Metaphor of materials: “Nordic Rock” by Vikky Alexander
Originally from Victoria, Vikky Alexander came into contact with minimalist and modern art very early in his career. Even today, she recalls that, when she was younger, when she visited an exhibition of Donald Judd’s works at the National Gallery of Canada, she was fascinated by the play of light on matter which caused the surface of the metal of the works seemed to him both soft and rough.
Through this experience of perception, Alexander will integrate natural light as a component of his glass sculptures. In fact, the environment in which the works are immersed creates a dialogue between three: the sculpture, the place and the visitor.
At the Darling Foundry, where she exhibits several new works, the light coming from the skylights plays on the seductive material that she has chosen to use for her sculptures. The sleek appearance of the glass here evokes the modernity dear to the artist. Activated by the reflection of light, the dichroic effect of the sculptures, depending on the angle of the gaze, gives the illusion that the furniture is floating in space and that its surfaces are painted. In Frozen Wall (2020), for example, a link exists between the illusion of a “painted” surface and the representation of it. Particularly in his photographic works, a section of the composition reproduces the effect of glass. For the artist, this paradoxical game between illusion and representation brings to life, in a metaphorical way, the strength and power of art in society.
As part of the exhibition In good company at the Bradley Ertaskiran Gallery, Vikky Alexander is exhibiting two photographs, Overpass (2011) and Canopy (2011). The walls with industrial traces are opposed to works that showcase a multitude of species brought together artificially and perhaps unconsciously by botanists, in a selection process that represents colonization. You should know that in South Africa, almost all current plants were introduced by Europeans, a political gesture of power. Besides, isn’t a choice always political? These two photographs, seemingly innocuous, are part of a subversive series entitled Island Series (2011), which, like other works by Alexander, reveals a muted and critical point.
This means that while creating installations and works that polarize the container and the content, Vikky Alexander stages works that appeal to the viewer, among others, by their seductive and airy character and by their sometimes too small scale. , sometimes too large compared to reality. In the work published during Alexander’s retrospective at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2019, Vincent Bonin argues that, at the limit, the artist would like his works to disappear completely in the “decor” so that they become mnemonic and that they act as a catalyst. This strategy once again gives art a pragmatic power that is not unlike the work of Bill Viola. By creating chaos, Viola’s works leave a latent mark in the memory, ready to intervene when the time comes to allow a fresh look at an unprecedented experience and a source of tension. For Alexander, it is through evanescence, beauty and evocation that the work takes on all its strength and meaning over time.
Precisely, the glass sculptures that Alexander presents at the Darling Foundry evoke the furniture while denying the very function of this one by its scale and its fragile material. The artist touches here on design and architecture, two sources of constant interest in his work. She says she simply wants to share her wonder in relation to a material that she experiences while transcending it to charge it with meaning.
Vikky Alexander, who studied at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD) in the 1970s, is well aware of feminist trends of the time. She developed a close bond with New York and Dara Birnbaum, a committed feminist artist who taught her. The recovery of images from mass media is therefore topical. Thanks to the collage technique, Alexander takes this aesthetic on his own and integrates it into his creative process. She quickly came to re-photograph magazine images and reframe them out of their original context, thus changing their meaning and function. The strategy it implements “evokes” while “hiding”, in a back and forth game of often paradoxical meanings which forces the viewer to develop their own interpretation of the exploitation of the image of women for marketing purposes. Alexander scrambles the codes heard and defines new ones. To paraphrase Simone de Beauvoir who wrote that one is not born a woman but that one becomes one, the works of Vikky Alexander trigger this becoming.
By creating glass beds, upright chairs, tables, she takes up the scrambling she already used in the 1980s. The choice of the theme of the furniture is a metaphor for the domestic universe traditionally seen as feminine and suggests its transgression. The material, the scale and above all the colored reflection that the light creates in the space make the idea of their use impossible. Artificial tones of pink, blue and purple are reminiscent of the playful modernism of the sixties and the promise of a happy life for women. In addition, the material blurs the definition of the boundaries between sculpture, photography, collage and painting effect. As long as the viewer lets himself be invaded by the play of light, the borders dance and give way to the perception of the beautiful and the attractive,
Vikky Alexander’s entire work calls for analysis. “Conceptual”, “critical” and “subversive” are qualifiers which fit very well to this immense polymorphous research of which the Nordic Rock exhibition offers a glimpse. The works presented at the Darling Foundry will then go to New York.
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