Gerard Byrne in Song of the Open Road

CAG Vancouver

1 April – 18 June 2017

Taking its title from a poem by Walt Whitman, the Contemporary Art Gallery presents a group exhibition as the central feature of this year’s Capture Photography Festival. Work is presented both inside and outside and across all of the gallery’s spaces, embracing a diverse set of conditions and approaches centred in a conceptual understanding of an expanded field of photographic practice that examines notions of what you see is most definitely not what you get.

 

Bringing together artists from Canada, Eritrea, Ireland, Sweden, and the US, the exhibition includes works that combine thematically to interrogate ideas rooted in photographic histories, engaging ideas such as veracity, recollection, remembrance, belonging, staging, and how the image documents and records these or is evidence of differing realities.

 

Key to the exhibition is Images or shadows of divine things (2005–), an ongoing series by Irish artist Gerard Byrne. Visually rich and intellectually complex, the artist’s work in photography, film, theatre, and multiscreen installation examines the slippage between time and the act of image creation. Presented here, a selection of these black-and-white photographs seems to depict a much earlier period, evoking vernacular photographic idioms of American midcentury photography and thus pointing toward the relationship between time, appearance, and the photographic document. Through a collection of over twenty images, a sense emerges that the series has a certain scale of vision. However, it is more about picturing the historical “conditions” of image making than it is about riffing on an aesthetic. That sense of conditions emerges only once the particularity of the given images is surpassed—that is when it becomes obvious that the specifics of the images are not the point, this realization becoming palpable when a sufficient number of them are grouped together.

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