Canadian Art, Winter 2002, Vol. 19, No. 4, p. 84.
Glyptomania: The First Vancouver Sculpture Show of the 21st Century sets an exciting precedent in the city. The exhibition consists of 22 works by 14 mid-career to senior artists living and working in British Columbia: Mowry Baden, Roland Brener, Daniel L. Laskarin, Liz Magor, Warren Murfitt, Jerry Pethick, Elspeth Pratt, Richard Prince, George Rammell, Geoffrey Smedley, Greg Snider, Alan Storey, Grant Watson and Robert Youds.
Occupying 10,000 square feet in Simon Fraser University's Bartlett Exhibition and Performance Space, the range of work is vast and eclectic. Despite its variety, however, continuity emerges. The objects in the show point to the technical hardware and labour that maintain the virtual fictions of the post-colonial global village,and dilemmas inherited from British Columbia's colonial and industrial past surface repeatedly.
Greg Snider, a visual arts instructor at Simon Fraser and the show's organizer, frames the exhibition with two works of his own—Concrete Progress and Project for a Mall (both 2002). Theatrical tableaux of prefabricated elements (wheelbarrows and a concrete mixer suspended by pillars of concrete that spew onto the floor, a plow that peels back the plywood flooring to reveal farm soil) speak of the labour-fuelled generic modernization of British Columbia and the staple resource economies that perpetuate it. Viewers experience the pieces in relation to their own bodies, and the works' performative, phenomenological aspects are complicated by a semiotic play of medium and construction process.
Alan Storey's Circular Wind Tunnel (1992) provides an eloquent model of sustainability. A large tunnel of wood containing toy grass is suspended from an aluminum and stainless steel structure, with air propelled through the tunnel by a single hidden fan. The utopic model of economic expenditure it presents is both mesmerizing and melancholic when applied to the reality of BC land and resource use. Works by Elspeth Pratt also hinge on an economy of means that speaks of fragility and balance. In Arsenic and Lace (1997) a complex compositional structure is maintained between the paper-product ephemera of corrugated cardboard and a string of pearls. With Tube (2001), Liz Magor provides what looks like a rolled-up rug or a log-but which isn't either. Its presence on the floor is irresistibly anthropomorphic-an uncanny corpse.
An awkward conundrum for critical curatorial practices in Vancouver over the last 30 years has been conceptual art's dematerialization of the art object. Sculpture here has suffered some neglect because of it. This has begun to change with the impact of younger artists such as Brian Jungen, Myfanwy MacLeod and Rhonda Weppler, sculptors who are all beginning to achieve international profiles.
"Glyptomania" provides a rare opportunity to view the recent work of artists who represent many other unacknowledged histories of practice and intention to which the new sculptural renaissance in Vancouver owes much.