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F or her first Canadian exhibition, Josephine Meckseper brings a two decade-long critique of consumerism to Vancouver’s Contemporary Art Gallery. Eight new works grace the Nelson St. windows of the CAG – spaces that, appropriately enough, once held eye-catching retail displays. In her works, Meckseper begins with everyday consumer goods such as hosiery and perfume bottles, then encases them in glass vitrines or mounts them on mirrored pedestals to simultaneously use and undermine the modern mass-consumer aesthetic. The gleaming works such as American Leg (a single mannequin leg in hosiery under a glass dome) effectively lay bare the absurdities of modern consumer culture, while forcing the audience to acknowledge its seduction. The result: an initial response of mindless attraction, followed by frustration, humour, and finally reflection.
Meckseper’s avant-garde roots reach back to the late 19th century German Art Nouveau (Jugendstil) colonies, of which her great grand uncle Heinrich Vogeler was an influential member. The Art Noveau movement of this period (including the works of Gustav Klimt) challenged the norm by introducing stark curves and ‘nightmarish’ themes, and is credited with ushering in the 20th century not only in terms of visual art, but also social attitudes. Feeding off her ancestors’ creative idealism, Mecksper pursues art as a means of social change by challenging her audience to reflect on the influence that consumerism has in their everyday lives. Meckseper’s works have appeared in the Biennale d’Art Contemporain de Lyon, the United Arab Emirates’ Sharah Biennial 10, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.
If you missed the artist herself at SFU Woodward’s on May 23rd , not to worry – CAG curator Jenifer Papararo will be giving a talk on Meckseper’s work on Saturday, August 4th at the gallery. Window Spaces runs until September 2nd.