January 15, 2020

Vikky Alexander: Extreme Beauty at Vancouver Art Gallery

Robin Laurence
Border Crossings Magazine
Vol 38 No 4 Issue 152, pp. 134-135

Two non-musical refrains played in my head as I walked – for the third time – through Vikky Alexander’s retrospective exhibition at the Vancouver Art Gallery. One was “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” The other was “All that glitters is not gold.” Recounting this is not to reduce Alexander’s smartly conceived and flawlessly executed work to fairy tales and aphorisms but to consider how culturally and psychologically resonant is her deployment of the shiny, glossy, glittery and mirror-like. Human beings have been trying to sort out their effects for centuries.

Throughout Alexander’s show, reflecting surfaces function in seductive but also thought-provoking ways. Sometimes they distance us from or fracture our perception of the (seemingly) primary image , whether that is a panoramic view of an 18th-century French garden or a window display of high-gloss, 21st-century kitsch. At other times, they reflect us back at ourselves as viewers, contrasting our drab everydayness with the idealized faces and figures that Alexander presents us with. As we see ourselves we are reminded, in a moment of both physical and psychological reflection, that we are looking at a work of art – a cultural construct probing another cultural construct. Photographic images are presented in ways that effectively undermine them. Desire is projected, intercepted and bounded back at us.

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Image Credit:
Vikky Alexander
Between Dreaming and Living Series #5, 1986
Ink-jet print with coloured Plexiglas
International Center of Photography