&Ampersand 4 is an annual art exhibition curated by Vicki Chau. She organizes group exhibitions to “inspire, encourage and motivate artists to create new work” and has been doing so since 2009.
Chau says collaboration brings out artists’ strengths and weaknesses and motivates them to explore new terrain not necessarily explored on their own.
It is the unique and experimental nature of the exhibition that sets it apart from others in the city. The creative process attained from collaborative effort is highly interesting to me and brings forth a genuinely engaging exhibition.
As a first-time attendee of the &Ampersand series, I was captured by the ingeniousness and interactivity of the well-rounded exhibition . A total of 18 collaborative art works are displayed. The diverse shapes, sizes, colours, and media used added to the dynamism and unique character of the show. There are no two pieces that are remotely alike. They each have their own spirit, message and distinct characteristics.
The exhibition is assembled in an aesthetically clever manner where each piece shines individually but also as a whole as attendees can enjoy the art work flowingly from one side of the gallery to the other to then be found into a smaller room where video art can be viewed fittingly. Somehow, the collaborated works end up being inter-connected with each other, bouncing off each others’ mastery.
The first project that caught my attention was one of mixed media by Tia Halliday & Andrea Williamson called ck137 Northwest Loop, Nineteen Ninety Nowhere/Thanks for Art School Dad. It exuded this witty and enigmatic charm that made the piece memorable. The personal and intimate nature leaves us wanting more and the dreamy and odd assemblage leaves us perplex. The physical presence of the paint-splattered work boots is accompanied by an illustration depicting the work boots in all its similarities. It made me think of Magritte’s Ceci N’est Pas Une Pipe and its surrealism sensibilities towards our preconceived perceptions of reality.
On the right, digital prints of colourful wrestling masks by Joel Monea, Mark Eadie & Helen Young follow. A cardboard box sits in front of the “Nacho-Libre-like” display with prints selling for $10 a piece. The masks stand out with their macho-esque quality and quite frankly, I wouldn’t mind buying a print for myself. Next up, a more girly display called Shoegasm follows. It is comprised of multiple framed shoe illustrations of various size andshape, from stilettos to sneakers to blue & yellow Oxfords. Similarly to the Wrestling Mask Series 1-9, Shoegasm, creates a visual pleasure for the eyes and one oughts to enjoy the colourful cluster of footwear. The artists, Dat Tran & Bailey Copithorne, inspire us to spice up our living rooms with these framed beauties or perhaps develop our own – DIY style.
Counterpoint by Andrea Mann & Sandra Vida took over the corner of the gallery. I liked the interactivity the feminist piece offered. The audio track had the artists talk about their distinctive feminists point-of-views on different matters ranging from birth control and second wave feminism, women-centered spaces, thoughts on womanhood, art as a mean to open up dialogue on women issues, wisdom that comes with aging and their ultimate optimism towards progressive thinking still being “out there”. What made this collaboration equally interesting and important was the age gap between the two artists – a retired artist and a younger artist – which provided a broader feminist approach art-wise and beyond.
Lastly, I’d like to touch upon the video art by Nigel Yez, Claudette Morgan-Yez & Peter Curtis Morgan. The video reveals an honest and poetic monologue which at first is muffled by the sound of the ocean. Upon careful listening (although still muffled by waves and nature sounds), we begin to decipher soft-spoken and monotonous phrases that slowly begin to stick in our minds. They make us re-question EVERYTHING, our desires, our struggles, our purpose. The repetitive phrases such as “it was never words, it can’t never be words”, “We tried to live outside of the rut we get pulled in from time to time”, “struggling is not always bad. It is a necessity. We need a necessity”, “I used to think everything was endless and fluid” create a strong existentialist message with inner-tumoil that makes us think of our tortured souls after a bad break-up, someone’s death or a major turning event in our life.