Magazine article Artforum International

Douglas Coupland: Daniel Faria Gallery

Magazine article Artforum International

Douglas Coupland: Daniel Faria Gallery

Article excerpt

TORONTO

Douglas Coupland

DANIEL FARIA GALLERY

You have to hand it to Douglas Coupland. The Vancouver-based novelist, screenwriter, and lecturer has for decades now been the go-to source for pop-culture prognostication--his 1991 bildungsroman, Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture, would serve to define the era. Coupland's widely varying interests are driven by the parallel forces of rampant consumerism and collective dislocation in a digitally oversaturated world. Whether he's writing about Marshall McLuhan, collaborating with curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, or moonlighting as a designer for a clothing line marketed to millennials, Coupland has a knack for taking the contemporary pulse and recording its fluctuations with a healthy measure of wit and skepticism.

But what is one to make of Coupland as an artist? Before he stumbled upon writing, Coupland studied at the Emily Carr College of Art and Design, and was part of the so-called Young Romantics generation that emerged as a punk counter to the Vancouver School of Photoconceptualism in the mid-1980s. He's revisited the artist persona many times over the past decade and has exhibited a sprawling array of works reappropriating the bric-a-brac of consumerism--bar codes, Benday dots, plastic bottles, Legos, toy soldiers, and so on--in a steady stream of shows and public-sculpture commissions. A comprehensive survey organized by the Vancouver Art Gallery in 2014 filled two major cultural institutions in Toronto this winter (as well as virtual space on Google Art Project), and this September, Coupland will open his first solo exhibition in Europe, at Rotterdam's Witte de With.

Considering his abiding fascination in, as he puts it, the "extreme present tense," Coupland's latest gallery exhibition, "Our Modern World" (which opened concurrently with his retrospective at the Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art, both in Toronto), served as an of-the-moment update to an art practice in perpetual flux. "His survey covers fifteen years," I was told at a walk-through of the exhibition. "This show covers the past fifteen minutes."

A series of obscured portraits titled "Deep Face" (all works 2014) lined one wall of Daniel Faria's front gallery. Coupland took the nine large-scale passport-style portraits during an impromptu photo shoot at the Vancouver Art Gallery and painted over the photographs in riffs on modernist abstraction. …

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