I just got back from a (very) short trip to Toronto where I was lucky enough to experience some of the coldest weather on the planet for a couple of days. Aside from celebrating my dad’s birthday and running around to see various family members, I had one goal – see all three parts of Douglas Coupland: everywhere is anywhere is anything is everything at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, the Royal Ontario Museum and Holt Renfrew Men.
Douglas Coupland is a Canadian writer and contemporary artist working through diverse media including painting, found materials, lego, installation and crowd sourcing. He explores issues that touch us all, which he calls “the 21st century condition” including the power of technology and language, and puts an emphasis on Canadian cultural identity. Although the show is called a survey, the oldest works on view are from 2000, but the past fifteen years seem to be a great snapshot of the artist’s refined goals within his oeuvre.
I started at MOCCA, not going to lie, but wanted to put these photos from the ROM up first. The works at the ROM seemed a lot more relatable to a wider (non Canadian) audience and mostly tackled technology and how we see the world today vs. 20 years ago. Sure, it’s a basic idea, obvious even, but the scope of the work is wider than you would think (given the theme) as the exhibition included accessible and interactive works that referenced contemporary events and ideas. There was also an emphasis on Pop Art, which, I have to say, is always fun to look at and watch others interact with. These references are certainly relevant to Coupland’s work and are quite obvious to begin with yet as the show goes on, they are pushed to a level that seemed almost insulting to the viewer as the artist attempted to form a dialogue with art-history giants including Andy Warhol. As if a giant panel with the words “POP ART” wasn’t enough (although I understand that this wasn’t necessarily a decision Coupland had anything to do with), visitors are confronted with framed fright wigs and other large scale imitations.
This was the first time I had ever seen contemporary art at the Royal Ontario Museum. Even as I walked through the new front entrance, my mind went straight to the dinosaur bones, bat cave and totem pole in the main stairwell. Although it was definitely a different sort of viewing experience, the show was set up perfectly in the new “crystal” addition of the museum and took advantage of the vast and bright space. Even the corridor set up to enter the exhibition helped to frame the works and transport visitors into Coupland’s colorful and introspectively critical world.