July 3, 2019

Vikky Alexander queries Extreme Beauty at the Vancouver Art Gallery

Robin Laurence
Georgia Straight

In 1983, the acclaimed Canadian artist Vikky Alexander was living in New York, working with images appropriated from popular culture—especially from high-end fashion magazines. Her conceptual practice, which posed questions about advertising tropes and the nature of desire, was generating buzz from East Coast critics, curators, and gallerists. It also attracted the attention of Vancouver’s Bill Jeffries, who invited Alexander to show at his Coburg Gallery, which specialized in photographic art.

Alexander, who was based in New York City from 1979 to 1992 and in Vancouver from 1992 to 2016, and who now lives and works in Montreal, was struck by the ubiquity of Brinkley’s image all those years ago. It was reproduced “everywhere” at the time she conceived Obsession, she recalls—from Time magazine to British Vogue—provoking her curiosity about Brinkley’s appeal to advertisers and art directors.

“I started collecting images of her and then I rephotographed them on a copy stand and enlarged them to poster size,” Alexander says. To distinguish her work from mainstream black-and-white photography, she mounted the grainy prints under yellow Plexiglas. “And I added these numbers, one through 10, because I thought this is the opposite of what ‘straight’ photography does. I’m not trying to capture a personality in one image—that’s impossible—so I thought, ‘Well, this is a series that could keep going ad infinitum. This is another Christie Brinkley and this is another one.’

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Image Credit:

Obsession (detail), 1983
Silver gelatin print, vinyl type, coloured Plexiglas
© Vikky Alexander, collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, gift of the artist