Modern in the Making, on view at the Vancouver Art Gallery through January 3, 2021, is the most comprehensive showcase of the mid-century craft and design scene in British Columbia assembled to date, examining ceramics, fashion, furniture, jewelry and textiles that defined West Coast modern living.
Comprising over three hundred works created from 1945 to 1975, this exhibition reveals the multiple ways modernism was interpreted in British Columbia, with the inflection of local histories, materials and knowledge with a recognition of the rich Indigenous cultures that predated the arrival of settler cultures.
“The post-war craft and design period in British Columbia was especially significant because design and craft were activities considered essential for a life of creative pursuit. Modern in the Making: Post-War Craft and Design in British Columbia surveys a period characterized by enormous creativity and innovation that transformed the culture of this region-the reverberations of which continue to be felt today,” stated Daina Augaitis, Interim Director at the Vancouver Art Gallery. “Well-crafted objects are currently experiencing a revival, as the handmade has assumed a position of renewed importance in our digital age.”
In the three decades following the Second World War, thousands of people immigrated to British Columbia seeking the benefits of its resource-based economy, mild climate, natural amenities and inventive spirit. This optimistic post-war environment fostered the development of exceptional design and craft practices deeply influenced by the tenets of modernism: simplicity, fine craftsmanship and functional design for everyday use.
The exhibition is organized chronologically to document how the aesthetic, material and conceptual approaches to design and craft shifted over three decades of production. The included works reflect the increased demand for a wide range of functional, domestic objects that could complement the new West Coast modern architectural style that had begun to emerge. Highlights include Nuu-chah-nulth weaver Nellie Jacobson’s grass buttons and traditional baskets that point to both the ruptures in this region caused by colonial expansion and the importance of Indigenous design in the modernization of British Columbia.
Photo: Ian Lefebvre, Vancouver Art Gallery