As a Featured Exhibition for Capture Photography Festival in 2021, Pictures and Promises focuses predominantly on lens-based works by a diverse range of artists, both local and international, historical and contemporary.
Drawn from the Vancouver Art Gallery’s rich photographic holdings, Pictures and Promises focuses on lens-based works that employ the structures, conventions and formal qualities used in mass media, fashion and advertising. The works then deploy these strategies to play on collective understandings of the world around us and to investigate the iconography of consumerism. Given advertising’s shift from denotative to connotative meaning, both artistic and commercial production have created chains of signification to imply meaning that surpasses the work or object itself.
The title of this exhibition directly references the 1981 exhibition of the same name: Pictures and Promises: A Display of Advertisings, Slogans and Interventions, curated by artist Barbara Kruger. On view at the Kitchen Center for Video and Music in New York from January 8 to February 5, 1981, the exhibition combined advertisements, television commercials, posters, commercial photography and corporate signage with works of art, proposing that the ways in which “artists have chosen to engage the codes of advertising aesthetics suggests the ease of popular visual language.” Due to the inherent relationship between photography and reproduction, lens-based works are uniquely positioned to make visible the representation and repetition reinforced by the commercial realm. By discreetly or overtly conjuring commercial advertising, artists in this exhibition offer an analysis of the ways in which images function in society and that meaning is created and disseminated.
Featured artists include Vikky Alexander, Eugène Atget, Walker Evans, Gu Xiong, Richard Hamilton, Barbara Kruger, Ken Lum, Yasumasa Morimura, Andy Warhol and Zhang O.
Organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery in collaboration with Capture Photography Festival and co-curated by Grant Arnold, Audain Curator of British Columbia Art, and Emmy Lee Wall, Executive Director, Capture Photography Festival