Thursday, January 27, 2011

Words, Pictures, Etc: Ron Terada Article Out in Today's Toronto Star

Words... pictures.... why do I even bother trying to make these puppies fit together? I'm not really sure. Art criticism (and sometimes art itself) is weird that way, trying to use one genre of expression to describe another. Not quite hopeless but not quite as worthy an endeavour as I once thought it was, I guess.

Such is the navel-gazing that stupefies my brain as I consider my article on Ron Terada's current Toronto show that was published in today's Star. Like, 20 years of work, 700 words to compress it into, let me try and level these things out. I don't really think I did the greatest job. But it was fun to talk with Terada, and, as usual, the privilege of talking to the artist helped me understand the work a lot better than I thought I might have. An excerpt:

For someone with an exhibition titled “Who I Think I Am,” Vancouver artist Ron Terada is surprisingly reluctant, at first, to be photographed. Granted, the Star’s photo session is a last-minute surprise and Terada ultimately warms up to the idea.

Still, one wonders: Amid all this self-referentiality, where is Terada’s, erm, self?

Sitting in Soundtrack for an Exhibition, a pseudo rec-room artwork with a playlist ranging from Urge Overkill to Vampire Weekend, Terada explains that he sees identity as more composite (and indeed mixtape-like) than a single-shot deal.

“A lot of what I’m interested in is content that exists outside of myself,” he says. “But by selecting or acknowledging content, or elevating it, it says something about you. So does the stuff that you reject. The choices you make determine who you are.”

Accordingly, “Who I Think I Am,” a solo exhibition at Barnicke Gallery, highlights some of the key choices that have defined Terada over the past 20 years. There’s the large-scale canvases of gallery ads that launched his career in the early 1990s, just a couple of years out of Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. There’s the forays into industrial signage, like 2002’s highway-side Entering City of Vancouver and the 2003 neon logo Big Star. And then there’s Jack, a series of minimal 2010 paintings that reproduce the notoriously frank memoirs of late, troubled L.A. artist Jack Goldstein.

You can read the rest of the article here.

Here's a couple of things I thought were interesting that I didn't manage to get into the article:

1) Leah finally has her "aha" moment with Terada's Entering the City of Vancouver signs! As Terada explained to me, the sign of course references ideas of Vancouver art, or art ideas about Vancouver, among other things. And the idea of reproducing the sign is "You don't have to enter into it. You can reject it. You can turn around and walk away from it. All it is meant to be is a boundary marker so you can decide whether you want to go there or not." Got it now.

1a) Interestingly, Terada points out in the show (by using reproductions of these signs rather than the sculptural version) that his Entering the City of Vancouver work has become a bit of a sign for Vancouver art in itself. There's a lot of this double-edged quality in his work, of creating something that is both a continuation and a critique of its source material, both inside and outside.

2) The catalogue for this exhibition is supercrazy. In keeping with Terada's somewhat appropriative oeuvre each page borrows its design from a photograph of a page of a different art book. Fonts, picture sizes and such are matched to the source document even as the actual text and images themselves change. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are a design nerd. Looks like a crazy amount of work.

If you want to go see the show--it's final stop after Banff and Birmhingham--it's up to March 20 at the Barnicke.

(Image of Ron Terada's The Words Don't Fit the Picture--actually not in the Barnicke show--from the City of Vancouver)


Ingrid Mida said...

It is so interesting to read these extra bits about your interviews with artists. I feel like I gain so much insight into the world of the art critic. Too bad they don't give you more print space in the paper.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Ingrid,
I don't mean to sound complainy. If anything, I'm complainy about my own ability to be concise. If I was more concise and more articulate, I could say more with the space available. So... thank goodness for blogs, where I have more space to be inarticulate and squeeze in some other good stuff!