B.C. Binning and Alvin Balkind Galleries
Deanna Bowen’s solo exhibition, A Harlem Nocturne, comprises two separate strands of research following the artist’s family lineage in Canada. Her practice concerns itself with histories of Black experience in Canada and the US that remain below the threshold of visibility, not because they are impossible to see but because they are difficult for the majority culture to acknowledge. Mining overlooked archives and forgotten documents, Bowen employs a range of artistic gestures to bring traces of a complex, deeply personal and often violent past into public visibility.
In the Alvin Balkind Gallery, a four-channel video installation presents footage from On Trial The Long Doorway (2017), which focuses on a lost 1956 CBC teledrama in which Bowen’s great uncle Herman Risby played a supporting role.
The B.C. Binning Gallery features works presenting a terrain of research that Bowen undertook in Vancouver in 2017–18, recovered from civic documents, newspaper clippings and numerous personal and organizational archives. Each of these materials trace interconnected figures forming an integral part of Vancouver’s Black entertainment community from the 1940s to 1970s. As Black bodies living and working in a settler colony surrounded by societal and institutionalized racism, they were both invisible and hypervisible, variously admired, exoticized, surveilled, discriminated against and violently attacked. What these recovered documents ultimately reveal is the picture of a complex and varied Black community in Vancouver.
Curated by Kimberly Phillips with assistance from Julia Lamare
Presented in partnership with Capture Photography Festival. On Trial The Long Doorway was commissioned and produced through a partnership between the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver and Mercer Union, Toronto. Production support was provided through a Media Arts residency at the Western Front, Vancouver. Additional support provided by Clark’s Audio Visual. The artist wishes to thank the Ontario Arts Council for their support.
Deanna Bowen is a Toronto-based interdisciplinary artist whose practice examines race, migration, historical writing and authorship. Bowen makes use of a repertoire of artistic gestures in order to define the Black body and trace its presence and movement in place and time. In recent years, Bowen’s work has involved rigorous examination of her family lineage and their connections to the Black Prairie pioneers of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the Creek Negroes and All-Black towns of Oklahoma, the extended Kentucky/Kansas Exoduster migrations and the Ku Klux Klan. She has received several awards in support of her artistic practice including 2017 Canada Council New Chapter and Ontario Arts Council Media Arts production grants, a 2016 Guggenheim Fellowship and the 2014 William H. Johnson Prize. She has exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum of Art, Toronto (2017); the Art Museum at the University of Toronto (2016); the Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (2015); McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton (2015 – 14) and the Art Gallery of York University, Toronto (2013)