The Vancouver Art Gallery in Vancouver, Canada, is hosting its biggest ever exhibition, “MashUp: The Birth of Modern Culture,” occupying all four floors of the museum. Taking the mixed media collages of Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque and Juan Gris as its starting point, the exhibit traces the development of 20th and 21st century art as it more and more incorporates a combination of genres that provides a new perspective on and way of experiencing reality.
The show begins on the fourth floor with the 19th century invention of photography and the subsequent collages of photos and water color sketches made by Victorian women, followed by those twentieth century collages by Picasso and company, as well as Kurt Schwitters’ incorporation of everyday trash into his art, Hannah Hoch’s mixed media pieces commenting on the situation of women, and those of John Heartfield criticizing Hitler. One room houses replicas of the machines Luigi Russolo constructed for “modern noise music” while another holds the urinal that Marcel DuChamp named “Fountain,” thus making the everyday into art just by presenting it as such.
The third floor looks at post World War II innovations from the French New Wave cinema of Jean Luc Godard to Andy Warhol’s repetitions with variation of portraits of Mao and Monroe. Here you’ll find work by familiar artists such as Merce Cunnigham, John Cage, Trisha Brown, and architect Frank Gehry. But you’ll also find an area devoted to the Jamaican born music art of dubbing, including a recording studio with King Tubby’s mixing desk. Related to that DJ art is George Barber’s “scratch video” which applies a similar technique to the manipulation of “found” TV and video footage.
The second and first floor look at splicing, sampling, hacking, and remixing as the 20th century morphs into the 21st. One of the most interesting is “Telephones” by Christian Marclay–a montage of moments from movies where characters interact with telephone communication hesitantly, forcefully, tragically, joyfully. Here Brian Jungens takes aspects of a Nike sneaker and incorporates them into traditional tribal masks, while Cory Arcangel edits about 170 YouTube vidoes of cats playing piano and sets those images to Arnold Schoenberg’s “famously dissonant” 1907 composition. Here are also photos of drag performers parodying Hollywood divas and Ellen Gallagher’s “yellow grid collages” which take ads from African American style magazines and embellish them with her plasticine comments on cultural identity, turning hair styles into helmets, pharoah’s crowns and prehistoric specimens.
The exhibit concludes with a look into the future of what such mixed genre adventures may hold. It continues through June 12.