Category Archives: Exhibitions

Adad Hannah: Case Studies

Adad Hannah is a Vancouver based artist who has exhibited widely across Canada as well as internationally in the United States, Korea, Prague, Chile, Shanghai, Bucharest and Birmingham. His work is cinematic and focuses on performance and movement. Jeff Wall,  Cindy Sherman and Andy Warhol are some of the influences he draws inspiration from.

When I first read the gallery handout and saw that Hannah used digital video to create his images I was rather puzzled as to the process. I then checked his website and found that he actually builds a mise-en-scene, poses his subjects as if it were for a still photograph and then videos the still scene for about 4 – 10 minutes. When viewing the video, only slight movements are noticed: little things like the blink of someone’s eye, a slight readjustment of an arm stretched out and so on. This must be extremely difficult for the subjects to hold these poses for such a lengthy period. Like Jeff Wall, he builds elaborate sets as can be seen in his documentation of Blackwater Orphelia.

Hannah’s Case Studies project mimics Muybridge’s work in a similar fashion. Where Muybridge’s work is all in sepia tone, Hannah uses rich colours. He also uses a grid as a background, but in his case the grid is black, where as Muybridge used white in order to reflect as much light into the lens as possible. Another difference is that Hannah has some black-clad helpers that help lift and support the subjects in their various poses and this creates a slightly sinister feel to the photos. It’s as if there are ninjas lurking in the background wanting to do evil to the subjects who are in the light. The ninjas are less noticeable on the actual print than on the photograph as the saturation is more dense. Whether Hannah videotaped these images as staged images as he has done with his other work, or photographed these motion images in a similar fashion to Muybridge, I cannot say. But either way the motion is very carefully captured. There is less of a forensic/scientific feel to Hannah’s work which is probably due to the use of colour and the background ninjas.

Adad Hannah: After Muybridge: Wrestlers 2
Adad Hannah: After Muybridge: Wrestlers 2

 

Another series Hannah had on display was his Polka Dot Case Study. In these images he uses a polka dot background, all the props bar the bowls are covered in the polka dots. The subject is also clad in an all-in-one jumpsuit that matches the background. Various yoga or gymnastic poses are struck with the subject balancing contrasting coloured bowls on various parts of her anatomy. The images form an optical illusion and from afar one is not really aware of the subject in the photos, just the background and the bowls. It is only when the viewer draws closer that the misaligned polka dots of the subject and cube she is seated on truly stands out from the background. I found this to be a really creative series of images.

An Arrangement (Polka Dot Case Study) 1
Adad Hannah: An Arrangement (Polka Dot Case Study) 1
Reference List

Adad Hannah [online] Available from: http://adadhannah.com/projects/category/recent_projects/ [Accessed 20 March, 2016]

Advertisements

Eadweard Muybridge – Building an Atlas

The gallery handout introduces this exhibition with a quote from Charlotte Cotton’s latest book, Photography is Magic:

Photography is a form of magic – or to put it another way, the photographic provides cerebral experiences for the viewer that are equivalent to magic.

And for the viewers of these photographs in the 1870’s it must have been a truly magical experience. Forty-five of Muybridge’s collotypes were on display for this exhibit. All the prints were made in the late 1880’s. What a feast! Muybridge was born in 1830 and is best know for his motion studies, which began in 1870 when he was asked by Leland and Jane Stanford to help demonstrate that at a certain point in time, all four legs of a galloping horse were off the ground. Muybridge did this by using a bank of view cameras to record the galloping horse’s movements. Each camera’s shutter was triggered using a thread as the horse passed. I find this process utterly fascinating knowing how long view cameras took to process an image back in the 1870’s. Admittedly, Muybridge had the help of  Leland Stanford’s crew of engineers and technicians from the Central Pacific Railroad to help him develop new high-speed mechanical camera shutters for his view cameras. Cameras did not have shutters at that time. After the galloping horse study, Muybridge expanded his project to study motion of other animals and people involved in various activities. His legacy of these studies has been passed on to the cinematographers.

Eadweard Muybridge - dogs playing
Eadweard Muybridge – dogs playing

The beauty in these old photographs lies in their technicality, the split second precision of an action captured. Could we do it better today? Most definitely – the technology has changed dramatically since 1870, and today we have Joe McNally with his impressive banks of flashes. Even so the quality of the Muybridge prints and the resolution is quite crisp and the subject matter fascinating. Muybridge has applied a very scientific or forensic approach to his photographs and I liked the way that he used different angles for a lot of his series photographs: side on views, frontal and rear views. The individual frames are quite small and the viewer is really drawn in to study the stop-motion flow closely.

Eadweard Muybridge - woman playing tennis
Eadweard Muybridge – woman playing tennis
Bibliography

Eadweard Muybridge [online] Wikipedia. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eadweard_Muybridge [Accessed 20 March, 2016]

Equinox Gallery (2016). Eadweard Muybridge: Building an Atlas. Vancouver: Equinox Gallery

Solnit, Rebecca (2010) Eadweard Muybridge: Feet off the ground [online]. The Guardian. Available from: http://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2010/sep/04/eadweard-muybridge-exhibition-rebecca-solnit [Accessed 20 March, 2016]

Ogema: I am Woman

I was quite taken aback by this exhibition. It is an exhibition by a group of indigenous female artists from the First Nations in North America. I had not planned to go to this exhibition initially as I had expected it to have the usual First Nations traditional artwork on display, but because it was literally a stone’s throw away from my targeted viewing I decided to drop in afterwards and was very pleasantly surprised.

The exhibition pays homage to the indigenous women, through all their trials and tribulations of colonial rule. It challenges the viewer to view the First Nations women in a different light by regarding the matriarchal roles in diverse representations. This exhibition is both art and political in nature and deals with the First Nations right to reclaim their rightful position in society.

Participating artists were Maria Hupfield, Jeneen Frei Njootli, Wendy Red Star, Tsēma Tamara Skubovius, Janice Toulouse and Olivia Whetung.

One of the most interesting pieces was a display by Wendy Red Star, a Crow Indian from Montana. Displayed across the width of the gallery wall was a series of posters above a shelf of displayed books. The books were a series written by E. J. Hunter in the 1980’s. There are 24 books in total. Wendy Red Star has created a montage of the original cover and inserted a self-portrait instead of the original “squaw” for each book. The sub-titles on the book come across rather risque or non politically correct in today’s environment and Red Star has played upon the nuances of the sub-text to create her portrait.

Below is the original cover of book # 11. The sub-text reads “She sees what’s coming and blows her way out of trouble!” The sub-title at the bottom of the book reads “Hot-handed Heathen”.

White Squaw 11 - Original cover
White Squaw 11 – Original cover

And this is Red Star’s play on this cover:

White Squaw 11 by Wendy Red Star
White Squaw 11 by Wendy Red Star

By using modern day gestures, often seen on selfies, she is contemporising the literature and drawing attention to the fact that First Nations women are really just like the rest of us.

Possibly the most thought provoking image of the exhibition was a huge life size photograph by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius of a girl sitting naked, hunched over on a rocky beach among washed up discarded, rusty iron rods and bricks.

Re (Naturalize) by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius
Re (Naturalize) by Tsēma Tamara Skubovius

The foetal position of the girl on the beach is symbolic of the much awaited reclamation and return to society by the First Nations people. A symbol of rebirth. The iron rods are representative of the society’s current restrictions and obstacles that stand in the way of this happening. For me the rocks on the beach are indicative of the difficulties that lie ahead in effecting this change.

Lea Toulouse, curator of this exhibition, explains:

I am fed up with the oppression, racism, and victimization of my people and believe it is time to reclaim our position on this land, to celebrate our culture, and to govern our lives.

Reference List

Hunter, E.J. (1986). Hot-handed Heathen (White Squaw) [online]. Amazon.com. Available from: http://www.amazon.com/Hot-Handed-Heathen-White-Squaw-Hunter/dp/0821718827/ref=pd_sim_14_6?ie=UTF8&refRID=0SX7K1VE5J8QZDH95SY5 [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Red Star, Wendy. White Squaw. [online]. Wendy Red Star. Available from: http://www.wendyredstar.com/white-squaw#/ [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Toulouse, Lea (2016). Ogema: I am Woman [online]. Like Vancouver. Available from: http://likevancouver.ca/art-ogema-i-am-woman/ [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Bibliography

Winsor Gallery [online]. Available from: http://www.winsorgallery.com/exhibitDetails.asp?tid=Exhibit_UBC2016&eid=c [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Liz Magor at Catriona Jeffries

This has to be one of the strangest exhibitions I’ve seen in a long time. These sculptures by Liz Magor, a Canadian born, Vancouver-based artist were quite confusing to say the least.

Upon entering the gallery, we (my son and I) encountered a room full of what appeared to be boxes of varying shapes and sizes, looking as if they had been randomly placed on the floor or propped up against the wall. The first sculpture was of a pink dog sitting atop a cardboard box which was mounted on the wall.

Liz Magor - Pink Pet, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum
Liz Magor – Pink Pet, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum

On reading the gallery handout, it seems that Magor takes disused and old, found objects and repurposes them into sculptures. This pink dog above was probably once a gorgeous fluffy toy, possibly  discarded and found in a skip, which has now been transformed with another type of coating/exterior, one that appears to be decay resistant. Strangely though, the dog faces the wall and does not reveal itself to the viewer. Ashamed of its new form? Or ashamed of the road it has travelled to reach its current situation, which seems to be forever posed upon a dirty discarded box, instead of being lovingly cared for by a young child?

It seems that Liz Magor raided the local Salvation Army thrift store and the skips in the back alleys to find some of her ready-mades. Clothing that dates back to the 1950’s or 1960’s were draped or folded and displayed on cardboard boxes.

Liz Magor - New Society, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum, plastic bag, nylon stockings
Liz Magor – New Society, 2016 | Polymerized gypsum, plastic bag, nylon stockings

The boxes have been given a new lease on life. A coat of paint and their purpose (or is it fate) has gone from being destined for the compactor to a life of display in an art gallery.

Out of date and worn garments move away from their exhausted status and are reminded of their commitment to the body. In all the works dismissible things forge relationships with disposable things as they are reacquainted with their origin in manufacturing and packaging.

Catriona Jeffries Gallery (2016)

This exhibition has me back to the age-old question again. Is this really art?

Reference List

Catriona Jeffres Gallery (2016) Liz Magor. Vancouver. Catriona Jeffries Gallery.

Brad Howe & Jonathan Forrest – Gallery Jones

I happened to pop into the Gallery Jones today, not knowing what was on exhibition. It just happened to be situated close to another gallery that I had planned on visiting. On exhibition were sculptures by Brad Howe,

Brad Howe is from California and his sculptures are extremely colourful and playful. There was one that caught my attention. It looked like a toy house with a gigantic cactus leaf growing out of its roof, but the title was “Age of Radiation”. Quite the depressing title for something so lively.

The age of radiation by Brad HoweThe colours are so saturated and vibrant and the piece is quite playful in my mind. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the soft rounded cactus leaf shapes contrasting with the sharp triangular shape of the house’s roof. I can’t pretend to understand modern sculptures like these, but on a grey day entering a gallery where such vibrant colours about around every corner is very heartening to the soul.

Also exhibiting in the same gallery was Jonathan Forrest who is a Canadian abstract painter. Like Brad Howe, Forrest’s work is also bright and colourful and the two artists complement each other well in the gallery space. Forrest’s work deals with an exploration into the physical substance of paint and ready made objects. Forrest states in his artist’s statement that:

“the subject matter of the works in this exhibition varies widely but falls under the umbrella of “things I notice in my everyday life … the paintings contain some essence of the dialogue between the ready-made found source image and the transformative painting process that results in the finished artwork”.

Sculpture by Brad Howe, paintings by Jonathan Forrest
Sculpture by Brad Howe, paintings by Jonathan Forrest

Tucked away in a corner were two photographs by Danny Singer which were really a bonus find. Singer is a Canadian photographer who photographs small town Canada. Many of his photos feature beautiful big skies with lots of cloud movement.

Danny Singer | MacNutt
Danny Singer | MacNutt

Singer’s work reminds me so much of Ed Ruscha’s Sunset Boulevard. Both prints are panoramas. The upper print measured 23 ” x 101″ and the detail in the photo was quite captivating. Looking at work like this makes me want to get out of the city and go explore these little one-man band towns that are dotted all over the country. It’s definitely something that is on my to-do list. The MacNutt photo has beautiful tones, orange buildings complement the blue sky at regular intervals and the street is book-ended by green shrubbery while long shadows stretch across the street to touch the buildings opposite. Its only when one’s eye takes in the shadows that one realises there is an opposite side to the street – so remote is the narrative.

Reference List

Forrest, Jonathan (n.d.) Artist Statement [online] Gallery Jones. Available from: http://www.galleryjones.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/artiststatement.pdf [Accessed 19 March, 2016]

Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre

Samuel F. B. Morse, son of Jedidiah Morse and Elisabeth Finley Morse is probably better known for his invention of the telegraph than for painting or photography.

The Seattle Art Museum had a small room devoted to one particular painting by Morse. It is his Gallery of the Louvre, which can be seen here. The painting is massive, measuring 73 x 108 inches. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to take a decent photo of it due to the rather large audience sitting in front of the painting listening to the audio track that was running.

Morse was so enamoured with the artwork that he saw in the Louvre that he was inspired to create it in his own painting in a miniature format and take it back to America with him. It is believed that he used a camera obscura to make the miniatures of the great works. He chose thirty-eight of his favourite paintings for this task. Some of the miniatures that were created were the Mona Lisa and Tiziano Vecello, known as Titian.

When he returned with his canvas to States, he added the foreground figures to the painting. Morse himself is in the centre of the painting, leaning over a woman giving her some painting instruction. In the back left corner are Morse’s friends James Fenimore Cooper and his wife and daughter, the man entering the Louvre at the back is the sculptor Horatio Greenough, and a woman from Brittany and her child are placed to the left of him. On the left of the painting is Richard W. Habersham, a painter from Georgia and also Morse’s room mate while he was living in Paris. The seated woman on the right is purposed to be Lucretia, Morse’s wife.

I would have like to get up close to the painting, but it wasn’t possible with the audience sitting in front of it, nor was there enough time to come back later. I did like the overall palette of the painting. The tones are rich and warm and convey a sense of collegiality among the figures in the painting. There is an extremely interesting and long back story to this painting which can be read or listened to on the link supplied above.

Also of interest is the fact that Morse was the first American to see Louis-Jaques-Mandé Daguerre’s daguerrotype, which he saw after the unveiling of telegraph in Paris. Morse was among the first Americans to make daguerrotypes and to advance the science of photography in the United States. There were quite a few daguerrotypes on display and I was amazed at the sharpness and clarity of detail that was achieved. The beautiful cases that the daguerrotypes are placed in are also wonderful works of art.

Daguerreotype by Samuel F. B. Morse
Daguerreotype by Samuel F. B. Morse
Bibliography

Samuel F.B. Morse Biography [online] Bio. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/samuel-morse [Accessed 17 January, 2016]

Samuel F. B. Morse’s Gallery of the Louvre [online]. Seattle Art Museum. Available from: http://www.seattleartmuseum.org/exhibitions/morse [Accessed 17 January, 2016]

European Collection at the Seattle Art Museum

The permanent European Collection at the SAM is very varied, from portraits, to still lifes and landscapes. The paintings were very big and most had exquisite frames. I shudder to think how difficult it must have been to hang some of these art works, because they must weigh a ton and some were hung very high on the walls. A few of the featured artists were Georges de la Tour, Willem Claesz Heda, Bartolomé Estebán Murillo.

I have started to read A Short History of the Shadow by Victor I. Stoichita, which I saw mentioned on Steve Middlehurst’s blog (thanks for the reference Steve!) so I was pleasantly surprised to see a painting depicting the origin of art as described by Pliny  in Stoichita’s book. The legend is as follows: the daughter of Butades, a potter in Corinth, was in love with a young man. When she learned that he was going abroad, she drew an outline of his face from his shadow cast by a lamp on the wall. Her father then created a clay relief from this outline and fired it in his kiln with the rest of his pottery.

The painting is by Louis Andre Gabriel Bouchet, a French painter, and features a woman seated outdoors, holding her two children close. She is seated next to a pillar and, if you look carefully, you can see the outline of her husband’s face on the pillar. During the time the painting was made, viewers of that time would have known from the outline that the man was away at war – probably one of the Napoleonic wars if my history serves me correctly. It was also unusual for a woman to be painted outdoors. By placing her outdoors, with a protective gesture around her children, it might be understood that she has taken on the role of family protector in her husband’s absence.

Mme. H and Her Children, 1815, Louis André Gabriel Bouchet, French, 1759-1842
Mme. H and Her Children, 1815, Louis André Gabriel Bouchet, French, 1759-1842

The event that inspired the first semblance to be created was the departure of the loved one … The shadow helps the young woman capture (circumscripsit) the image of her departing lover by creating a replacement. The issue raised here is considerable, for in fact it highlights a metaphysical quality of the image whose origins should be sought in the interruption of an erotic relationship, in a separation, in the departure of the model, hence the representation becomes a substitute.

Stoichita p. 15

This painting is very big,  and has a very ornate gilt frame around it which just makes the red and green tones pop. It is extremely lifelike. I felt like reaching out to touch the softness of the fabric of the woman’s red dress. There is almost a photographic quality to the painting. One can just see the artist’s signature and year of completion at the base of the pillar. Definitely one of my favourite paintings in the museum!

The other painting which made a huge impression on me was a still life by Dutch baroque painter, Abraham van Beyeren.

Banquet Still Life ca. 1653 - 55, Abraham van Beyeren. Dutch, ca. 1620/21-1690
Banquet Still Life ca. 1653 – 55, Abraham van Beyeren. Dutch, ca. 1620/21-1690

I first viewed this huge painting from a fair distance away due to its size – again huge. But I moved in closer to try and make out the pink objects on the plate just below the gilted nautilus shell. They turned out to be two prawns, but the detail present was truly amazing. Then I started looking around the table – the half peeled orange, each glistening juice vessel within the segments visible and fit to burst. What really got me excited with this painting was the way the painter had captured all the light reflections off the various surfaces, making everything look so fresh and edible, even though the banquet is clearly over and these are the leftovers of the feast. There is even the reflection of the artist visible in the big silver jug, which makes me wonder if this painter used the camera obscura technique which Vermeer is purported to have done. This is also a painting of luxury (and excess) representing the successful trade of the Dutch East India Trading Company during that time as evident from the Chinese tableware, Venetian glass, imported fruits, as well as the ornate nautilus shell.

This exhibition was rather overwhelming both in the size of the works as well as the quality of the art. I think I will definitely do a repeat visit to this exhibit next time I visit SAM.

Reference List

Stoichita, Victor (1997). A Short History of the Shadow. London: Reaktion Books Ltd

Bibliography

Abraham van Beijeren [online] Wikipedia. Available from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abraham_van_Beijeren [Accessed 16 January, 2016]

European Collection [online] Seattle Art Museum. Available from: http://www1.seattleartmuseum.org/eMuseum/code/emuseum.asp [Accessed 16 January, 2016]