Summer 2021 Gallery Guide

Five art exhibitions to check out in and around Vancouver

From collages to contemporary art, these galleries have a lot to offer. Composite: Brianna Quan / The Peak

By: Paige Smith, Peak Associate

Contemporary Art Gallery | Archival – for Rosario Cooper and my 10 year old self | Free | On until August 22

Image courtesy of SITE Photography
Image courtesy of SITE Photography

A cornerstone of the Vancouver art scene, the Contemporary Art Gallery focuses on programming the best of contemporary visual artists. The gallery has exhibited the first solo shows of many acclaimed Vancouver artists, such as Stan Douglas and Rodney Graham, and it continues to present boundary-pushing artwork.

An off-site public installation, Archival – for Rosario Cooper and my 10 year old self covers the surface of the Yaletown-Roundhouse SkyTrain station in archival documents and photographs about Indigenous cultures and languages. Obispeño Chumash and Hispanic artist Christine Howard Sandoval present digital scans of these documents, enlarging and collaging the pages. This destabilizes the traditionally orderly archive. Calling to question the power of colonialism, Howard Sandoval’s work refuses the archive’s power to control documented histories through a settler lens.

Centre A | Speech Acts | Free | On until August 28

Image courtesy of Centre A
Image courtesy of @zainubverjee via Twitter

Located in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, Centre A was Canada’s first public art gallery dedicated to contemporary Asian and Asian-diasporic perspectives. Tucked away inside the Sun Wah Centre, Centre A is a treasure of the Vancouver art scene, previously presenting works by Yoko Ono, Vanessa Kwan, and the Hong Kong Exile group.

Speech Acts examines how language performs and how it fails us. Artist Zainub Verjee engages with issues of resistance and discourse through speech, listening, and writing. Verjee questions how vocabularies are appropriated, pointing to terms such as “reconciliation” and “diversity and inclusion.” Verjee was born in Kenya and works in Vancouver. She has a long history of working in Afro-Asian solidarity as an artist and programmer. Verjee co-founded In Visible Colours with Lorraine Chan, an international film festival and symposium featuring works by women of colour. She also helped support the start of Asian Heritage Month Society in Vancouver alongside the late Jim Wong-Chu and Paul Wong.

New Media Gallery | MirNs | Free | On until August 1

Image courtesy of Vancouver Presents
Image courtesy of Kevin McConnell / The Tyee

The New Media Gallery often represents the future of contemporary art. New media works are designed or produced through mediums that rely on computers for redistribution. Examples include video games and cyborg art.

A group exhibition featuring an assortment of international artists, MirNs was designed to explore how machines see visitors who enter the gallery. Guests directly interact with the works. The mirroring machines then reflect human diversity through their technologies. The works draw from the time-honoured question: “what is the essence of humans?” In a time of exponential technological growth, questions like this seem critical.

Museum of Vancouver | A Seat at the Table | $0-10 | On until January 2022

Image courtesy of The Georgia Straight
Image courtesy of Museum of Vancouver

Though not an art gallery, the Museum of Vancouver (MOV) often features works and exhibitions of contemporary artists. Their goal is to create “a deeper understanding of Vancouver through stories, objects, and shared experiences.”

In their feature exhibition A Seat at the Table, the MOV examines the “historical and contemporary stories of Chinese-Canadians in BC” through the lens of food and restaurant culture. Included in the exhibition is an interactive shadow installation by Mere Phantoms. The work invites viewers to indulge in a “shadow buffet,” where paper cut-outs cast food item shadows onto tabletops. It encourages viewers to create their own food histories.

Pendulum Gallery | Constructed Identities | Free | On until August 20

Image courtesy of Jana Skala
Image courtesy of Della McCreary

Named after the giant metal block that swings above it, the Pendulum Gallery is a private non-profit gallery operating in the atrium of the HSBC Building. Often showing works that may not be suitable for strictly visual art venues, Pendulum’s mandate includes showcasing underrepresented art communities in Vancouver.

A solo exhibition of prominent Canadian artist Persimmon Blackbridge, Constructed Identities examines how disability is perceived as breaking from ordinary life, rather than its own version of normal. Blackbridge is a writer and artist who identifies as a lesbian, feminist, and person with a disability. In this exhibition, she uses mixed media wood carving and mundane found objects to create sculptures of human figures. The found objects are items people usually throw away or consider junk, creating a metaphor for how disability is treated.