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Steffanie Ling
Elad Lassry at the Vancouver Art Gallery
July 26, 2017

Elad Lassry is known for studio photography in the vein of stock advertising images, but he also uses similarly generic found photos, which disrupts the origins of all his pictures. Staged portraits of animals, people, or food in the vernacular of commercial advertising are the foundation of his repertoire. These images are presented as modestly-scaled, framed photographs that are often accompanied by a sculptural relief element such as a knot of chubby silk rope or a pleated cummerbund-like wrap that obscures part of the work. Sometimes that material consideration is further articulated in the gloss and colour of the frame. This endows his pictures with the quality of minimalist objects.

Elad Lassry, Untitled (Silver Bar, Pelican), 2013, foil on silver gelatin print, aluminum frame

But just because Lassry’s work is small by comparison to the local tradition of picture making, doesn’t mean that a survey exhibition of the last decade of his art (and his first major exhibition in Canada) should go in a medium-sized room at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Simply put, this room is DAMN full. As far as summer shows go, his was cause for excitement, but the density of presentation verges on that of a Saturday afternoon yard sale where people are looking but not buying. We need to encounter this colourful, shiny, and, at times, humorously appendaged work as a more pointed presentation, rather than an overenthusiastic onslaught. This hanging undermines the possibility of the remarkable, discomfiting encounter that his work can inspire in a viewer by performing the same program as consumer images: corralling a highly proliferated, deeply normalized picture into a shiny frame reminiscent of cheap cars and artificial flavors.

Elad Lassry, Fringe, 2011, chromogenic print, painted frame

The greatest shame about this exhibition is the treatment of three 16mm films – two at least ten minutes in length. All are bereft of a darkened space or a place to sit, which leads to the conclusion that they are not meant to be looked at. I’ve been told that they are always shown this way, but that raises a formal question of whether the duration of these films has any meaning at all? Or do they just begin and end in the time it takes for the viewer’s attention span to wane? Nothing wounds a critic more than the requisite excitement of attending, with the intention of writing about, the exhibition of an artist she holds in high regard but is rarely given an opportunity to see in person, only to encounter the tangible and disappointing consequences of an institution under pressure to deliver as much content as possible to a summer crowd who would not be pleased to find merely a handful of carefully selected, challenging, and conceptually robust artworks.

Vancouver Art Gallery:
Elad Lassry continues until October 1.

Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao



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