February 11 to March 19, 2017
In retrospect, the rocket-like fins of a ’59 Cadillac were the perfect emblem for SPACE INVADERS, the MacKenzie Art Gallery’s unforgettable 1985 survey of current trends in contemporary sculpture. Gracing the catalogue cover, the Caddy’s futuristic rear grille alerted visitors that the artists in this show had more affinity for automotive parts and modern technology than for marble and bronze. Featuring nine artists from Canada, USA, Britain and France—Edward Allington, Kate Blacker, Jonathan Borofsky, Roland Brener, Tony Brown, Bertrand Lavier, Ken Little, Jean-Luc Vilmouth, and Bill Woodrow—the exhibition garnered attention from coast-to-coast and remains to this day one of the MacKenzie’s most talked about exhibitions.
SPACE INVADER pays homage to this visionary exhibition by presenting the one work purchased by the MacKenzie from the show, The Shadow of the Circus by British artist Bill Woodrow. Woodrow’s selection by co-curators Bruce Ferguson and Sandy Nairne signaled the importance of artists who had opened new spaces for sculpture through the repurposing of everyday objects and technology, playing not only with their forms, but with their inherent social and cultural meanings. Created in Regina, Woodrow’s tin snip transformation of a metal locker into a knife-throwing, labourer-targeting robotic arm offered a perfect illustration of this emerging postmodern sensibility.
Woodrow’s sculpture also connects to two important anniversaries which we mark this year. Its readymade elements recall Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain, the legendary sculpture/urinal which redefined the art object a century ago. It also speaks to the importance of engaging artists as the MacKenzie embarks on the commissioning of a major public artwork by an Indigenous artist on the occasion of Canada’s 150th birthday. If the value of an artwork, or an exhibition, is measured in its continued relevance and ability to inspire, Woodrow’s sculpture and SPACE INVADERS are worth their weight in auto parts.
Bill Woodrow, Shadow of a Circus, 1985, wood, metal, miscellaneous, 259.1 x 691.7 x 569.9 cm. Installation at the MacKenzie Art Gallery, 2017.