Theodore Wan


January 24 - March 13, 2005

Curated by Dr. Christine Conley


The Blackwood Gallery presents an exhibition of photo-based works by the late Vancouver artist Theodore Wan (1953 -1987). Part of a number of Canadian artists who were interested in conceptual art and conceptual methodologies in the 1970s, Theodore Wan became best known for an intriguing series of medical photographs produced between 1977 and 1979. In a series of prints produced for the Dalhousie Medical School in Halifax Wan explored the ambivalent status of photography as art object and as illustration. As guest curator Dr. Christine Conley observed, his technically precise and accurate staging of medical procedures, carried out at the Dalhousie Medical School and Dental School, doubled as a kind of self-portraiture, with Wan in the position of both photographer and patient? The play between performing for photography and working as a photographer constituted an important, ongoing aspect of his practice, including his interest in performance and his adoption of a range of personae including his pseudonym of "Theodore Saskatche Wan" Drawn primarily from the collection of the Vancouver Art Gallery, the exhibition focuses on photo-based and ephemeral works from the late 1970s, with materials related to his activities as a studio photographer from the early 1980s when he became increasingly absorbed in activities related to the Chinese community, the Vancouver club scene, and his commercial work with club dancers. None of this latter activity was shown in the art world before Wan's untimely death from cancer in 1987. This nationally touring exhibition is an opportunity to revisit a practice that resounds with contemporary artists' interest in the visual regimes of science and medicine, and to see photographs, documents and videos from the archives of the Vancouver Art Gallery that have never been shown before.

Opening at the same time will be a new billboard installation by internationally recognized Vancouver artist Ken Lum. Continuing his explorations of the role of photography and language in the context of advertising culture, the new billboard is titled I dont know whats right or wrong? and is part of an ongoing series of works that specifically juxtapose portraiture (with particularly pronounced facial expressions) with captions that generate further ambiguity. The work is part of a new and ongoing series of works especially commissioned for an outdoor, illuminated lightbox first mounted by Bernie Miller in 2000 and donated to UTM by Dr. Jeanne Randolph. The series will function as an exhibition in time, critically examining the modes of address of contemporary advertising and public signage.


Theodore Wan has been organized by the Dalhousie Art Gallery in Halifax with major funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Canada Council for the Arts.