December 12, 2019

Vikky Alexander’s ‘Extreme Beauty’ Is an Escapist Fantasy to Be Bought and Sold

Frieze Magazine
Karina Irvine

Vikky Alexander’s ‘Extreme Beauty’ Is an Escapist Fantasy to Be Bought and Sold In the artist’s first museum survey at the Vancouver Art Gallery, appropriated advertising imagery exposes the hermetic loops of capitalism.

‘Extreme Beauty’, Vikky Alexander’s first museum retrospective, tracks the artist’s four-decade critique of consumer culture and the mediated landscape in collages, photographs, sculptures and installations. Best known for her appropriations of magazine advertisements, Alexander crops, rearranges, collages and enlarges images of models onto views of pristine wilderness. Her photographs similarly capture familiar commercial destinations – shopping centres, model display suites and theme parks – that employ idealized natural landscapes as atmospheric scenography or marketing devices. When grouped together, such images – designed to elicit feelings of longing and desire – reaffirm the alienating effects of capitalism.

Many of the more than 80 works on display feature images of nature taken from commercial advertisements. Some employ the art-historically loaded format of the triptych: in Portage Glacier (1982/2017), for instance, a fashion model casts her gaze down demurely, her skin illuminated by the blue tinge of the ice formations flanking her portrait. In Yosemite (1982/2017), a model with windswept hair wearing a fur-lined leather coat appears to pose triumphantly atop a rocky precipice, in the tradition of Romantic painting. Resembling three-panelled altarpieces with female icons at their centre, these works satirize the quasi-religious devotion of consumerism. The model’s unavoidable presence in the centre of the image recalls Portage Glacier and Yosemite’s popularity as ecotourism destinations, reinforcing an anthropocentric view of nature as laden with commercial value.

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Image credit:
Vikky Alexander
Yosemite, 1982/2017
inkjet print on metallic paper
56 × 102 cm.
Courtesy: RBC Art Collection