For the first time in Aotearoa, Canadian artist Vikky Alexander is exhibiting her 1985 series Between Dreaming and Living at PHOTO OP., a new platform for contemporary art curated by Emil McAvoy.
The exhibition also features a new photographic print exclusive to PHOTO OP. Editions which extends the series. The newly commissioned work, titled Versailles Vertical (1985/2022), combines two images from 1985 for the first time, one appropriated from a fashion magazine and another Alexander took in the Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles.
McAvoy writes in the exhibition catalogue:
“In the 1980s, I grew up on a diet of mass-media imagery from movies, television and magazines. This captivating image world shaped my understanding of the complexities and contradictions of adulthood. For me, Vikky Alexander’s 1985 photographic series Between Dreaming and Living recalls that time, when images seemed more intense, more real, than lived experience. Perhaps this condition is even more pronounced today, when our lives have become inseparable from images, and are mediated by ever-new forms of photographic representation and consumption.
A Canadian, Alexander was a key figure in appropriation art, alongside Pictures Generation figures such as Barbara Kruger, Louise Lawler, Sherrie Levine and Richard Prince. Extending surrealist strategies into the context of late capitalism, Alexander combined advertising and editorial images rephotographed from magazines. Each work in Between Dreaming and Living was produced by sandwiching two 35mm slides to print a new composite. Faces, bodies and landscapes are superimposed, suggesting emotional and symbolic associations, speaking to processes of memory, dream and fantasy.
Alexander’s composites act as a kind of Trojan Horse. They have an immediate seductive appeal, but the treatments— the way she reframes images, overlays them, and adds tints of vivid colour—are ambiguous and even unsettling. Suggesting that all is not as it appears, she draws attention to the power of mass-media representations in shaping fear and desire, personal and collective psychology. Her works suggest travel to exotic faraway places, but also through inner landscapes—between dreaming and living.”
Vikky Alexander is Professor Emeritus at the University of Victoria in Canada. In New York, her work has been shown at the Dia Art Foundation, International Center of Photography, New Museum, White Columns, and Whitney Museum of American Art. She has shown at the Barbican Art Gallery, London; Canada House, London; Cooper Cole Gallery, Toronto; Musée d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva; and National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. She has also shown at Kunsthalle Bern, Seattle Art Museum, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Vancouver Art Gallery, and Yokohama Civic Art Gallery. Her works are in the collections of the Deste Foundation, Athens; International Center of Photography, New York; Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art; National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa; and Vancouver Art Gallery.
Between Dreaming and Living was first exhibited at Cash/Newhouse, New York, in 1985; then at 303 Gallery, New York, also in 1985; and at Coburg Gallery, Vancouver, in 1986. More recently, it was presented in Narrative Art at MAMCO, Geneva, in 2018; in Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty at Vancouver Art Gallery in 2019; in A Kiss Is the Beginning of Cannibalism at Downs & Ross, New York, in 2020; and on billboards for Capture Photo Festival in Vancouver in 2021. A full-colour version, also from 1985, was exhibited at Trepanier Baer Gallery, Calgary, in 2008; Chernoff Fine Arts, Vancouver, in 2017; and Cooper Cole, Toronto, in 2018.