets designed by Isamu Noguchi in 1955 for a Royal Shakespeare Company production of King Lear.
Rodney Graham Jacob Grimm’s Study in Berlin/Wilhelm Grimm’s Study in Berlin (1960), Etchings, 1992
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, 2 prints unframed.
$2,000 (pair), unframed
Perhaps you’re stopping by the gallery after having spent some time checking out Rodney Graham’s new exhibition over at the Vancouver Art Gallery? Remember, the CAG is only 5 blocks away from the VAG so you can continue your gallery-viewing excursion all afternoon!
We are showcasing a set of etchings by Graham that was published by the Contemporary Art Gallery in 1992, and was conceived in relation to Five Interior Proposals for the Grimm Brother’s Studies in Berlin (1992), the project Graham exhibited at Documenta in Kassel, Germany. The images are variations on the studies occupied by the Brothers Grimm in the 1860s in Berlin, based on period watercolours.
Scott Massey, Via Lactea (above Glacier Lake) – Limited Edition Print, Feb 2012
Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, Archival inkjet print, edition of 15, unframed.
There is still time to see Via Lactea (above Glacier Lake) at the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station (Canada-Line), co-presented Contemporary Art Gallery and Translink for the Canada Line Public Art Program.To coincide with the exhibition, Massey has produced a limited edition, Via Lactea (above Glacier Lake) (2012), an archival inkjet print, edition of 15, 20 x 20 inches.
In Via Lactea (above Glacier Lake), Massey combined 170+ photographs of the night sky on the same strip of film. I like that I can walk down to Davie street and not only see the night sky in the middle of the city, but I also get to see it during the day time. For more information about this exhibition, please see: http://www.thecanadaline.com/
Interested in buying one of these editions? Come down to the Contemporary Art Gallery Tuesday – Sunday, Noon-6PM and speak to someone at the front desk, or email email@example.com.MORE
It is always exciting to retrace the path of an artist you admire.
Today, the gracefulness and lightness of Elspeth Pratt’s work adorns the urban Offsite exhibition space of the VAG. It looks novel and contemporary, seemingly hand-made and whimsical but rendered in a scale that is normally out of proportion to the material.
In this blog entry, I’d like to consider Pratt’s journey towards becoming an important figure in the Vancouver art scene in relation to the CAG.
In several ways the CAG played an important role in her artistic career, being the site of her first solo exhibition. In 1985, Pratt reflected on social commentary, urban issues, art, architecture and man-made environment through her formal sculptures.
In 1988, Robert Linsley, with assistance from the CAG, curated an exhibition of three Canadian sculptors held at Sala 1 gallery in Rome. Among them, Elspeth Pratt would travel to Italy to present her abstract yet gestural sculptures to a European audience in an exhibition entitled “Architettura: Astrazione”.
These are not the only instances Pratt has shown work at the CAG. She also exhibited Bluff in the gallery’s street front windows in 2007. This site-specific work commented on the lack of foresight that characterises downtown Vancouver’s residential-highrise industry.
Currently Pratt’s name is listed among 1000 others in the windows as a reminder of the gallery’s artistic legacy and in commemoration of their 40th anniversary.
To view a short video of the artist commenting on her work, please follow this link:
To read a recent article on Elspeth Pratt’s work at the VAG Offsite location, please refer to:
As a student entering the Library and Information Studies program at UBC, managing, categorizing and organizing information is a common and enjoyable task. However, even for someone who seeks to impose rationality and logic, a dollop of semi-orderly chaos always makes the day more exciting.
Beyond the gallery walls, down a long hallway, past numerous doors, in an unusually bright and clean room is the location of CAG’s archive. While tidy in appearance, with boxes dedicated to various years in the life of the gallery, the content of these time capsules is rather muddled and heterogeneous, making it quite an adventure to sift through folders of its history.
Having been given the responsibility of going through the archive in the anticipation of the CAG’s 40th Anniversary, it became part of my weekly routine; as if a participant in a bingo game, I scanned through the numerous pieces of paper, dates, newspaper articles and rare images to find a winning combination, a highlight of some sort, an informational jackpot.
“BINGO?”, echoed in my mind when I got to the box labeled “1986” and its folders dedicated to the 10th Anniversary of the CAG which was inaugurated with an exhibition entitled “Ten Years Later”, showcasing the work of seven mature artists who were intertwined with the gallery from its inception. By 1976 the former Greater Vancouver Artists Gallery (present day CAG) had become incorporated as a non profit charitable society from its beginnings in 1971 obtained the Local Initiatives Project (LIP) grant with which it was able to fund artists Marian Penner Bancroft, Judith Lodge,Liz Magor, Al McWiliams, Richard Prince, Judy Williams, and Robert Young (amongst many, many others) in their production of nearly 3,000 artworks over the ten year period and which became part of the City of Vancouver Collection.
Besides the general interest with regard to what the gallery and its anniversary exhibition were like almost 30 years ago, I found particularly fascinating and differing reviews of ‘Ten Years Later’.
The real “BINGO!” happened when I came across a short, time-stained and hastily cut-out article entitled “Gallery Bingo” by Douglas Coupland. Written when he was 25, this review was already marked by the witty and informal tone he was to become known for later on. Rather than describing the show, Coupland commented on the effect of this anniversary on the institution, on the transformation of the gallery’s image over the years:
“I sensed amongst the crowd an undercurrent of discomfort at their now having become the art establishment, condemned to dressing seriously and playing the role of adults regardless of whether or not they actually feel it.”
Interestingly enough, it seems that by its 40th Anniversary, instead of growing into a more conservative and staid establishment, the gallery has maintained its playful vitality.
Ksenia Cheinman, CAG Library and Archive VolunteerMORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery is celebrating its 40th Anniversary, and as part of commemorating the occasion we’ve been reflecting on our past, searching through the archives and discovering some random mementos.
We found the above poster in the ‘best of the ’80′s file’, did you or do you know someone who might have attended any of the advertised talks? If so, we would love to hear your recollections of what must have been some memorable Summer of ’84 Vancouver nights.MORE
This book was published on the occasion of the launch of the Time Top Project public art work created by Jerry Pethick in October 2006 which was commissioned by Concord Pacific Group Inc. The publication contains a pull out booklet with a text by Margaret Pethick and a comic strip drawn by Neil Wedman. The publication contains an essay by Scott Watson and a forward by Jack Jeffrey.MORE
This book was produced on the occasion of the exhibition Quick aging pivoting city, curated by Petra Watson for the Contemporary Art Gallery at January 8 to February 19, 2000. It contains the essay Imaginary Displacement and the Facts of Metaphor by Petra Watson.MORE
This publication was produced on the occasion of the exhibition Nations in Urban Landscapes held at the Contemporary Art Gallery, October 28 to December 9, 1995 and at Oboro, Montreal in 1994. It includes texts by Marcia Crosby "Nations in Urban Landscapes" and "Lines, Lineage and Lies, or Borders, Boundaries and Bullshit" and Paul Chaat Smith "From Lake Geneva to the Finland Station" and includes a preface by Keith Wallace.MORE