Anodyne
Tuesday, June 06, 2017
 

 

JW, Monologue, 2013

To the VAG, and Pictures From Here.  A bit surprised to see this blog quoted accurately, and at length, on a wall panel.

Lots of work on display, many photographs either too large (Roy Arden's landfill; N.E. Thing Co.'s mid-90s lightbox remakes of late 60s "deadpan" subjects: Port Moody's yellow sulfur pile; Boundary Road looking north) or badly dated (Barrie Jones' leaping-salmon pictures, which somehow combine 70s and 80s kitsch into a badly dated look that says, Don't ever do this. The best thing I can say about Jones' photographs is that no one is likely to emulate them any time soon; they exist curled up inside this exhibition like bits of flint inside a shoe).

Marion Penner Bancroft's rock/stucco diptychs would be perfect in their thick wooden frames if the "anthropological" labels disappeared; the labels detract from the images' strength and the impact of their plain wood surrounds.  Some of Mike Grill's new rephotographs-on-canvas work very well; curator Arnold is right to physically separate the best of them, the West End fireworks crowd, from the others.  Rodney Graham's kayaker is actually in focus, as are most of the autumn trees in the left hand piece of the triptych, and these natural forms, plus the abstract stripey grain of the kayak paddle turned flush with the picture's surface, give this piece an abstractly "finished" quality that held me quiet in front of it, studying leaf-shapes & shadows & the round blue stones in the shallow water.

Wall's Monologue feels larger than its staged ("cinematographic"?) incident demands, though I do like the light patches of twilight sky against the darkly massed evergreens, & the unseen streetlight's light, which reminds me of Magritte's Empire of Light (1953), & the details I have never been able to make out in reproduction: the abrupt edge of the foreground "stage"; the half-full wine bottle behind the center figure's leg; the little glasses.  Because the picture is hung, to my eye, too low, its figures have the appearance of mannequins whose heads and hands are slightly too big for their bodies, especially the listening man at the far left.  I thought more than once of Bruno Schulz's drawings of men & women who have the appearance of stage puppets briefly granted life.  Also guessing that the listening man on the far right is a Wall relative; his facial resemblance to the artist has to be more than sheer coincidence.

I like Bancroft's diptyches, N.E. Thing Co.'s 2 black and white photographs, Evan Lee's forest fires & maybe Christos Dikeakos' Instant Photo Information sequence which in hindsight looks less like "amateurism" and more like "photojournalism," and thereby distinguishes itself, in a conservative yet positive way, from the reams of off-kilter "deadpan" black-and-white photography committed by everyone from Smithson to Wall to Ruscha and Douglas Huebler, way back in the day.

One last standout: Henri Robideau's photos-and-text, especially his 4-piece Okanagan Leica odyssey, with its mixture of high & low & sprawling handwriting tying everything together.  I think Robideu's Okanagan piece is the best in this large, generous & uneven show, because it ties a strongly individual vision together with a "signature style" (the panorama-plus-assorted-other-bits; the herky-jerky joined-up writing) that is basically un-emulatable, plus an granular attentiveness to social reality that veers between the idiosyncratic, the "touristic" and the profound.

Upstairs in the Carr Shrine it's business as usual, time stopping c. 1940.  Colored walls, soulful quotes from her writing.  That said, Loggers' Cull (1935) is one of the very best pictures I know; it holds out the hope of maybe one day making something of similar quality.

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