"Out of Sight" to be kept in mind: exhibition of New Acquisitions at the VAG

A Clever Showing of New Acquisitions at the VAG on view until Sept 1

New acquisitions exhibitions tend to be last on the list of shows to visit in a gallery. The assumption is that the artwork is artificially divided to accommodate various purchases and donations rather than based on a theme or artist. The factors often determining acquisitions – timing, the politics of market availability, donations, etc. - don’t always work into nicely packaged arrangement.  So why bother?

Two reasons – the purchases and accepted donations generally reflect the direction and thinking of the museum’s director, staff and board and there are always gems among the pieces. That is definitely the case in this cleverly arranged exhibition, “Out of Sight: New Acquisitions.”

The apparent trend in the new additions to the Vancouver Art Gallery’s collection is Canadian dominated, post modern and modern.  There appears a leaning toward photography and video with a scattering of paintings, sculpture and contemporary drawings/collage.

The exhibition features nearly 100 historical and contemporary works, with the largest number of pieces in the “Time” room that has as its centerpiece donated photographs of Harold Edgerton. This collection of images dates from the 1940s through the 1960s and includes both black and white and color. 

 Edgerton was born in the U.S. and taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  He considered himself a scientist rather an artist and is credited with the invention of the stroboscope.  His work captures images of motion that the human eye can’t see. My favourite is a photograph of a girl jumping rope.  The rope creates strobe-like lines that follow her bouncing body from one side of the image to the other.

Edgerton’s work is displayed near photographs by Eadweard Muybridge, all dated 1887, and by Charles Gagnon, dating from the 1960s through the 1970s. Muybridge, an Englishman, is well known for his step motion photography of animals and humans, the precursor of paintings like Marcel Duchamp’s painting, “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2”

Gagnon, a Quebec artist, catches touching and delicate moments of everyday life, such as a man passing blurred in front of an empty canvas in a studio, and two men, seen in profile as they waiting at a stoplight in their cars.  These sensual black and white photographs are reminiscent of earlier French photographers Robert Doisneau and Edouard Boubat.

Another gem is a large work by Canadian artist Monique Fouquet, “Untitled #90.  Fouquet’s lush graphite and charcoal drawing explores mapping somewhat like the graphite drawings of Los Carpinteros but from a feminine perspective and depicting a dreamlike world.

In scanning any collection of acquisitions or any exhibition, for that matter, it is important to look at artist representation.  Out of a total of twenty artists in “Out of Sight” nearly all of them appear to be of European ancestry. Seven of the twenty are women. Fifteen of the twenty are Canadian (or living in Canada), and sixteen are living artists.

The show is on view until September 1.

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