That 80s Sound

Authored by: WAG Staff on March 1, 2019

The 80s Image brings together paintings and photo-based works of art from the decade of MTV, the Berlin Wall, and trickledown economics. Drawing largely from the WAG collection, the exhibition reflects the diverse ways artists adapted these traditional media to changing times. Strong trends through the decade demonstrate fascination for contemporary materials and subjects, a renewed interest in figurative imagery, and a commitment to art as a platform to discuss social and political issues.

By the 1960s, many artists were refusing to identify with a single practice or specific medium. As the artist Michael Snow observed in 1967, “My paintings are done by a filmmaker, sculpture by a musician, films by a painter…sometimes they all work together.” By 1980, the artist could be all and none of these things. Sensory stimulation achieved new heights, setting the stage for our networked and screen-dependent present.

In this sense, the 80s were a time of creative experimentation and collaboration across disciplines. To further highlight the pan-artistic quality of the exhibition, the WAG developed a mobile app, featuring a unique audio tour. In celebration of the era of mixtapes, The 80s Image curator Andrew Kear, the WAG’s Chief Curator and Curator of Canadian Art, worked with CKUW 95.9 FM volunteers and staff to curate a playlist of deeply evocative 80s songs, which awakens the senses on a creative journey through the decade.

Iconic musicians including David Bowie, Sonic Youth, Joni Mitchell, Laurie Anderson, and Peter Gabriel lend their booming voices and entrancing grooves to a playlist of 20 stellar anthems. Each song becomes an extension of the work. While viewing art with the eyes is engaging in itself, listening creates an even more immersive experience.

In the age of information, some artists set sights on the changing political and economic climate. Their message is strengthened when joined with music, and today, three decades removed, many of the issues that defined the 1980s and influenced artistic production continue to resonate in the contemporary art world, and society as a whole.

Download the FREE app at the App Store or Google Play before your visit. Embark on the Mixtape Tour, or search for audio stops on artwork labels and enter the number under "Search" in the app.

The WAG thanks the following CKUW 95.9 FM staff and volunteers for assisting in the selection of music: Spencer Chambers, Grant Davis, Darren Day, Nicole Firlotte, Adam Hannibal, Martin Howell, Victoria King, Patrick Michalishyn, Alex Parrott, Ron Robinson, and Rob Schmidt.

Pictured: Suzanne Funnell. The Death of the Hindenburg (detail), 1979. Oil on plywood. 362 x 402 cm. Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery, G-86-119. Photo: Leif Norman.

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