Spring Arts Preview: Shakespeare, Sankofa, and Serrano add sizzle to visual arts

In April, the Capture Photography Festival will fill the city with lens-based art

    1 of 9 2 of 9

      This is shaping up as quite a memorable year for lovers of visual arts in Vancouver. And we’re not even through February yet.

      There’s a first edition of William Shakespeare’s Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies already on display at the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is also hosting an exhibition of Yoko Ono’s work.

      The Museum of Anthropology at UBC has the blockbuster Sankofa exhibition, which weaves together the works of African and Black Canadian artists, along with a large serving of context. Anyone interested in exploring the complex relationship between contemporary art by Black Canadians and pieces created in Africa needs to see this show, which is cocurated by MOA curator Nuno Porto, UBC PhD candidate Titilope Salami, and Nya Lewis, founder of BlackArt Gastown.

      Over at the Petley Jones Gallery, there are three Group of Seven artists' work included in the Canadian Historical Work: Romancing The Landscape exhibition. The three being shown are Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. Macdonald, A. Y. Jackson. But you better get over there quickly because it ends on Thursday (February 24). That will be followed by an exhibition of Duncan Regehr's work from March 3 to 24.

      Over at the rennie museum in the Wing Sang Building in Chinatown, works from three influential photographers—Larry Clark, Katy Grannan, and the often controversial Andres Serrano—will be presented in a single show in March. Serrano actually never called himself a photographer; he studied painting and sculpture and considers himself an artist with a camera. He has generated outrage at different times with his images of sex, burn victims, and the morgue, to name a few subjects that have attracted his eye.

      We seek beauty in things, places, and people, almost as if we’re hardwired to do so. The visual arts is one domain where beauty often thrives. And there’s a lot of that in the city this spring, including at the upcoming Capture Photography Festival, which is at many locations around the city in April.

      Here’s just a snapshot of what’s available around town over the next couple of months.


      Sankofa: African Routes, Canadian Roots

      Museum of Anthropology at UBC (until March 27)

      Sankofa derives its name from the Ghanaian Akan language, incorporating the notion of moving forward while reaching back to connect to one’s heritage. It’s the ideal name for this exhibition, which draws connections to historical contributions and the growing vitality of Canadians of Black heritage through works by contemporary artists from Africa and Vancouver. 

      Photo by Keith McMillan ©Yoko Ono

      Yoko Ono: Growing Freedom

      Vancouver Art Gallery (until May 1)

      This show features two parts. “The instructions of Yoko Ono” delves into Ono’s artistic process, reflecting her radical and unconventional approach. The exhibited works include pieces that require visitors to actually complete the work, according to the VAG, in pieces such as MEND PIECE, 1966; PAINTING TO HAMMER A NAIL, 1966; and MY MOMMY IS BEAUTIFUL, 1997.

      UBC president Santa Ono announced on January 12 that the university now owns a complete first edition of William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.
      UBC Library Communications

      For All Time: The Shakespeare FIRST FOLIO

      Vancouver Art Gallery (until March 20)

      This exhibition offers Vancouverites a chance to not only take a peek at the first edition of Shakespeare’s comedies, histories, and tragedies, but it also offers insights into what life was like in London more than 400 years ago.

      Canadian Historical Work: Romancing The Landscape

      Petley Jones Gallery (until February 24)

      The 2245 Granville Street gallery celebrates the works of Canadian artists who have shared their love of the country’s breathtaking landscapes with the world through their works: Clarence Gagnon, Arthur Lismer, J. E. H. Macdonald, A. Y. Jackson, Henri Masson, Llewellyn Petley-Jones, and Robert Pilot. As mentioned above, Lismer, Macdonald, and Jackson were all part of the original Group of Seven Canadian artists.

      Duncan Regehr typically creates a series of works under a common theme or philosophy.
      Petley Jones Gallery

      Duncan Regehr: The Journey

      Petley Jones Gallery (March 3 to 24)

      The multitalented Regehr has enjoyed success as a figure skater, writer, film and TV actor, Shakespearean stage performer, and multimedia artist. "Each painting of the Journey series conveys a specific moment that is a representation of an inner journey," Regehr writes in his artist statement about his show at the Petley Jones Gallery. "Whether it is a journey of fate, a dream journey or a metaphysical journey, subjects are travellers on their way from one place to another or have arrived at a crucial moment of destiny."

      rennie museum

      Collected Works

      rennie museum (March 12 to May 28)

      Dozens of images from three celebrated American artists—Larry Clark, Katy Grannan, and Andres Serrano—are going to generate a lot of chatter this spring. This exhibition carries a warning: some of the content may be offensive, including images of suffering related to torture, death, adolescent drug use and gunplay, sex, religious references, and white supremacism.


      Richmond Art Gallery (until April 3)

      Artist duo Mizzonk (Wan-Yi Lin and Roger Chen) and Jane Wong explore themes around the very basic human compulsion to seek nourishment in order to survive.

      The Brig, Normandy, France, 1858, by Gustave Le Gray, is part of the Cloud Album exhibition that's coming to the Polygon Gallery.

      Cloud Album

      Polygon Gallery (March 11 to May 1)

      The exhibition features 250 photographs, image albums, and books that present a history of how scientists, artists, and amateurs have been able to capture the endless variability of clouds.

      P.Mansaram: The Medium is the Medium is the Medium

      Surrey Art Gallery (until March 20)

      Text and image play off each other in this collection of drawings, paintings, collage, sculptures, photocopies, silkscreen prints, and films spanning more than five decades of the late Canadian artist Panchal Mansaram, who liked to write his name without a space, thus P.Mansaram.

      Shawn Hunt: The First Moonrise

      Equinox Art Gallery (until March 19)

      The show continues Shawn Hunt’s exploration of Heiltsuk cosmologies through shapeshifters and supernatural figures that move between the human and spirit realms.

      Sara Cwynar's Umi, 2022 will be shown on the B.C. Hydro Dal Grauer Substation from April 2022 to March 2023.
      Installation mock-up: Jocelyne Junker/Capture

      Capture Photography Festival

      Various locations (April 1 to 29)

      With public art, exhibitions at many locations, and various events, this annual festival offers a wide variety of choices for anyone with an interest in lens-based art. One of the highlights will be Sara Cwynar's Umi, 2022, which will appear on the B.C. Hydro Dal Grauer Substation wall on Burrard Street. Family Album will include the work of several lens-based artists in the Pendulum Gallery from March 21 to April 14. And Pattison Outdoor is making seven of its billboards available for public art along the Arbutus Greenway from March 25 to May 1 for works by Miranda Barnes. 

      Dan Starling: Unsettled Histories

      Burnaby Art Gallery (until April 17)

      Interdisciplinary artist Dan Starling showcases drypoint prints with Rembrandt’s renowned work Christ Crucified Between the Two Thieves: The Three Crosses (1653) as starting point.