COLLAGE ON VIEW
Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty
at Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
6 July-27 October 2019
“Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty” is the first retrospective of the renowned Canadian artist, known for her investigations of the appropriated image, the artificiality of nature and the seduction of space in the 1980s. “Extreme Beauty” showcases more than eighty works from the artist’s career, whose practice includes photography, sculpture, collage and installation.
With a career spanning more than thirty years, Alexander began experimenting with found images while living in New York during the 1980s. These photos were appropriated largely from glossy fashion magazines as a means to critique the wide-spread consumer culture, primarily through the depiction of female beauty that had emerged at the time. One of the key works produced by Alexander during this period, which is featured in “Extreme Beauty”, includes the twenty-foot series of “photographic readymades” titled Obsession (1983), in which she enlarged and juxtaposed images of model Christie Brinkley. This work is notable for its re-contextualizing of one of the most pervasive faces of the fashion industry during the period.
In the mid-1980s, Alexander shifted her attention to the way humans interact with and consume nature. Using existing materials such as wallpaper, mirror, wood laminate and other mass-produced products such as in her seminal Lake in the Woods (1986), she began examining how nature is cultivated within man-made spaces amidst our increasing alienation from the environment. Drawing on her studies in architecture and design, Alexander constructed pavilions and abstract compositions that give the illusion of paradise lost.
Alexander moved to Vancouver in the 1990s, where her work found parallels amongst the community of conceptually-driven artists interested in photo-based art, and works made here during this time period are included in “Extreme Beauty”. They demonstrate formal tropes of architecture and interior décor captured in photographs of fabricated spaces of attractions such as Disneyland and Las Vegas. In Vancouver, Alexander also found such artificial spaces in condo showrooms such as in her photo series “Model Suites” (2005).
Again, exploring long-standing themes of artificiality and nature, more recently Alexander has produced collages such as Heike’s Room (2004) that show the displacement of natural habitats. She also manufactured her own décor as “furniture sculptures”. Inspired by images of ice carving in the French Alps, Alexander’s glass chairs, tables and beds serve as non-functional commodity objects.
(text adapted from the gallery’s press materials)
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