17 February 2015




I will start off by saying this, I am not a huge fan of contemporary art. It’s just not something that I have ever really developed a passionate interest for. This exhibit however, has given me an appreciation for modern art, as well as a deeper understanding of Douglas Coupland’s brilliance.

Douglas Coupland Exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum

Coupland is well known for drawing inspiration from “pop art icons” such as Andy Warhol and Roy Liechtenstein. The influence of both of these artists is visible in some of his work, most notably  “Wigs in the Sky” an homage to the style, and wigs of Andy Warhol, and “Better Living Through Windows,” a large piece inspired by Roy Lichtenstein.

Wigs in the Sky inspired by Andy Warhol
Better Living Through Windows in the style of Roy Lichtenstein 

He is better known however, for his art inspired by popular culture and his ability to capture the spirit of the age, or as the artists himself refers to it, “the 21st century condition.” His series of QR code paintings act as art as well as actual QR codes and when scanned with a smartphone display messages about life and death written by Coupland. His portraits, Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head signify the emotional instability of teenagers and the identities still being shaped by external forces. 

QR Code Series
Brilliant Information Overload Pop Head

The installation lining the back wall, Slogans for the 21st century, is perhaps the most brilliant way to explore the “21st century condition.”

Slogans for the 21st Century 

Close up of the Installation 

 I have mixed feelings about the Michael Lee Chin Crystal, but as a gallery space for this exhibit, it does the job perfectly. Not only does it provide ample amount of wall space and natural light, but also enough open area to showcase Coupland’s larger mixed media installation. The ones that caught my attention were The World fashioned out of architectural model kits that Coupland had spent a decade collection, and The Brian, also a colourful cabinet of curiosities, with each section representing a different part of the human brain.

The World

Section of The Brain representing the Colour Memory Bank of the Right Brain

Section of The Brain representing the White Memory Bank of the Left Brain 

My favourite part of the exhibit however, was the Reading Corner, where all of Douglas Coupland’s publications were available for guests to browse. I am more familiar with Coupland as a writer than an artist so I was excited to see that they paid attention to his novels. Unfortunately the books are all mounted to the display. It’s a bit annoying to have to stand and browse through the books but understandable as they would be quite easy to steal. (All are also readily available for purchase in the gift shop). This area also contains some of Coupland’s earliest work, completed while at Emily Carr College of Art and Design, which was really interesting to see.

All editions of Douglas Coupland's publications are on display. 

Some early graphic design and typography done by Coupland while at college. 

The Royal Ontario Museum and the Museum of Canadian Contemporary Art (MOCCA) are actually jointly holding the exhibition, and there are more pieces of Coupland’s work over at MOCCA. While I only had time to visit the ROM for this blog post, I’m definitely going to find the time this reading week to head over to MOCCA to see the rest. 

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