Alex Morrison is a Vancouver artist. His work has been widely exhibited in Canada, the United States, the UK, Germany, and is being included in the 17th Biennale of Sydney (2010). Solo exhibitions include CSA (Vancouver), Catriona Jeffries Gallery (Vancouver), Frankfurter Kunstverein, Contemporary Art Gallery (Vancouver), Henry Art Gallery (Seattle), Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Berlin), Mercer Union (Toronto), and Eyelevel Gallery (Halifax), among others. He has participated in group exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Palm Beach Institute of Contemporary Art. Morrison is represented by Catriona Jeffries Gallery.
March 27–May 1, 2010
Alex Morrison’s practice examines urban built environments and their subcultures, from hippies and activists to re-enactors and skateboarders. Politically inflected, Morrison’s work troubles notions of authenticity, particularly when the “authentic” is absorbed into the mainstream. His project for Artspeak, Making Beer More Expensive, comments on the renewal of Carrall Street and Vancouver’s “heritage district” of Gastown within a cyclical history.
Morrison’s installation takes the complex aesthetics of Gastown’s revival in the 1970s as a starting point. Appropriating signage standards, forms, and messages, contextualized by supplementary archival documents, the Artspeak installation uses the specific language of the era during which the neighbourhood transitioned from working to middle class through urban planning and community initiatives. Morrison’s work is invested in the aesthetics of civic infrastructure and the local counterculture as they are articulated under the guise of history.
An example of preservationist development, Gastown shifted to occupy a central position in Vancouver’s tourist economy. In 1971 it was declared an historic district by the provincial government. The city plans at the time were theme park-esque and included historic looking laid brick sidewalks, cobblestones in Trounce Alley, gas lamp style lighting, and strict heritage protection for buildings. At the same time as this re-imagination, it was a hub for artistic and leftist activities and commerce—from hippie protests and occupations to art galleries and speakeasies—that complicated the gentrification of the neighbourhood.
Making Beer More Expensive posits that the Gastown cycle of development has parallels to a kind of cosmetic Victorian parlour room civility associated with the aspidistra cult. As the title infers, the “civilized” qualities of new zoning and businesses moving into the Victorian buildings in Gastown inflated the prices of goods and services in the area, particularly in bars and pubs. With a nod to Artspeak’s location within this history, Morrison’s installation considers the authenticity of history and its markers, and the intersection between the commercial and the aesthetic, countercultural values and lifestyle culture.
This project will be followed by an OFFSITE project that Morrison is undertaking with Artspeak in future years. His carved wooden sign, Remove Not the Old Landmarks, is scheduled to be permanently installed on a new building designed by architect Gregory Henriquez.
March 26, 2010
Alex Morrison speaks about his exhibition, Making Beer More Expensive, at 7pm.