Glenn Lewis’ TAXONOMIES is a public work that was created for the exterior and interior of the Western Front building. It consists of six planted coniferous trees in newly thrown ceramic pots, wooden signs and a large format photographic study.
TAXONOMIES incorporates several elements that are characteristic of Lewis’ established 50-year art practice. In the past Lewis’ practice has include the use of ceramics, gardening and photographic studies. Cumulatively in this new work, these elements come together to draw attention to the displacement of the lumber industry as a primary industry in the region, and as a consequence, the decline of wooden architecture in the city of Vancouver.
One of a handful of wood frame buildings that still stand in Vancouver, the Western Front grows increasingly anomalous in its own neighborhood, as new condominium and mixed-use buildings are developed in Mount Pleasant. The Western Front’s building was originally a lodge hall, built for the Knights of Pythias, a charitable and community oriented fraternal order with American origins. The building has been maintained closely to its original architecture by the Western Front Society, an artist initiated arts centre, since 1973. One of the first such spaces in east Vancouver, the Western Front continues to pioneer in presenting and promoting developments in contemporary artistic practice. As well, the Western Front has been seeking ways to interact with the changing landscape of its neighbourhood, as it has become a corner in the city for new artistic venues, studio spaces and businesses participating in the creative economy. These elements are leading factors in why developers have identified the area as an attractive community for a new demographic of homeowners.
Each year the Western Front commissions a public building work that addresses these shifts in architecture and community. Previously, this series has included a work by the Vancouver based artist, Reece Terris’, who’s Western Front Front – Another False Front was a standout element of the 2010 cultural Olympiad.
As one of the founding members of the Western Front in 1973, Glenn Lewis’ has personally been involved in the centre and the dynamic surrounding of the Mount Pleasant community. TAXONOMIES implicates a critical and ongoing public conversation, as well as the personal concerns and evolving artistic interests of one of Vancouver’s most accomplished and revered senior artists.
Glenn Lewis is a senior Vancouver artist, administrator and teacher. Born in Chemainus, BC in 1935, Lewis attended the Vancouver School of Art (Emily Carr University of Art + Design) and studied ceramics under the celebrated English potter, Bernard Leach. As a founding member of the New Era Social Club, Western Front and Intermedia, Lewis was one of an internationally recognized group of artists who established social practice as an artistic medium in Vancouver. Lewis worked with peers to develop alternate channels for artistic exchange such as mailart, dance and synchronized swimming events, parades and dinner parties, and utilized video, fax and computer technology to expand this network and sphere of activity internationally. Through the course of his 50-year career, Lewis has integrated a material acuity with site-specific performance, video work and installation. In 2010, Presentation House Gallery presented Flakey: The Early Works of Glenn Lewis, and is currently producing a monograph with essays by Dieter Roelstraete and Jordan Strom. Works by Lewis are also included in Traffic: Conceptual Art in Canada 1965-1980, a major exhibition organized by the Art Gallery of Alberta, Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is touring multiple Canadian venues between 2010 and 2013.