This exhibition of works by Vikky Alexander from the 1980's and 1990's opens on February 18 at 8pm and continues through March 27, 1993.
Over the past decade, Vikky Alexander has constructed a body of finely crafted multi-media work which relentlessly examines contemporary society's desire for, and construction of, the "Natural". Her use of manufactured wood products (plywood veneers, Mac Tac or Formica) in conjunction with appropriated photographic images of exotic, unspoiled landscapes creates a contradictory circumstance in which seduction and alienation are forced into an uneasy, and often ironic, alliance. In her installations, photography and wall works, she co-ops the supposedly "transcendent" forms of Minimal Art by slightly altering their materiality, and in so doing, brings art's social and economic basis to the surface.
I worked briefly at a wallpaper store twenty years ago. The cachet of papering walls had, by this time, diminished as a consequence of the Colour Your World decorating syndrome - the latex skin coating for cheap plaster board partitions. Paint could be applied with no training (in comparison to the paper hanger's trade and skill), giving the client a freedom of choice via a provisional modernity - neutrality with and exotic titled tint. Although this store had catered to an upscale market, instead of abandoning its quality/tradition credo, the owners chose to expand the choices - from handmade beaux-art William Morris papers to the slick vulgarity of "Playboy mansion" foils, and low-grade, washable, supergraphic styles (but already out of style by 1973). The anomaly in this plenitude was the scenic photo mural, offered in three basic versions - North American natural (a mountain range w/lake), the all-purpose ruddy sunset, and the tropical beach. All were unpopulated, and all provided o vertigo-inducing monster vista (with the enshrinement of appropriate cleanliness). The only similarity to wallpaper was its designated use, in this instance, for the rec room - that "invention" of the 1950s North American suburban boom.
The "rec" room replaced the Victorian parlour and its site for polite (and perhaps, mannered) conversation and entertaining, with a Disneyland-like atmosphere of catch-all diversions - mini pool tables and ping pong, television, wet/dry bars, and the paperback "library." But the rec room was invariably located in a basement - spacious, but with a low ceiling and no natural light. With the mural covering a wall, the family could enjoy an uninterrupted natural vista suspended in a perfect moment, and bathed in the impossible static light of the great outdoors. The wall become a picture window where none could structurally exist. A companion to this mural, somewhere else in the room, was simulated wood paneling - verifying the complete embrace of nature and landscape.
This landscape, of course, was an invention of the 1950s, having no relationship, except through misplaced sentiment, to any view of nature that had previously appeared - an appropriate tonic to support Winnebago wander-lust. In hindsight, there was an exquisite irony to it all - not that irony was overlooked but that the appearance could be convincing N had wanted to buy a mural, not quite knowing at the time, what I would do with such a thing N had neither a rec room, a wall large enough in the furnished flat where I was living, or a landlord who would have been sympathetic to such eccentricity. Leafing through a selection of Vikky Alexander's photo-mural "samples," I felt a tinge of melancholia for a flawed Utopia.
- Ihor Holubizky