Marja-Leena Rathje
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gallery day

On Saturday, we went with friends to the Vancouver Art Gallery to see a couple of the exhibitions, one historical and one contemporary. We enjoyed both very much.

Lights Out! Canadian painting from the 1960's


As the country celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1967, modernist painting was strong in all regions of the country, but debates between the merits of figuration and abstraction were abundant. The important centres of activity, such as Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, London, Regina and Vancouver, each contributed to the national dialogue in a distinct fashion. (VAG)

This was very interesting for us for we were all young adults in our university years during that decade. A large board at the beginning of the exhibition displayed the dramatic political and cultural events that occurred in each year of that decade had us reminiscing quite a while. Where were you when President Kennedy was shot, or when the first man landed on the moon? It was especially wonderful for me revisit these works and to be transported back to art school days where we studied them, and were influenced by them, and whose styles we experimented with. One of them in fact, Kenneth Lochhead was one of our professors. (I wrote about his passing here).

No photos are allowed in the gallery, so I wish I could have found more images online to share here, just the above from the VAG site. Here is one review.

The second exhibition: Beat Nation: Art, Hip Hop and Aboriginal Culture

Skeena Reece Raven: On the Colonial Fleet, 2010 photo: Sebastian Kriete (Captured from the cover of Glance, VAG members' newletter issue 28)

Beat Nation reflects a generation of artists who juxtapose urban youth culture with Aboriginal identity in entirely innovative and unexpected ways. Using hip hop and other forms of popular culture, artists create surprising new cultural hybrids--in painting, sculpture, installation, performance and video--that reflect the changing demographics of Aboriginal people today.(VAG)

We found this one very exciting and impressive. It is wonderful to see so many (27) young urban First Nations artists from around North America taking their traditional forms into new contemporary ways of expression. Many are very well educated, even teaching in universities. Brian Jungen, whose international career took off after a major solo exhibition at the VAG six years ago (and I had written about), was naturally well represented with his Nike masks.

Please visit the VAG site and these links for more:
Ariane c design Many good photos here
• A review at Vancouver Sun and one image and video
• Review at the Georgia
The Beat, Aboriginal Art on Canada's Pacific Coast is a interesting new-to-me newsletter that I'm going to follow.

Added March 14th: An excellent review of Lights Out! Canadian painting from the 1960's by Robin Laurence in the Straight.

Marja-Leena | 27/02/2012 | 6 comments
themes: Art Exhibitions, Canada and BC, Other artists


interesting exhibitions! i love brian jungen's work particularly. x

Yes, elisa, I do too but there are many more excellent aboriginal artists in that show as well that I think you would like.

I love the Beat Nation philosophy. The vibrancy of their work infused by a long cultural history could actually be something that might help us in North America change direction from total consumerism.

The 60's Op Art movement never caught my interest and I was very happy to be in Europe looking at the Old Masters in that period.

ps: I'd just finished a high school history exam (interrupted by whispering teachers, some of whom burst into tears).

Susan, that's an interesting thought about the young aboriginals influencing change in our consumerist culture - hope it happens! I wasn't fond of Op Art either though I saw it as part of the art history. There were many styles popular in the 60's - I liked the use of thick expressive paint for a time in my own paintings.

I was also in a high school class when a message came over the intercom. I played hooky the day of Kennedy's funeral - I think the schools were half empty.

I envy you this rich cultural experience. You do a better job of supporting the arts in your country than we do in ours.

Hattie, I find that rather hard to believe. The US has a huge number of art museums with great collections. You have a larger population and far more wealthy individuals who support the arts and donate a lot because they get good tax breaks for doing so. We're fortunate to have a few individuals like that here, like Michael Audain whose collection recently featured at the VAG. There is little funding from governments here.