Critics’ Picks

Ian Wallace, The Imperial City, 1986, four gelatin silver prints, Plexiglas, each 97  x 24".

Ian Wallace, The Imperial City, 1986, four gelatin silver prints, Plexiglas, each 97 x 24".


“C.1983 Part II”

Presentation House Gallery
333 Chesterfield Avenue
March 23–May 6, 2012

It is surprising how fresh an exhibition of film and photography from 1980s Vancouver can feel. It is even more startling, however, that over the intervening decades, the social, political, and even, to a certain degree, artistic concerns have remained the same. The lesser-known works of Share Corsaut, for example, whose colored photograms on view date from 1981, seem to anticipate current trends in abstract photography. Henri Robideau’s photograph July 23, 1983, Giant Crowd of 50,000 People . . . , 1983, documents a massive protest against government cutbacks that reads as particularly apropos in the age of the Occupy movement.

A number of pieces interrogate and juxtapose a past or potential future with the present. Ian Wallace’s Imperial City, 1986, consists of four gelatin silver prints arranged horizontally, with the two outer black-and-white prints depicting Roman sculptures, while the inner archival images of an early-twentieth-century West Coast city are covered with orange Plexiglas. The images thus contrast the aesthetics of imperial Rome with the rustic style of frontier towns. Rodney Graham’s Millennial Project for an Urban Plaza, 1986, a scale model of an oversize camera obscura and accompanying proposal, shows the viewer a work that has not yet been realized but, one can hope, might still be produced. Accompanying the exhibition, documentarian Anu Sahota has collaged ninety minutes of mid-’80s local television coverage from the CBC archives. In one program, a reporter interviews an artist about gentrification and how it may threaten available studio spaces, allowing the entire exhibition to serve as an object lesson for the expression plus ça change . . .