Monthly Archives: October 2014

Art at Alcatraz…

….I’m not kidding.

I’ve never wanted to visit Alcatraz.  I don’t understand the appeal.  The Art Caravan pulled into San Francisco last week, and was offered the opportunity to tour Alcatraz.  Thank goodness a friend  mentioned the art show at Alcatraz or I probably wouldn’t have gone.

What a loss that would have been.  To put it plainly, this is one of the best exhibitions I have ever seen.  Ever.  Really.

The art show is actually a series of installations by the contemporary Chinese artist, Ai Weiwei.  He is considered to be as much  activist, as well as  artist.

There are seven different installations. Weiwei deals with the ideas of confinement, repression, and suppression.  He uses a variety of materials: sound, porcelain, recycled metals and playthings (Lego, and kites.)

He has been critical of his government, and is currently unable to leave China.  His re-purposing of the different spaces in the prison is most remarkable, when one considers he was not able to visit Alcatraz.

The artwork is very site specific.  His use of individual cell blocks as ‘sound booths’ for broadcasting was extremely moving.  One cell was filled with  classical music written by the Czech/Jewish composer, Haas, while interred at Terezin concentration camp.  Each cell had a different musician, poet or speaker.

I wasn’t actually able to enter the psychiatric holding cells,  The sound and space were too powerful for me.

The last installation I saw was remarkable.  It is composed of recycled metal, including solar panels.  It is like a giant winged creature, contained in a space.  One views is from a narrow, poorly lit corridor.

@Large: Ai Weiwei on Alcatraz is on view until April 26, 2015.



More “df” painting in Vancouver….

…at the Elissa Cristall Gallery.  The artwork, by Eric Louie,  immediately grabbed my attention (despite the cute Scottish terrier padding around the space.)  They are vaguely landscape-ish, and definitely architectural.  The colour palette is striking: mostly cool, with the imposition of unexpected accents.  The paint is beautifully blended. Polka dots and dashes are used judiciously.

The work seems controlled, and planned, but with a particular sense of softness, despite all the sharp angles. Once or twice a drip of paint is allowed, not marring the surface, but completing it.

Eric Louie was born in the U.S. and now lives in Vancouver.  But guess where he had his first art lessons?  Yes, Winnipeg.  As a child, he took classes at the Winnipeg Art Gallery Studio programs.  There it is again–Winnipeg as an incubator for visual artists.

You’re not really surprised, are you?


Damn fine paintings!

On a recent visit to Vancouver, The Art Caravan visited the Vancouver Art Gallery.  Sadly, the Cardiff/Miller show, Lost in the Memory Palace, (see August 4 blog entry) was in the tear down/crating stage.  (Just imagine their storage issues!)

I decided to take a quick walk through the two painting shows on display….and ended up spending an enjoyable hour or two looking at some great paintings.  Painted Past:  A History of Canadian Painting from the Collection and Emily Carr & Landon Mackenzie: Woo Chopper and the Monkey both feature strong Canadian paintings.

So….who is Landon Mackenzie?  She is a Vancouver based painter, and art professor at Emily Carr University of Art + Design.  (You know she’s the ‘real deal’ in Canadian art because she’s been interviewed by Bill Richardson, Vicky Gabereau AND Nora Yonge, those staples of Canadian public radio!)  Early in her career, her paintings were justifiably purchased by major collections, like the Art Gallery of Ontario.  Her early works are huge; many of the Lost River series are 6.5 x 7.5 feet.

The most surprising thing about this show, for me, was the Emily Carr work.  Now, we all know who Emily Carr is…..grande dame (wouldn’t she laugh?!) of Canadian painting.  I’ve seen a few Emily Carr paintings in my day (see April 30 blog posting) BUT I was blown away by the powerful paintings displayed here.  Wow.  This is Emily Carr at her finest.

Kudos to the VAG for two very strong, non-blockbuster, Canadian content shows.  (And, yes! They have a great cafeteria.)


Airport art

West Ride Story

No, it’s not an oxymoron. Next time you’re in an airport, look around…look up…..and look down, too.

This is a piece that always makes me smile.  I seek it out in the Calgary airport. It’s called West Ride Story by Alexandra Haeseker.  (It’s in the domestic Air Canada concourse, conveniently located opposite a Starbuck’s.)  Are we really surprised that Ms Haeseker is a printmaker, too?

It took me a while to track down the artist, as the name of the artwork and the artist are embedded in brass plaques in the floor.  (Thank you Calgary Airport Authority!)

It’s an interesting piece, as it grabs our attention with the neon colours, and large scale.  (Why use blatantly artificial colours….on figures we know are made of plastic?)

The subject matter is immediately appealing: drawing us back to childhood, play, and the good ol’ days.  (Hmmm….  Were they so good?  What about the past, and current state of relationships between Canadians and the First Nations people?)

Art that makes you smile, and think, and think think.  It helps to ease the contemporary air travel experience.  (Now if only they’d give us a little more leg room…..)