buddeepal (buddeepal) wrote in bcculturecritiq,

Rodney Graham Exhibit in Vancouver Art Gallery

Rodney Graham is an artist who arrived in Vancouver via Abbotsford, British Columbia. Hence his ironic representation of the City Self/Country Self film at the exhibit currently at the Vancouver Art Gallery and his fascination with the idyllic and bucolic elements of life rendered through various elements of this selfsame exhibit, which will also be shown at the Institute of Contemporary Art in the University of Pennsylvania from 10 September – 23 December 2005. Having had the good fortune to peruse this exhibit yesterday, I was struck by the elemental force of Graham’s vision. A Little Thought is the aptly named albeit understated title of the exhibit. Upon entering the gallery from the rotunda one is greeted with a double frame of the ostensibly fishing artist facing away from the water in whose background sits the Vancouver city skyline. A Can of Worms—a cameo of which comprises one of the tinier of illustrated graphics among the many that line the walls of the exhibit—sits beside him on the stone wall of the jetty. As is the case with all of Graham's works there is a surreal vividness in the contrasting color and an intensity of effect that is visually stunning. Whether it is the dazzling digital visual panoramic Caribbean aura of the island adventure so amusingly like a buccaneer’s version of the myth of Sisyphus titled with characteristic irony, Vexation Island or the intentionally frustrating incoherence of the 35 mm dual projected LoudHailer, an RCMP officer shouting out orders over a bullhorn from the pontoons of a floatplane with the majestic view of the coast mountain range as a vast and impassive backdrop, Graham’s film work assails the senses with a visual and auditory wall of sight and sound that is as spectacular and stirring as it is mentally-stimulating and emotionally charged. A Reverie Interrupted by the Police entangles convict and cop in a fixated frenzy of entertainment that moves with all the relentless energy of a handcuffed prisoner in the throes of an appassionato while under the vigilant eye of the long arm of the law. The audience reads the raw intensity and ruptured regularity that mark the effects of incessant incarceration in every subtle keystroke, in every nuanced unmet glance between guard and felon. This, along with much of the film work of Graham is the high art of an audacious avatar locked inside the mind of a tormented atavist—the looping iteration, a feature of the display, confirming that escape is as much a matter of the degree of internal imprisonment as it is the extent of one’s external boundaries. Such an interpretation does not disqualify the narrow semi-circular cobblestone avenue that forms the setting of City Self/Country Self as an ambience most cleverly constructed to augment and enhance the contours of antipathy elevated about its theme of an essentially urbane urban contempt for an unintentionally uncultivated, yet intrinsically unrefined ethos. Costume design plays an integral part, and to get the full drift of the acerbic quick-wittedness of this fine piece of picturesque and piquant footwork, is to wear one’s soul well-heeled, to coin a phrase. Numerous other films line the walls and inhabit the rooms of this fine exhibition. Overused cliché expressions like “feast for the senses” does not come close to capturing the spirit of the vision communicated both visually and in an auditory manner through the recordings, sculptures, videos and stills created by this contemporary genius of modern art. Rodney Graham is one artist whose endeavor to structure his world reaches out to embrace the sensual and natural elements that subsist beyond the human psyche on the edges of frontiers found only by irregular observation of a spatial and ineffably supernal sonar. To measure his contribution is to meander out of depth.
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