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The Vancouver Art Gallery Celebrates Post-War Craft & Design In BC With 'Modern In The Making'

From a media release:

The Vancouver Art Gallery Presents
Modern in the Making:
Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia
July 18, 2020 to January 3, 2021


Discover the Ceramics, Fashion, Furniture, Jewellery and Textiles That Defined West Coast Modern Living in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Vancouver, BC – The Vancouver Art Gallery is proud to present Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia from July 18, 2020 to January 3, 2021. The exhibition is the most comprehensive view of the mid-century craft and design scene in British Columbia assembled to date, examining ceramics, fashion, furniture, jewellery and textiles that defined West Coast modern living. Comprising over three hundred works created from 1945 to 1975, Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia reveals the multiple ways modernism was interpreted in British Columbia, with the inflection of local histories, materials and knowledge with a recognition of the rich Indigenous cultures that predated the arrival of settler cultures.
Vancouver Art Gallery - Modern in the Making

“The post-war craft and design period in British Columbia was especially significant because design and craft were activities considered essential for a life of creative pursuit. Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia surveys a period characterized by enormous creativity and innovation that transformed the culture of this region—the reverberations of which continue to be felt today,” stated Daina Augaitis, Interim Director at the Vancouver Art Gallery. “Well-crafted objects are currently experiencing a revival, as the handmade has assumed a position of renewed importance in our digital age.”
Earle A. Morrison and Robin Bush for Earle A. Morrison Ltd., Victoria, BC; Airfoam Lounge Chair (#141), 1951; steel rod, plywood, walnut, upholstery. Collection of Allan Collier

In the three decades following the Second World War, thousands of people immigrated to British Columbia seeking the benefits of its resource-based economy, mild climate, natural amenities and inventive spirit. This optimistic post-war environment fostered the development of exceptional design and craft practices deeply influenced by the tenets of modernism: simplicity, fine craftsmanship and functional design for everyday use. The exhibition is organized chronologically to document how the aesthetic, material and conceptual approaches to design and craft shifted over three decades of production between 1945 and 1975.

The included works reflect the increased demand for a wide range of functional, domestic objects that could complement the new West Coast modern architectural style that had begun to emerge.

Highlights include Nuu-chah-nulth weaver Nellie Jacobson’s grass buttons and traditional baskets that point to both the ruptures in this region caused by colonial expansion and the importance of Indigenous design in the modernization of British Columbia.
L: Unknown Nuu-chah-nulth weaver; Ucluelet Basket, 1944. R: Axel Ebring, pitcher, c. 1940s; ceramic. Collection of John David Lawrence; Photos: Ian Lebebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery

The transition from the functionalism of the 1950s to more expressive and idiosyncratic forms is presented with custom-designed furniture alongside craft items for the home, such as weaving and other fibre art, ceramics and enamelware. A large installation of studio pottery traces the shift from utility to personal expression as artists began exploring diverse asymmetrical forms, techniques such as raku and experimented with surface treatments. A significant presentation of weavings, varying from the highly expressive to the geometrically abstract, exemplifies the spirit of innovation in form and materiality that characterized the period. The burgeoning counterculture movements of the 1960s and 70s in this region are reflected through textiles, fashion objects and visual artworks that blur the distinction between design, craft, art and performance.

Allan Collier, Guest Curator of Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia has had a lengthy relationship with the Vancouver Art Gallery. Collier initiated and guest curated West Coast Modern Furniture, 1945-1960 in 1988 and allowed loans from his remarkable furniture collection for the Gardiner Museum’s touring exhibition True Nordic: How Scandinavian Design Influenced Design in Canada exhibited at the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2016. Collier maintains an extensive collection of post-war furniture by British Columbia-based designers as well as modern Canadian ceramics and industrial design. This exhibition was originally inspired by the possibility of the Vancouver Art Gallery becoming the eventual home for his furniture collection and the Gallery’s desire to contextualize this momentous gift within a broader framework of postwar craft and design.

L: Tony Cavelti, Brooch, 1957; 18-carat gold, pure gold dust, platinum, diamonds, rubies, sapphires. Private Collection; Photo: Ian Lebebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery
R: Robert Davidson, Xiigya (bracelet), 1972; silver. Courtesy of the Museum of Anthropology, UBC, Vancouver.

Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia is organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery and curated by Daina Augaitis, Interim Director, Allan Collier, Guest Curator and Stephanie Rebick, Associate Curator.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a publication that features a foreword by co-curator Daina Augaitis, an in-depth historical overview by co-curator Allan Collier that maps a trajectory of design practice in the region, two commissioned essays by Michelle McGeough and Michael Prokopow and artist biographies. Co-published with Figure One and available in June.

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