Opening this weekend at the Vancouver Art Gallery is Juxtapoz x Superflat—the sweet and slightly demented curatorial lovechild of acclaimed artist Takashi Murakami and Editor-in-Chief of Juxtapoz Art & Culture, Evan Pricco. The exhibition is on view from November 5th through February 5th, 2017, and begs an afternoon’s worth viewing for art lovers and casual internet browsers alike. Juxtapoz x Superflat accomplishes a truly respectable feat: creating an accessible portal for the appreciation of “high-art” technique melded with “low-art” content.
The show is equally weighted between wall art and sculpture, along with two splendid video pieces—all which will hypnotize you if you’re not careful. Featuring over 30 artists from Korea, China, Europe, the US, and Canada, Juxtapoz x Superflat offers an empathetic snapshot of contemporary art. As co-curator Evan Pricco states, standing in front of a massive site-specific mural that has been transplanted into the VAG, the works in this show, especially as they pertain to skateboarding and graffiti, are not a retrospective. We aren’t looking backwards at the greatness which we’ve passed, we’re looking in the face the genius that surrounds us today.
Picco and Murakami described the show as though one were “walking through the internet”. The colours, the content, the orientation of each gallery space—viewers are at first surprised, then a little perturbed, and then delighted. The show is sure to appeal to just about everyone, speaking in themes of graffiti, skate and surf culture, Appalachian hippie culture, painting, and the bastardization of your favourite childhood characters.
Chiho Aoshima’s Little Miss Gravestone’s Absent Musings (2016) is one of the highlights of the exhibition. Hung low on the wall to stare into the faces of kids that walk through, the (absolutely stunning, beautifully haunting) animation and song that is queued by motion detectors is at first lulling, if eerie. The style of animation is reminiscent of the well-loved video game Animal Crossing, as are the whimsical (but dark) tunes, and upon closer inspection, the video becomes truly unnerving. Its serenity and inconspicuous darkness position it as a 1 to 1 representation of every other internet video that passes through your Facebook timeline.
Elizabeth Higgins O’Connor’s sculptures reside in the rotunda on the 3rd floor, and live somewhere between a nightmare and an incredible theme park. The sculptures, 15 feet in height, are forged from found materials: bedding, linens, styrofoam, cardboard—and strike a fascinating balance between detail and empty spaces. We meet and interact with the sculptures as if they're completely whole and pure, not a combination of disparate household materials. The heads are out of proportion with the bodies, and the facial expressions are so human—standing in the presence of these sculptures is to look upon sheer mastery.
Lastly, poignantly, He Xiangyu’s The Death of Marat (2011) dutifully reminds viewers of the state of arts and speech in China. Referencing the 1793 The Death of Marat by Jacques-Louis David, the sculpture depicts internationally acclaimed artist Ai Wei Wei face down on the floor. While in North America, one would get into a small fist fight over a handful of Ai Wei Wei’s sunflower seeds from the Tate Turbine Hall; in China, the artist is near villainous for his artistic practice and critiques of the government. David’s painting depicts the dead body of Jean-Paul Marat, a french revolutionary, after he’d been stabbed while in the bathtub by Girondin Charlotte Corday, who’s political affiliations blamed Marat for the September Massacre of 1792. Tellingly, Xiangyu’s foreboding but hopefully not foreshadowing sculpture highlights fears of history repeating itself.
Juxtapoz x Superflat, dare I say it, rivals MashUp—not in scale, but in attitude, and in passion for the preservation and progression of politically charged contemporary art.
Find more information about the opening reception and opening hours here. We love you, VAG!