Shadbolt posters highlight new show at BAG

Burnaby Art Gallery curator Darrin Martens sorts through a collection of posters designed by Jack Shadbolt for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. The posters are a part of the gallery
Burnaby Art Gallery curator Darrin Martens sorts through a collection of posters designed by Jack Shadbolt for the Vancouver Playhouse Theatre. The posters are a part of the gallery's new show The Artist Poster Show, opening Feb. 8.

Jack Shadbolt is one of Canada's most important and celebrated artists. His work has been exhibited in prestigious galleries like the Vancouver Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada and the Glenbow Museum.

It's also been pasted to plywood construction hoarding and telephone poles.

Shadbolt, like many artists, sometimes moonlighted his talent by taking commissions to create posters to advertise theatrical productions, his own exhibitions, even political views. Twelve of them,  promoting shows at the Vancouver Playhouse, are among dozens of colourful posters created by prominent artists like Sonny Assu, Ed Ruscha and Lawrence Weiner that comprise The Artist Poster Show, opening at the Burnaby Art Gallery on Feb. 8.

Darrin Martens, the gallery's director and curator, says posters are a low-tech, accessible way for artists to connect with audiences that may never go through the doors of a museum or gallery. They're also temporary, prone to vandalism, or torn down and discarded when they're no longer timely. They're often anonymous.

That can make them liberating for an artist with a reputation to uphold, public and critical expectations to meet.

"They may be up for a week and then disappear, so if the artist made a bad decision, it won't haunt them," says Martens, who curated the show from the gallery's own collection as well as some private collections.

But when those posters are preserved and become part of an artist's body of work, they can provide a fascinating glimpse into the artist's development.

"You can see their flow as an artist, the development of their history and career," says Martens. "It's about the artist/client relationship and it's also about the artist having a conversation with himself."

Were Shadbolt still alive today and confronted with creations he'd long since forgotten or thought had disintegrated in a landfill somewhere, Martens says he'd likely grumble and try to figure out how to rework them.

The Artist Poster Show runs from Feb. 8 - April 7. For more information go to www.burnabyartgallery.ca.



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