Saturday, December 1, 2012

A New Sign in Town

Nathan Coley's current exhibition at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery includes an illuminated sign -- WE MUST CULTIVATE OUR GARDEN -- atop the Pennsylvania Hotel at the corner of Hastings and Carrall. Re-opened in 2009, the Pennsylvania is comprised of 44 studio apartments, in addition to support services for its low-income residents. (The above photo, by Liz Nall and Bella Edgely, is of the sign's installation in Paris.)

This is the second text work on a block that already features Martin Creed's EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT atop the Wing Sang Building around the corner, an earlier -- and permanent -- commission by real estate marketeer/art collector Bob Rennie.

In 2010, Vancouver-based artist Kathy Slade attempted a call-and-response with the Creed work through the installation of her Pablo Ferro-inspired IS EVERYTHING GOING TO BE ALRIGHT? sign in the window of the SFU School for the Contemporary Art's Audain Gallery. Of course Coley's is the more subtle of the two, supplying not a question, like those asked at a place of higher learning (the Audain is also a "teaching gallery"), but a generative conclusion, in this case drawn from the last line of Voltaire's Candide.

The Pennsylvania is a site of social housing; the Wing Sang houses Rennie, his private businesses and his extensive art collection. Yet while the differences between these two buildings and the roles they play add specific weight to our readings of their signs, they are not necessarily representative of extreme positions but, provided we CULTIVATE OUR GARDEN carefully, respectfully, a potential complement, what some might consider ALRIGHT.

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