Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver, November 13, 2009–January 10, 2010
Sometimes the most intriguing things are the most difﬁcult to categorize. Elizabeth Zvonar’s recent exhibition is a veritable mash up of references—common hand gestures, 1960s counterculture, alternate space-time dimensions, early twentieth-century art movements—thwarting efforts to draw a single line of interpretation through the work. Instead it is best to start in the middle.
Two diagonal walls intersect the main gallery. One sits only waist-high, and leans precariously toward the ﬂoor. Walk around to the other side to ﬁnd the wall held up by a dozen mannequin arms (Legs, 2009). Above hangs a found book cover (Concentration, 2009), the word “focus” embossed in a 1960s typeface on its surface, as if an absurd imperative given the height at which it is hung. Parallel to this an oversized ﬁst carved in yellow cedar juts out from the wall (The Ages, 2008), the thumb raised in a gesture of approval or a slag. Yet either sign is complicated by an oversized rubber band draped over the thumb, falling ﬂaccidly into a heap on the ﬂoor, suggesting that a game of ﬂinging small objects has just come to an end. On the facing wall is a blown-up collage showing two young women reading a book, their long brown hair hanging down over faces replaced by radiant beams of light, as if the text’s cosmic energy is being channeled from the pages directly into their brains (Channeling, 2009). Between them on a pedestal is a provisional stack of mirrored and transparent glass cubes, a purported window into the fourth dimension (Object of Contemplation, 2009). This peculiar dynamic between “picture” and “object” continues; the uncanny juxtapositions within the images mimicking the sculptural method, and vice versa.
The adjoining exhibition, Face Up, co-curated by Zvonar and Jenifer Papararo, brings together works by Lee Lozano, Bruce Nauman, and Sarah Lucas. Nauman’s close-up prints (Studies for Holograms, 1970) of his contorted facial expressions stand across from Lozano’s abject and hilarious renderings of nose-hair removal, while in the centre of the space sits Lucas’ classic chair (Cigarette Tits II, 1999), its back laden with a black mesh bra holding two large breasts formed entirely out of cigarette butts. The evocation of the body in these works resonates with Zvonar’s feminist sensibility, as does its deft humour.
What is remarkable about Zvonar’s exhibition, as well as the neighbouring selection, are the idiosyncratic connections between objects and images, language and material, gesture and form; made with the kind of non-linear leaps that lend themselves to the joint practices of collage and assemblage. Indeed the spirit of both exhibitions rests on their potential to create meaning from lateral connections, complicating any straight reading, and instead inviting free associations between forms and objects, words and things, that is most productive in its imaginative potential.
Image: Elizabeth Zvonar, Legs, 2009. photo : Scott Massey, courtesy Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver