Vancouver Sun

Vancouver Art Gallery exhibition tells the unique history of B.C.

Modern in the Making: Post-war Craft and Design in British Columbia conveys stories of post-war life found woven into modernist designs

- BY INES MIN POSTMEDIA CONTENT WORKS PHOTOS IAN LEFEBVRE VANCOUVER ART GALLERY

With B.C. residents vacationin­g closer to home this summer, it’s the perfect time to learn more about the province’s unique history. A new exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery offers a fascinatin­g entry point into B.C.’S past through the stories of rare objects: post-war modernist designs.

Modern in the Making: Postwar Craft and Design in British Columbia features more than 300 items by 134 artists, including jewellery, weavings, textiles and furniture. Covering a 30-year period from 1945, the exhibition takes an inclusive look at the design trends that shaped the era.

“The exhibition is quite timely for its sense of materialit­y and making,” says Daina Augaitis, interim director of the Vancouver Art Gallery. “During the pandemic, people have been returning to practices like bread-making, sewing and looking at one’s living space. There’s an increased consciousn­ess about the objects in our lives, the meanings they hold and the pleasure they bring us.”

Many of the designs use materials that were abundant after the end of World War II. Bent plywood, once used for warplane manufactur­ing, was adapted into a ready resource for furniture. The exhibition traces a trajectory from the highly functional pieces of the 1950s to the radical, eclectic stylings of the 1970s.

The mid-century modern aesthetic feels surprising­ly contempora­ry, as the minimalist and abstract tenets of the period have become popular once more. Most of the items come from storied provenance: co-curator Allan Collier saved an item from being thrown out, as the owner didn’t know what to do with the piece. Other objects in the exhibition were found by happenstan­ce: a conversati­on with a jeweller led to a previously unknown collection of jewellery by influentia­l curator Doris Shadbolt.

Visitors may recognize other local artists in the exhibition, such as architect Peter Cotton and Hollywood swimsuit designer Rose Marie Reid — but also potter Wayne Ngan and famed Haida artist Bill Reid.

“The West Coast received influences from a lot of different places in the world,” says Augaitis. “Modernism from Europe, the American aesthetic from draft dodgers, values from Asia — and of course the Indigenous peoples, the very foundation of culture in B.C. This exhibition is one of the very first in Canada to include Indigeneit­y in a survey of the modern movement.”

The exhibition opens with a basket by Nuu-chah-nulth weaver Nellie Jacobson and features works by others who helped revitalize Indigenous culture after the potlatch ban was lifted in 1951 — including Ellen Neel, the first female Kwakwakaðw­akw carver.

Local and internatio­nal influences are seen coalescing in stunning designs woven into baskets, engraved into metalwork, and threaded into textiles made by Indigenous and non-indigenous creators alike.

“The post-war period saw a lot of creative cross-pollinatio­n. It was an interdisci­plinary moment, when people shared not only their methodolog­ies but also a collective optimism about the future. There was excitement about innovation and this exhibition captures the timelessne­ss of B.C. designs.”

Visit vanartgall­ery.bc.ca to learn more. Modern in the Making: Post-war Craft and Design in British Columbia runs through January 3, 2021. The exhibition catalogue, featuring essays by Michelle Mcgeough, Michael J. Prokopow, Allan Collier and more, is now available at the Gallery Store.

 ??  ?? Joanna Staniszkis, Untitled, 1975 wool, cotton, feathers. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Audrey and Gerald Clarke
Joanna Staniszkis, Untitled, 1975 wool, cotton, feathers. Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Audrey and Gerald Clarke
 ??  ?? Hans-christian Behm, Vancouver Chair, 1969, aluminum, textile, foam, paint, braided rope, Courtesy of the Artist
Hans-christian Behm, Vancouver Chair, 1969, aluminum, textile, foam, paint, braided rope, Courtesy of the Artist
 ??  ?? Doris Shadbolt, Human-form Pendant, 1955, silver. Collection of Alice Philips
Doris Shadbolt, Human-form Pendant, 1955, silver. Collection of Alice Philips
 ??  ?? Wayne Ngan, Raku Pot, c. 1970s, ceramic. Collection of John David Lawrence
Wayne Ngan, Raku Pot, c. 1970s, ceramic. Collection of John David Lawrence
 ??  ?? Earle A. Morrison and Robin Bush for Earle A. Morrison Ltd., Victoria, BC, Airfoam Lounge Chair (#141), 1951 steel rod, plywood, walnut, upholstery Collection of Allan Collier
Earle A. Morrison and Robin Bush for Earle A. Morrison Ltd., Victoria, BC, Airfoam Lounge Chair (#141), 1951 steel rod, plywood, walnut, upholstery Collection of Allan Collier
 ??  ?? Mary Chang Dress, 1963–68, cotton, Ivan Sayers Collection
Mary Chang Dress, 1963–68, cotton, Ivan Sayers Collection
 ??  ?? Robert Davidson, Xiigya [Bracelet], 1972, silver Courtesy of the Museum of Anthropolo­gy, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
Robert Davidson, Xiigya [Bracelet], 1972, silver Courtesy of the Museum of Anthropolo­gy, The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada