Six Ways to Sunday, CAG Vancouver

Liz Magor

Peep-Hole, Milan and Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver are presenting the first solo show in Italy by Canadian artist Liz Magor, as the sixth and last installment in the long-term project Six Ways to Sunday. One of the most celebrated and influential Canadian artists of her generation, Liz Magor probes the forms of everyday life, renovating ordinary household objects and representing them into unexpected contexts. The exhibition will focus on a selection of recent and new work, and in a nod to the immediate historical and geographical context of Arte Povera, primarily include a series of blankets including an ambitious new piece, alongside other sculptures incorporating fabric samples, clothing and labels.

The 1980s proved to be a momentous period in Magor’s career when her work was included in the Sydney Biennale (1982), the Venice Biennale (1984) and at documenta 8 (1987) in Germany. During this time the artist’s work shifted towards an investigation of the social role of objects and their capacity to hold and reflect personal and collective histories and identities. For example, while large-scale pieces such as Hudson’s Bay Double(2011) evoke the tradition of colour-field painting—yet one reimagined using dry-cleaned woollen blankets—Magor has long explored the latent associations attached to household wares like dishes and trays, or individual belongings and unused everyday items, seeking to highlight their sub-functional resonance. Characteristic of her ongoing practice, the blanket works investigate the ontology of ordinary or familiar forms, which she remakes and presents in new contexts. These “serviceable objects” as she calls them, are redolent with association, discarded yet still imbued with and reflective of shared meaning. In the blanket, she establishes a powerful link between private traditions and broader endeavours.

Once sourced the blankets are cleaned and undergo a process of renewal so as to speak of more abstract ideas. Some works are combinations of blanket scraps so that each sculpture, if unfolded would fit across a king-sized bed. The artist’s material interventions, including hand dyeing, recasting forms or stitched renovation, celebrate rejuvenation and are extensions of signs of maintenance. If the blankets have repairs, such efforts are multiplied; if they have stains, these are over-stained further, all in service of keeping the thing viable. Despite hand sewing and other embellishments, these are not an effort to reinforce the feminine or to celebrate “women’s’ work” and domestic skills etc., but rather are typical ways of extending the life of the material. In works such as Alberta/Quebec(2013) Magor works with the provenance of the object.  Wool blankets are produced all over the world using the same materials and techniques, however their labels make claims of uniqueness whereby “Made in Alberta” for example, is part of the process of naming that distinguishes one thing from other, very similar objects.  Commercial dry-cleaning tags and wraps are incorporated into the works, sometimes added in extremis, an attempt to prolong the life of the material by signaling freshness and regeneration, extending the signs of manufacture and maintenance in order to make a claim for continued life and viability. 

Through these various manipulations, literally the holes and signs of wear in works such as Violator (2015) or Moth-proofed(2011), we glimpse other spaces physically and metaphorically revealed, recalling a conflation of public and private, of things hidden and to be viewed afresh. Similarly the large-scale photograph A Thousand Quarrels(2014), suggests an emerging from one realm to another, be it physical or physiological, conscious to unconscious, from dark to light. As a viewer we are implicated into a relationship with the work as a reversal of that when seeing the blanket pieces, here moving outward from the depths rather than peering inward.

Incorporating and sharing these references, other works in the exhibition play with this idea of something once contained, now changed to continue its purpose. All the Names III(2014) is one of a number of pieces where forms are encased in rubber shells cast from storage boxes, their frosted surface dumbly returning or refuting our gaze. These boxes enclose materials that were once extremely specific and the result of considerable industry and ingenuity. As social and industrial needs evolve, these things have lost their position. They can’t even continue as curios or antiques because they are incomplete, being only units or parts of a process of production. In contrast to Mademoiselle Raymonde(2014) where doilies, string and plastic-wrapped, out-of-date paper labels emerge from cast plaster carrier bags, these are hermetically sealed hinting at what is contained within, a world obscured from view, a moment unsaid. Life generally doesn’t fit into a neatly packaged version of itself. There is always something spilling out, something that doesn’t make sense. As with the blanket works, they continue Magor’s examination of the discrepancy between perception and reality, of questioning preconceived notions of things never being quite what they seem.

The exhibition is a partnership between CAG, Vancouver, Peep-Hole, Milan and Centre d’art contemporain d’Ivry – le Crédac, France where an expanded version will be presented in Autumn 2016. The exhibition is generously supported by the Liz Magor Circle of Friends: Rick Erickson & Donna Partridge, Henning and Brigitte Freybe, Joe Friday, Sue and Bill Kidd, Suzie Kololian, Julia and Gilles Ouellette, Lisa & Terry Turner, Nada Vuksic and Bruce Wright.

The exhibition by Liz Magor is part of Six Ways to Sunday, a multiyear program with which Peep-Hole devotes one event each year to the collaboration of an international contemporary art institution, temporarily becoming its satellite project room. With Six Ways to Sunday Peep-Hole has offered a glimpse of the programming of six international art institutions, which present the most interesting contemporary art research.

The Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG) is the longest standing independent public art gallery presenting contemporary visual art in Vancouver. As a non-profit CAG is dedicated to the research, exhibition, education and documentation of contemporary visual art as it is practiced locally through to internationally. It aspires to generate significant audiences for its innovative and diverse programs through free access and a profile that is international in scope.

Liz Magor (1948, Winnipeg, Canada) lives and works in Vancouver. Recent solo exhibitions include: Light my Fire: Some Propositions about Portraits and Photography, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2013), Histoires des Amériques, Musée d’Art Contemporain, Montréal, Liz Magor, The Power Plant, Toronto (2003) among many others. Magor has  participated in numerous group exhibitions internationally at institutions such as CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Art, San Francisco, Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego (2004), National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (2001), Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, Australia (1996), Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam (1995), Museum of Modern Art, New York (1992), Centre International d’Art Contemporain, Montréal (1985). She has also participated in major exhibitions worldwide, including the 4th Biennale of Sydney (1982), Venice Biennale (1984) and documenta 8 (1987).

01. Liz Magor, Hudson's Bay Double, 2011
Wool, fabric, metal, polymerized gypsum
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

02. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

03. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

04. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Front: Alberta/Quebec, 2013, wool, fabric, thread, dye, plastic, metal, wood
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

05. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

06. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

07. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Front: All the Names II, 2014, silicone rubber, cotton textiles, paper
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

08. Liz Magor, All the Names II, 2014
Silicone rubber, cotton textiles, paper, 27 x 43 x 33 cm
Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Marcelle Alix, Paris

09. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

10. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Front: Formal II, 2012, platinum-cure silicone rubber
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

11. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

12. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

13. Liz Magor, A Thousand Quarrels, 2014
Courtesy the artist

14. Liz Magor, exhibition view
Left: Violator, 2015, wool, paint, cellophane, cardboard
Ph Laura Fantacuzzi – Maxime Galati-Fourcade

15. Liz Magor, Camping, 2013
Wool, polymerized gypsum, silver flakes, wood, metal, 172,75 x 73,75 x 17,78 cm
Courtesy of Susan Hobbs Gallery, Toronto. Collection TD Bank, Toronto

16. Liz Magor, Phoenix, 2013
Wool, cotton thread, mica flakes, 146 x 56 x 113 cm
Courtesy of Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver and Marcelle Alix, Paris