Vancouver Gallery Hosts the History of Mashup Art

Take a trip through time with artwork by Barbara Kruger, Basquiat, and Picasso at the Vancouver Art Gallery.

by Nathaniel Ainley
Feb 23 2016, 7:50pm

Barbara Kruger, Untitled (SmashUp), 2016 site-speci c installation at the Vancouver Art Gallery Photo: Rachel Topham, Vancouver Art Gallery. Images courtesy The Vancouver Art Gallery

With 371 works of art from 156 artists around the world, the Vancouver Art Gallery has launched their biggest exhibition ever. Titled Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture, it's an exhaustive, four-story international survey that follows the history of the appropriation technique.

When you think of the term "mashup," you might reference a brand of house music that was popular in the 00s, when DJs looped one song over another in perfect synchrony. Yet the artistic practice of mashup—where an artist fuses a found object with another to create something new—has a long history in the arts, its roots in a variety of prominent cultural movements from the last 100 years.

Sherrie Levine, Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), 1991, cast bronze and artist’s wooden base, Glenstone. Photo: Tim Nighswander / Imaging4Art. com

Mashup: The Birth of Modern Culture incorporates painters, ceramicists, illustrators, animators, filmmakers, architects, graphic designers, musicians, and choreographers; artists from all over the world, working in just about every medium you can imagine. Everyone from T.S. Eliot to Quentin Tarantino has a place on the walls of the Vancouver Art Gallery. The gallery’s objective in this massive undertaking is to trace products of the mashup from its origins at the start of the 20th century to the present day, outlining its fundamental impact on the world of art production.

The works on display are on loan from 75 private and public collections, from eight different countries. The gallery has gathered 30 curators and scholars as consultants for the project, as well as a team of designers and architects to help organize the displays.

Andy Warhol, Jackie II, 1966, screenprint on paper, Collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Gift of Andy Sylvester © The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Inc. / SODRAC (2016)

Director of the Vancouver Art Gallery, Kathleen S. Bartels, says the exhibition provides, “a comprehensive look at how the ‘collage' emerged as a mode of artmaking in the early 20th century and has evolved through the rapid uptake of technology and digital media to facilitate new modes of production in all fields of visual culture today.”

The installation of a Barbara Kruger piece, designed specifically for this exhibition called, Untitled (Smashup) drives home the sheer magnitude of the piece: It was made with “25,000 feet of BC lumber, 360 gallons of paint.”  

The show is broken up into four chronological sections, one on each floor the building. Each category represents a defining period in the mashup timeline:

1. Early 20th Century: Collage, Montage and Readymade at the Birth of Modern Culture

Hannah Höch, Untitled (Large Hand Over Woman’s Head), 1930, photomontage, Collection Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Purchase 2012 © Estate of Hannah Höch / SODRAC (2016)

Pablo Picasso, Nature morte, bouteille et verre, 1913, collage, charcoal and oil on canvas, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, Purchase 1965 © Picasso Estate / SODRAC (2016) Photo: Walter Klein, Düsseldorf

2. Post-War: Cut, Copy and Quotation in the Age of Mass Media

Robert Rauschenberg, Revolver II, 1967, silkscreen ink on ve rotating Plexiglas discs in metal base with electric motors and control box, Robert Rauschenberg Foundation © Robert Rauschenberg Foundation / SODRAC, Montreal / VAGA, New York (2016)

3. Late 20th Century: Splicing, Sampling and the Street in the Age of Appropriation

Jean-Michel Basquiat, A Panel of Experts, 1982, acrylic and oil pastel on paper mounted on canvas, The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Gift of Ira Young © Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat / SODRAC (2016) Photo: Courtesy of The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

4. The Digital Age: Hacking, Remix and the Archive in the Age of Post-Production

Stan Douglas, Suspiria (video still), 2003, single-channel video projection, Courtesy of the Artist, David Zwirner, New York/London, and Victoria Miro, London

MVRDV, Glass Farm, Schijndel, The Netherlands (exterior view), 2008–13 Photo: © Daria Scagliola and Stijn Brakkee, Courtesy of MVRDV

The show will be up at that the Vancouver Art Gallery until June 12, with a long list of public programs, lectures, and showcases running throughout that you can check out here.


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Quentin Tarantino
T.S. Eliot
barbara kruger
Stan Douglas
Vancouver Art Gallery
mashup: the birth of modern culture