Saturday, June 29, 2013

Two Exhibitions

On Thursday Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery opened three exhibitions -- Kay Rosen in the windows, Monika Sosnowska in the larger gallery and Itee Pootoogook in the smaller one.

Sosnowska, who is from Warsaw, gives us a series of abstracted sculptural works that bear traces of past figuration. Whether this abstraction is born from a transformation (Poland's passage from a Soviet bloc country to a participant in the global capitalist mode) or a degradation (the ruination of a worker's utopia) is debatable.

Pootoogook, who is from Cape Dorset, Nunavit, works in coloured pencils and paper, and has largely chosen the town's exterior buildings as his subject (this in contrast to another Pootoogook -- Annie -- whose best-known works focus on the town's interior, and at times psychosexual, spaces). Also worth noting is the embossed stamp in the corner of his paper surfaces, a mark that tells you that the paper was made not in Cape Dorset but sold there -- at what I am told is a price much higher than what you would pay for it down south.

While Sosnowska and Pootoogook make seductive, eye-catching work, what looms large over the two exhibitions, what draws them together, as it were, is the works' relationship to the economic systems they are both born from and subject to. Sosnowska's sculptures imply the passage from one system (socialist) to another (capitalist), while the embossed stamp in Pootoogook's paper is less a sign that the paper was sanctioned by Cape Dorset's company store "brand" than a reminder of another modal transition (this one from feudalism to capitalism).

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