American Leg is Josephine Meckseper's first exhibition in
Canada. For this site-specific work, Meckseper has created eight
self-contained window treatments in the Contemporary Art Gallery's
street-front vitrines. Originally intended for retail, these window spaces
will serve as ready-made structures for Meckseper's ongoing investigation
of consumer society and archaeology of the present.
Meckseper's work unites modernism with the formal language of commercial
display, combining mass-produced objects with images and artifacts of
recent historical and political events. Consumerism as an unrelenting
presence in our daily lives is reflected in the artist's highly polished
sculptural installations which offer a critique of capitalist economy and
lay bare some of its disparities.
In this new installation, the
individual vignettes are refined into austere compositions of single
sculptures centred against a black background. A repeated vertical text
graphically set in a typeface referencing German Jugendstil adds a
further critical dimension as well as a particular personal resonance for
Meckseper. The text's aesthetic has been appropriated from elements of
early 20th-century Jugendstil architecture in Worpswede,
where the artist's great grand uncle, Heinrich Vogeler, known for his
participation in the German avant-garde, and for his collaborations with
Rainer Maria Rilke, leads a utopian artist movement. Vogeler was a vocal
advocate for the working class who joined the German communist party
shortly after WWI and then followed his political principles to Russia.
Meckseper's connection of contemporary consumer culture to
Jugendstil points out the emergence of historic avant-garde from a
consideration of the everyday, and its development as a form of aesthetic
and political resistance to the mainstream.
theme also speaks to a broader local past. References to Vancouver's
pioneer beginnings and its colonial origins are reflected in a number of
sculptures loosely referencing the vertical forms of the Northwest Coast
totem pole. With these associations, Meckseper pays homage to an exchange
system now lost—that of bartering and gift trade within large
The exhibition is generously supported by the
Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen e.V.
The Contemporary Art
Gallery is a publicly funded institution, generously supported by the
Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Vancouver and the Province of BC
through the BC Arts Council and the BC Gaming Policy and Enforcement
Branch. We are very grateful for this support and that we receive from the
Vancouver Foundation and our members, donors, and volunteers.
Josephine Meckseper. Courtesy Andrea Rosen
Gallery, New York, Timothy Taylor Gallery, London, and Galerie Reinhard