Lover’s quarrel: Cindy Sherman meets Dzunuk’wa

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Both reading break and Valentine’s Day are considered the right time to make those previously unthought-of chance encounters. Maybe it’s the winter doldrums that push us to step into the unexpected — an opportune excuse to shake things up. Perhaps it is just time to try something new.

That being said, there is an exhibition at the Satellite Gallery which started on Feb. 14 with a similar concept in mind: Cindy Sherman meets Dzunuk’wa is a collective exhibit culled from the private collection of Satellite Gallery founder Michael O’Brian, and his wife Inna Vlassev O’Brian.

As the title of the show implies, more than 40 works were selected without regard to possible historical, cultural or thematic assemblages, in order to place the individual pieces in close proximity to their proposed aesthetic soulmates — without rejecting the odd lovers’ quarrel, either.

Cindy Sherman’s painted nails and made-up face are another clue that she isn’t quite meant to be the girl-next-door.

The juxtaposition of the two title pieces are a case in point. On the one hand, Cindy Sherman looks out from her “Untitled” c-print self-portrait from 2002/4 wearing a leopard print shirt that covers a distinctive, soon-to-be motherly figure. Her painted nails and made-up face are another clue that she isn’t quite meant to be the girl-next-door.

The piece is characteristic of the artist’s exploration of female gender roles as well as her particular style: halfway between garish and graceful.

On the adjacent wall is hung her ill-fated twin, “Dzunuk’wa, the Wild Woman of the Woods,” a large red-cedar mask sculpted by Kwakwaka’wakw artist Beau Dick in 2012. Here, the horse hair mane and puckered red lips remind us of the giant’s hunger for human children and her self-conscious attempt at seduction. Not such a far cry from what Sherman is alluding to, but with quite a different sense for the otherworldly.

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Chosen by a curatorial quartet that includes Cate Rimmer (Charles H. Scott Gallery), Keith Wallace (Morris and Helen Belkin Gallery, UBC), Karen Duffek (Museum of Anthropology, UBC) and Helga Pakasaar (Presentation House Gallery), the intent was to mimic the process of building a private collection through fortuitous relationships.

While most artistic comparisons are meant to be in close proximity within the various zones of the gallery, some concordances span the entire showroom area, as a long-distance couple would time and space. These were my favourite pieces in the show.

The first is a square assemblage by Brian Jungen found on the wall near the gallery entrance. Titled “Blanket No.9”, the artist combines two professional sport jerseys to create an abstract weave motif of geometric design.

At the opposite end of the gallery can be found another textile work that draws you in with its finesse: the Jacquard tapestry “Self-Portrait” by Chuck Close. The artist’s impressive gaze is matched only by the viewer’s pleasure at unraveling the multiplicity of threads that meander from one piece to the next.

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