Hoops (Havana), 2011
161.6 x 120.65 cm
Courtesy the artist
Vancouver artist Paul Wong is, in a word, notorious. From his early days as an incorrigible “Mainstreeter” to his prestigious Audain Prize earlier this year, Wong remains an uncompromising provocateur, dealing with themes of race and sex through performance, video installation, and photography. Like Warhol, Wong draws consistently from popular media and the entertainment industry in works both satirical and astonishingly self aware.
Hoops exemplifies Wong’s multimedia sensibility and concern with the aesthetics of glamour. Captured on a rooftop in Havana, Hoops depicts photographs of a dancer as a series of film stills organized as if it were a contact sheet. The work’s raw immediacy is grounded in an animated, moment-to-moment fluidity. The heat of bodies on a Cuban night is palpable through its smouldering colours. Yet, Wong skilfully creates a sense of voyeurism, throwing a barrier between subject and the viewer. The small, compacted frames simulate windows as much as filmstrips, powerfully situating the viewer outside the dancers’ milieu. Thus, every look at Hoops is a stolen glance – a daring, surreptitious peek into an incandescent scene. At once aloof and intimate, the grid invokes the presence of lens, screen and image frame, seductively testing degrees of separation between see-er and seen.
Paul Wong (b. 1954, Prince Rupert, BC) is an award-winning artist and curator known for pioneering early visual and media art in Canada, founding several artist-run groups and organising events, festivals, conferences and public interventions since the 1970s. Wong has shown and produced projects throughout North America, Europe and Asia. His works are in many public collections and numerous private collections. His work is included in the exhibition Dreamlands: Immersive Cinema 1905 – 2016 at the Whitney Museum that opens this October. Along with major commissions and grants, Wong received the Bell Canada Award in Video Art in 1992 and the Governor General Award in Visual and Media Art in 2005. In 2016, Wong was awarded the coveted Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement.