This is a season for considering the ongoing impacts of colonialism, on First Nations peoples and later arrivals alike. It’s a time, too, for spotlighting the art for which Vancouver is most famous—photography—while examining our artists’ accomplishments in other media and materials, from graffiti, film, and performance to silver, clay, and argillite.
Witnesses: Art and Canada’s Indian Residential Schools
(until December 1 at the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery)
This powerful group show examines, as its title indicates, the way First Nations artists have been profoundly affected by the cultural legacy of Indian residential schools. It also expresses the capacity of their work to both protest and redress what has occurred, and to illuminate a way forward. Among the 21 individuals represented are Joane Cardinal-Schubert, Alex Janvier, Rebecca Belmore, Beau Dick, Faye HeavyShield, Peter Morin, Skeena Reece, and Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun.
The Draw: Witnesses represents a convergence of voices around one of the most shameful chapters of Canadian history, and is intended to coincide with the Vancouver visit of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
Storms and Bright Skies: Three Centuries of Dutch Landscapes / Inner Realms: Dutch Portraits
(until November 17 at the Burnaby Art Gallery)
The emergence and development of two important Netherlandish art traditions—the landscape and the portrait—are charted in these complementary exhibitions. The first demonstrates an evolving relationship between nature and culture from the early 17th to the late 19th centuries through a selection of works on paper from the collection of the National Gallery of Canada. The second includes drawings, etchings, and oil paintings from the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, and reveals the emergence of a moneyed middle class during and beyond the Dutch Golden Age.
The Draw: A taste of European art history, with an unspoken back story of colonial expansion, for those of us who can’t or won’t make it to the newly renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam.
Anspayaxw: an installation for voice, image, and sound by John Wynne
(September 13 to October 26 at the Satellite Gallery)
Organized by the UBC Museum of Anthropology, this sound and photographic installation documents Gitxsanimaax, an endangered indigenous language. Wynne, a Canadian sound artist based in London, England, has collaborated with linguist Tyler Peterson, artist-photographer Denise Hawrysio, and members of the Gitxsan community at Anspayaxw (Kispiox) in northern British Columbia to create an immersive environment out of moving and still pictures, songs, and oral histories.
The Draw: This complex and engrossing work uses visual and aural portraits of village elders and the artist’s position as an outside researcher to pose questions about ethnographic power dynamics and ownership.
God Save the Queen
(September 15 to October 26 at UNIT/PITT Projects)
“How do you feel about living under the yoke of the British Crown to this day?” That’s the question thrown at this exhibition’s young indigenous and non-Native artists, resulting in a raucous array of answers. They take the form of postapocalyptic sculpture created out of scrap metal, street art mashed with landscape painting, and new-media sound and visual works.
The Draw: Expect Sex Pistols–style interpretations of the lingering colonial weirdness of the monarchy in Canada.
Capture Photography Festival
(October 1 to November 15 at various venues)
By far the biggest and most ambitious visual-art event this season, Capture presents more than 50 photographic exhibitions at museums, galleries, and artist-run centres throughout Metro Vancouver. Also on the slate are photo-based billboards, book launches, film screenings, and Canada Line installations. Intended to honour the internationally renowned Vancouver School of concept-driven photo artists, Capture also covers emerging, commercial, and amateur photographers.
The Draw: Vancouver is overdue for a highly accessible, citywide photography festival. Look for everything from Edward Burtynsky’s monumental “Water” series to Greg Gorman’s celebrity portraits of actors and rock stars.
(October 26 to February 2 at the Vancouver Art Gallery)
The most famous and iconic of historic Haida artists, Charles Edenshaw created a large and consistently beautiful body of work at a time of great sorrow and hardship among his people. Working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when the Haida had been decimated by disease and colonization, Edenshaw not only maintained visual and oral cultural traditions but improvised on them, translating local and imported stories and emblems into elegant designs in silver, argillite, wood, and paint.
The Draw: Billed as the first major survey of Edenshaw’s work, the show includes over 200 objects borrowed from public and private collections around the world.
Keith Rice-Jones: Working the Edge
(November 14 to January 9 at the Evergreen Cultural Centre)
This senior ceramic artist has worked in every style, scale, and degree of functionality, from dishes, bowls, and platters to wall-mounted relief sculptures, floor murals, and towering public commissions. The retrospective examines the wide range of Rice-Jones’s practice together with the natural, philosophical, and historical influences that have shaped his art.
The Draw: We are invited to share the creative journey of a talented West Coast ceramicist whose work has been collected internationally yet who has been, until now, under-acknowledged locally.
Margaret Dragu: Verb Woman: the wall is in my head/a dance of forgetting
(November 17 to January 12 at the Richmond Art Gallery)
How do you do justice to an interdisciplinary artist whose ephemeral performances frequently riff on the unglamorous world of women’s work and the charged condition of their minds and bodies? Margaret Dragu is represented here by newly minted videos, older performance tapes, and props that explore memory and forgetting through both the political and the personal.
The Draw: Despite the accomplishments of her four-decade-long career, this is Dragu’s first solo exhibition in a major gallery. It’s a sign (along with her recent Governor General’s Award) that this creative outsider is now recognized by the art-world establishment.
(December 4 to February 16 at the Charles H. Scott Gallery)
The film works of this internationally acclaimed Canadian artist are shaped by the history of the medium. Lewis pays homage to and deconstructs cinematic language, experimenting with our inclination to attach fictional narratives to moving pictures. His new film, commissioned for the Charles H. Scott Gallery show, was shot on a deserted beach on the west coast of Vancouver Island and employs an ever-closer series of spiral shots to both menace the lone protagonist and draw us into the camera’s voyeuristic powers.
The Draw: Lewis engages his audience by messing with cinematic tropes and devices—in the most elegantly pared-down way.