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Joan Balzar

Catalogue Reviews
A handful of attractive recent exhibition catalogues, as well as archived catalogue reviews.

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Preview's 25-year history as an art-speak-free guide

The back-story to Preview: the Gallery Guide is Vanguard magazine, a large-format 64-paged glossy, produced from 1972-84 by the Vancouver Art Gallery and subsequently, until it folded in 1989, by the Vancouver Society for Critical Arts Publications.

Preview 25thJanice Whitehead, now long-established as the publisher/owner of Preview: The Gallery Guide, was the managing editor for 13 years. Vanguard featured challenging essays in English or French about art, artists, art theory and events. It also included paid black and white or colour advertisements for galleries. Because colour separations (essential to the printing process) were expensive, they were used sparingly – but at least both sides of the front and back covers were chromatic. It was certain that even with the low quality images together with the names of venues, exhibiting artists and articles, essential information about Canadian culture was being communicated during this time frame. Vanguard’s 100-plus issues are therefore safeguarded in many libraries, including the Vancouver Art Gallery’s, just as are all issues of Preview.

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo, Raising La Mama Grande

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo, Raising La Mama Grande

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo, Raising La Mama Grande

Osvaldo Ramirez Castillo, Raising La Mama Grande

In 1986, Vanguard magazine published something special in honour of Vancouver’s centennial and Expo 86. Art86 was a $2 pocket-sized guide that encouraged visitors to see visual art attractions in several foreign pavilions and the public art made for Expo '86 by B.C. artists like Richard Prince, John Clair Watts and Beau Dick. The 30-page issue also contained information regarding galleries, museums and studios in the city and province that might be of interest to Expo attendees together with listings for walking tours, conferences and film festivals that were happening in Vancouver and Victoria throughout the summer of 1986. The tone of this "souvenier" was intelligent, taking care to inform and engage the reader. Even though most illustrations were not much bigger than postage stamps, they demonstrated Vancouver’s sophistication in the arts.

The approximately 5.5 x 8-inch format established with Art86 remained constant in the subsequent '87 and '89 pocket guides that were later developed by Vanguard. Many aspects of their consistent design features (for example the three vertical division sections on each page of listings) were facilitated by the 1985 introduction of Superpage by Bestinfo, one of the first desktop publishing programs that allowed most of the writing and magazine layout to be done in-house. When Vanguard ceased operations abruptly in the summer of 1989, Whitehead decided to expand on the services-concept offered in Art86, Art87 and Art89 in her own independent publication, Preview of The Visual Arts, which premiered in the fall of 1989. The small guides had proven their usefulness and Whitehead knew how to develop the format and make the enterprise financially viable. Over the 25-year production history, the scope of the magazine has continued to grow and incorporate new technologies.

The name Preview was emblazoned in bold white letters on the cover of the inaugural issue. The city of Portland was added to Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle, which were already set out in Art89. At 31 pages it was thicker than it had previously been and colour illustrations enlivened almost every page. The light blue, half-page previews, a feature introduced in Art89, continued but were still unsigned.

A Saturday Review article in the January 5, 1991 edition of the Vancouver Sun describes Preview as the Vancouver-based counterpart to Slate, the Toronto gallery guide. The article further states that Preview is the only art publication to serve cities north and south of the border and east and west of the Rockies and it offers an excellent summary of what is important to see at 100 local galleries.

Four years later, Chris Tyrell via CARFAC nominated Preview for a Vancouver Board of Trade Business and the Arts Award. The submission praises Preview’s 1995 wide circulation of 25,000 copies to fifty major cities and communities, the fact that it advertises exhibitions displayed in over 300 venues, and that it selectively covers the specialized services of art-related businesses, all without receiving direct financial support from any level of government or other organization. The writing style was described as “easily readable, objective and information-based, rather than opinion-based, since it is intended to entice viewers to attend exhibitions.”

Launched in 1996, Preview's extensive and comprehensive web presence (where current and back-issues can be downloaded) receives over 70,000 unique visitors a month. Although there are local, regional and international annual subscribers, some 30,000 copies of five issues per year are now widely distributed throughout the Pacific Northwest at no purchase cost to the public. The relevant content, supported with the many finely reproduced true-colour images, continues to receive positive responses of support and appreciation from readers, clients and art-world participants alike.

In its 25th year, Preview: The Gallery Guide covers an ever-widening territory and, despite troubles in the global economy, ever-more cultural outlets and events. For example, the 104-page 2011 summer issue contains 350 gallery listings, 27 notices for art services and materials, and 20 half-page previews written by Mia Johnson and Allyn Cantor. As well, there are one-page articles on art conservation, feature articles by Jim Finlay and Ann Rosenberg, information on art catalogues, gallery openings and related events, and five pages of vignettes or mini-reviews by Robin Laurence and Allyn Cantor.

Thanks to the vision and expertise Whitehead brings to her successful business model, the hard work of a dedicated staff, and the wonders of digital cameras and scans, Preview: The Gallery Guide moves forward, and there is not an unclear sentence or baffling phrase of art-speak anywhere to block one's access to art.

Ann Rosenberg

FEATURES, NEW & OLD: Archipenko: A Modern Legacy | Yves Saint Laurent: The Perfection of Style | Tori Foster: Traces of Beings | Royal Nebeker: Dreams and Allusions / Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun: Unceded Territories | Peter Aspell: Saints and Sinners, Mystics and Madness / The Mad Alchemist | Paradox of Place: Contemporary Korean Art | Art AIDS America | Gods and Heroes: Masterpieces from the École des Beaux-Arts, Paris | Fred Schiffer: Lives in Photos | Future Station | Jock Macdonald: Evolving Form | 2014 Bonifacho | The Art of the Louvre's Tuileries Garden | Edgardo Aragón: Ley Fuga | Vanishing Ice | Kingston Prize | Charles Edenshaw | Jillian McDonald | William Perehudoff | Rembrandt, Van Dyck, Gainsborough:The Treasures of Kenwood House, London | Carrying on Irregardless | Elles: Women Artists from the Centre Pompidou | James Nizam: Trace Heavens | Gaugin & Polynesia | Leslie Dill's Poetic Vision | Preview's 25th Anniversary in Print | The Surrealist Revolution in Art | Carl Beam | Shadows of a Fleeting World: Seattle Camera Club | Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National, Paris | Show of Hands: Northwest Women Artists 1880-2010 | Fleeting Beauty: Japanese Woodblock Prints | Judy Radul: World Rehearsal Court | Requiem: BY Photographers Who Died in Vietnam & Indochina | Andreas Gurksy: Werke/Works 80-08 | Chris Jordan: Running the Numbers II | Action-Camera: Beijing Performance Photography | Hiro Yamagata: T R A N S I E N T | Henk Pander: History and Typography | Mandy Greer: Dare alla Luce | Generation: Images of Youth | Rembrandt & Dutch Art's Golden Age | Seattle Art Museum at 75 | Life After Death: New Leipzig Paintings | Joanna Staniszkis: Silk City | Rodin: In His Own Words | First Nations Art: Historic to Contemporary | Maya Lin: Systematic Landscapes | Three Rivers: Wild Waters, Sacred Places | Portland Art Museum | Acting Out: Claude Cahun & Marcel Moore | Isamu Noguchi: Sculptural Design | Rhythm and Change: The Bow in Contemporary Art | Douglas Curran: The Elephant Has Four Hearts | Fay Jones: Recent Paintings | Massive Change: Bruce Mau | Web Images: Quick Guide | Treasures From the Kröller-Müller | Gerry Deiter: Give Peace a Chance | InFest: International Artist-Run Culture | Silver: Dreams, Screens & Theories | Paul Wong: COLLECT | James Turrell: Knowing Light | Joanna Staniszkis: Linen’s Edge | Daniel Joliffe/Jocelyn Robert: Ground Station | Bratsa Bonifacho: Habitat Pixel | Edouardo Kac: Contemporary Art Explores Human Genomics | Douglas Gordon at the VAG | Walk Ways Explore Body-Mind Connection

Preview in Print  

The print edition of Preview gives more details of galleries and exhibitions. Pick up a copy at most galleries in the Pacific Northwest.

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for subscription and other information.

You can reach Preview...
by regular mail:
P.O. Box 549, Station A,
Vancouver, BC, Canada V6C 2N3
by phone: (604) 254-1405
by fax: (604) 254-1314
by email:

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