Spring arts 2013: From Tehran to Paris, the world hits Vancouver's gallery walls

Visual arts critics' picks

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      The local, the national, and the international all assert a presence this spring. From Warsaw to Cape Dorset, artists consider everyday life, the shaping of identity, the crossing of borders, and the melding of cultures. Upcoming exhibitions also examine the ways we invest objects with multiple meanings and messages.

      Patrick Faigenbaum 

      (March 9 to June 2 at the Vancouver Art Gallery)

      This contemporary French photographer made his reputation in the mid 1980s with his portraits of Italian aristocratic families in their homes. However, it wasn’t their privileged status that intrigued critics as much as the way Faigenbaum was able to capture the tensions between past and present that such lives embodied. His early studies as a painter reveal themselves in the way he frames and lights his subjects, which include people and places across Europe.

      The Draw: Surveying more than 75 images from the 1970s to the present, this is the first major showing of Faigenbaum’s photographs in Canada.

      Slavs And Tatars 

      (April 13 to May 26 at Presentation House Gallery)

      Friendship of Nations: Polish Shi’ite Showbiz is a wholly unexpected examination of the intersecting histories of Iran and Poland. Photographs, sculptures, textiles, and installations refer to the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the 1980 Polish Solidarity movement, and the recent Green movement in Iran.

      The Draw: This wide-ranging show is the Canadian debut of the Eurasian artists’ collective Slavs and Tatars.

      Materially Speaking 

      (April 14 to June 9 at the Richmond Art Gallery)

      In an age of digital technology, virtual reality, and poststudio practice, this show explores hands-on, craftlike engagement with materials. While each of the featured artists—Jen Aitken, Lou Lynn, Brendan Tang, and Julie York—operates within a concept-driven, “high art” context, they also employ age-old materials such as glass, ceramics, bronze, and textiles. What’s on view is gorgeous, funky, and provocative.

      The Draw: Traditional (and occasionally odd) means and media are propelled from the familiar past into the challenging future.


      (April 20 to September 15 at the UBC Museum of Anthropology)

      Subtitled Contemporary Works by Arab, Iranian, and Turkish Artists, this show brings together 17 artists who create across media as diverse as woven carpets, wire sculpture, and video installation. The overarching theme of the voyage (safar in Persian) encompasses the philosophical and the actual, including issues of identity, modernity, migration, war, exile, and geopolitics.

      The Draw: Guest-curated by renowned Middle Eastern–art expert Fereshteh Daftari, this Arab-Iranian-Turkish show is another first—for both MOA and Canada.


      (May 3 to June 16 at the Western Front)

      The media release on Properties tells us that its artists—Lyndl Hall, Devon Knowles, Erica Stocking, and Erdem Taşdelen—“tarry with the thoughts and histories that live and breathe in the walls and objects that surround us”. Sounds a bit spooky, like a haunted-house movie, but it’s likely the exhibition is about the way objects reverberate with the histories, both personal and political, we invest in them.

      The Draw: Curator Jesse Birch brings a bright vision to the Front’s exhibition program. Everything he organizes is worth our notice.

      Shinsuke Minegishi 

      (May 31 to July 1 at the Burnaby Art Gallery)

      Born in Tokyo and based in Vancouver, the award-winning Minegishi creates works on paper across styles, techniques, and printmaking media. His solo show includes his exquisite wood engravings and limited-edition books, such as Good and Evil in the Garden and Ars Anatomica.

      The Draw: Minegishi is internationally recognized for his extraordinary printmaking and book-media skills, his pursuit of both representational and abstract traditions, and his blending of eastern and western philosophies.

      Natalie Purschwitz 

      (June 15 to July 13 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre)

      The Vancouver-based artist will fill the gallery with examples of her multistranded practice, including installation, performance, and clothing design, as they meet the close observation of daily life. Among the work on view will be evidence of her acclaimed, yearlong MakeShift project, during which she wore only things she made herself (including shoes, socks, and underwear).

      The Draw: Recently returned from a residency in Paris, Purschwitz wraps stones in felt and other fabrics, makes wearable art out of found objects, and examines the cyclical nature of history—all in a way that is smart, hip, and inventive.

      Itee Pootoogook 

      (June 28 to August 25 at the Contemporary Art Gallery and the Yaletown-Roundhouse SkyTrain Station)

      Based in Cape Dorset and a member of a famed art-making family, Itee Pootoogook is best known for his drawings of northern lives and landscape. The CAG show will focus on his large-scale, coloured pencil renderings of land, sea, and sky, oddly bordered or punctuated by evidence of human occupation, such as boats, sleds, footprints, inukshuks, and prefab housing. At the Yaletown station, a much-enlarged drawing will be screened onto a glass wall so that the image will play with degrees of light and shadow.

      The Draw: Pootoogook is a fresh, new voice in the telling of the contemporary Inuit way of life.