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Entertainment: Selections from Midcentury Studio was an exhibition of new photographic work by Vancouver artist Stan Douglas. Stan Douglas: Entertainment is a 72-page critical reader that accompanies and addresses the exhibition; it is the first in a new series called Power Plant Pages. The reader includes reproductions of the works in the exhibition, as well as new texts by Professor of History and Theory of Photography and New Media at the University of Toronto, Louis Kaplan and Berlin-based art historian Maria Muhle, along with a curatorial introduction by Melanie O’Brian.
The work in the exhibition continues the artist’s practice of reexamining historical, site-specific layers, particularly the imaging of postwar North American diversions from cabaret to sports. The body of work is largely a meticulous studio project in which Douglas assumes the lens of a photographer who takes on various jobs from Weegee-esque photojournalism to advertising. Achieving verisimilitude, Douglas reconstructed a studio using authentic equipment as well as hired actors to produce staged photographs that emulate the period’s obsession with noir-ish drama, magic, dance, sporting events, curious artifacts, fashion, and “caught-in-the-moment” scenes, gambling, and, of course, shifting technologies.
The exhibition includes the Malabar People, a series of sixteen black-and-white portraits of the patrons and staff of a fictional 1950s nightclub. The patrons range from single women to loggers, and the staff encompass bartenders, waitresses and entertainers (a dancer, a female impersonator, a musician). Accompanying them are additional photographs from Midcentury Studio that provide a further context for period entertainment including a multiple exposure image of a dancer, photographs of stage magic tricks or sleight of hand, and large-scale images of hockey and cricket events. The works were shot in Vancouver, and although the locations are not always revealed, the city not only plays itself but stands in for a midcentury every city. The notion of entertainment is entwined with a postwar optimism, while at the same time inflected with darker ramifications of looking back. The photographs in Entertainment collectively speak to notions of history and reproduction, and offer a partial portrait of a specific place and time.
Stan Douglas: Entertainment features an arresting silk-screened cover with French flaps and elegant duotone interior designed by Sameer Farooq of New Ink.
Author(s): Louis Kaplan, Maria Muhle, Melanie O'Brian
Publisher: The Power Plant
Illustrations: 72-page duotone interior with silk-screened cover
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