Ready Player Two: Sonny Assu and Brendan Lee Satish Tang
17 January – 17 March 2019
Opening Reception: Thursday, January 17, 6 – 9 pm
With a desire to explore shared interests in their work, British Columbia artists Sonny Assu and Brendan Lee Satish Tang expand on previous collaborations in this inventive two-person exhibition. In Ready Player Two, the artists incorporate elements of popular culture—in particular science fiction, and various comic and gaming cultures—to consider how these forms read as symbols of cultural identity and present possibilities for rethinking race relations in contemporary society. This body of work acknowledges and gives shape to concealed and erased immigrant and indigenous histories through common interests in what the artists collectively refer to as “consumer geek culture.”
In their independent practices, both Assu and Tang frequently use art historical references to unpack the history of colonization, and remix the visual language of popular culture to explore ongoing implications of consumerism and globalization. Humour is common ground for these artists, and is often employed as a foil for the critical lens intrinsic to their practices. Both artists cite arcade games, science fiction novels and television programs, and comic book stores as profound influences on their development as adolescents and on their present day artistic practices.
Assu and Tang are well established as artists who interrogate cultural identity through hybridized forms. Accomplished ceramist Brendan Lee Satish Tang was born in Dublin to Trinidadian parents of Chinese and South Asian descent. Tang’s careful attention to craftsmanship is integral to his exploration of material culture, allowing him to draw from references as divergent as the Ming Dynasty, the French Rococo, and Japanese Anime. Sonny Assu is an interdisciplinary artist who probes the intersection of popular culture and Indigenous aesthetics. His practice is rooted in the materials and forms of his Kwakwaka’wakw heritage, but often takes aesthetic cues from commercial design, advertising, graffiti and other pop culture idioms.
This exhibition intermingles works from the artists’ independent practices with collaborative installations and new works to create immersive spaces that evoke the adolescent sanctuaries of their time: the basement, the arcade, and the comic book store. While paying homage to their adolescent pastimes, Ready Player Two also disrupts the racial and ideological bias that is fundamental to many of the forms of popular culture that shaped the artists’ experiences of Canadian life in the 1980s and 1990s.
Ready Player Two is curated by Laura Schneider and organized and circulated by The Reach. This project is made possible through generous support from the Canada Council for the Arts. This exhibition is also supported by the Department of Canadian Heritage, Museums Assistance Program through the Exhibition Circulation Fund component.
The Reach (Abbotsford, BC) May–September, 2017
Yukon Arts Centre (Whitehorse, YK) March–May, 2018
Touchstones Gallery (Nelson, BC) June–August, 2018
Niagara Artists Center (St. Catherines, ON) September–November, 2018
Art Gallery of York University (Toronto, ON) January–March, 2019
Illingworth Kerr Art Gallery (Calgary, AB) January–March 2020