Knowledge, Kindliness and Courage is the first solo exhibition in North America of Turner Prize nominee, Nathan Coley. This major presentation includes Unnamed (2012), a new commission in the gallery and We Must Cultivate Our Garden, installed on the roof of the Pennsylvania Hotel in the Downtown East Side. Unnamed forms the centerpiece to the exhibition, over 30 recycled headstones informally gathered together, supported on stout cedar batons. These ‘ready-made’ objects produce a powerful presence resonating with Coley’s ongoing investigations as to how our environment speaks of collective desires and beliefs through its embodiment of social histories.MORE
For the first exhibition of work by Nairy Baghramian in North America the Contemporary Art Gallery presented Class Reunion, an ambitious eighteen piece sculpture comprising a variety of abstract forms. Consistent throughout the artist’s practice, it references literature, theory and modernist design to comment on current issues of materiality, manufacture and display, while examining aspects of social and political relationships.
As a collection of posed characters Class Reunion forms an uncanny tableau, the stage shifting between the immediacy of the inherent material qualities – surface, shape and colour – to a more speculative consideration of meaning and content. The viewer’s experience moves from a consideration of physicality to an examination of social mores, the specific objects evoking a multiplicity of personalities and social identities.
The word ‘class’ can signify formal categorizations as well as social and economic structures. While the coming together of forms is familiar, resembling social encounters and playing with our desire to classify things, Baghramian seems to suggest the specification of types, division into groupings and ideas of personality or identity are as fabricated as the individual sculptures we see.MORE
This was the first solo exhibition in Canada for Shanghai based artist Xu Zhen who has emerged as one of the most inventive and provocative artists working in China today. A co-founder in 1998 of the influential artist-run space BizArt Art Center, he has also organized seminal exhibitions including Art for Sale (1999) staged at a Shanghai shopping mall. His work is characterized by tackling authoritarian gestures and clichés of human ambition often with a wry sense of humour that counters any notion of value.
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented an installation, a cluster of small sculptural pieces, slightly-larger-than-life-size replicas of a mosquito. At first glance the gallery room appeared empty and yet closer inspection revealed the space occupied by insects which appeared to be sucking blood from the building, glowing red as they drink in the nutrition needed. This creature is an effective symbol and with context vital to meaning, Xu Zhen offers a subtle and witty take on cultural politics.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery worked with Vancouver artist Gareth Moore to co-commission a project comprising seven new films, screened offsite and a series of related posters in the window spaces at the gallery.
For Children’s Films Moore approached a number of international artists to produce short films for children, each person free to focus on any particular topic, shaping the content and form of their respective piece. Artists invited consist of some from Europe as well as other Vancouver based practitioners familiar to our local audiences. Moore then collated the two to five minute pieces into one longer work, providing it with open and closing credits, each section acting as a discrete but interconnected episode.
Akin to the early days of cinema with travelling magic lantern shows, weekly screenings of the 16mm films took place in different locations throughout the city of Vancouver such as community centres, schools and a tent in Emery Barnes Park in downtown Vancouver.MORE
The Contemporary Art Gallery presented the first North American exhibition by Dublin-based artist Sarah Browne, a survey including the artist’s entry for the 2009 Venice Biennale. Using ‘the economy’ as the basis for her artistic practice, Browne works with small communities of people, documenting resourceful forms of exchange to reveal the hidden social relations that exist in smallscale economic structures, summations of collective intention or desire typically influenced by emotional affects. Within the current context of austerity measures and failing markets, such an undertaking could not be more relevant. By processes such as filmmaking, sculpture and publishing the potential for a more radical resourcefulness is sought as a manifestation of creative opposition to prevailing systems. Vancouver with its immediate history of Vietnam draft dodgers and alternative island lifestyles provided an interesting backdrop for Browne’s work.MORE
WAVES by Vancouver based and French born artist Nicolas Sassoon is the second commissioned work for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station as part of the CAG’s offsite exhibition programme. It is part of Sassoon’s ongoing body of work using Moiré patterns – a visual blur inadvertently discovered by Swiss photographer Ernst Moiré – whereby two images are overlaid to create a third ‘plane’. The resulting optical effect causes the eye to see movement where there is none.
The Moiré pattern designed for the Yaletown-Roundhouse Station is created by physical layering a symmetrical configuration of vertical, curved black lines on top of a coloured pixelated background. With no focal point the mural is activated by the movement of the viewer. As commuters pass by the two overlapping planes, horizontal waves appear to undulate rhythmically across the surface. Initially disorientating, sustained viewing creates an immersive effect, altering our usual encounter with the entrance of the station, erasing its glass side as if revealing another dimension.MORE