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First U.S. solo museum exhibition of Canadian artist Ron Terada at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago
Ron Terada, Stay Away from Lonely Places, 2005. Courtesy Catriona Jeffries, Vancouver.

CHICAGO, IL.- Ron Terada: Being There is the first U.S. solo museum exhibition of Canadian artist Ron Terada who uses text, signage, advertising, and Hollywood films in unusual and inventive ways to create cultural narratives. Curated by MCA James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator Michael Darling, the exhibition includes a fascinating body of work that shows Terada's wide-ranging conceptual practice --from paintings, photographs, and graphic design, to video, sound, and interventions. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago presents Ron Terada: Being There through January 15, 2012.

Born in 1969 in Vancouver, British Columbia, where he still lives and works, Terada is a conceptual artist of Japanese-Canadian decent, who often uses his position within the art world in Vancouver as the starting point for measuring his own self-worth, self-esteem, and self-identification. His approach to painting comes out of minimalism, but the meanings behind them are not so simple, layered with doubling, mirroring, and recreations. His practice calls attention to existing cultural forms and their operation as signs. Past works have adapted gallery signage, posters, brochures, and exhibition soundtracks to question the statements of cultural institutions.

Ron Terada: Being There surveys work throughout Terada’s career, including recent works such as Who I Think I Am, Jack, and Soundtrack for an Exhibition, which incorporate photography, painting, and video. A common theme in Terada's work is the re-creation of signage. When put in a museum setting, these signs appear abrupt and enigmatic, manipulating what should be symbols of authority. In the early part of his career, Terada created his Ad Paintings, made from Artforum advertisements. At first glance these may appear straightforward, but are meant to examine the relationship between the artist and the institutions that showcase the art. By re-creating these text pieces, Terada allows the viewer to play with the words, thereby creating different and imaginative meanings.

Works such as Entering City of Vancouver, Big Star, and Untitled (Jeopardy Painting: Organisms) incorporate aluminum signs and neon lights, and are inspired by a combination of pop culture and everyday objects. Terada's neon sign Stay Away from Lonely Places, plays with neon's association with commercial advertising, but the ambiguous phrase, taken from a Willie Nelson song title, makes this isolated sign seem even more cryptic.

Big Star and Soundtrack for an Exhibition relate to music. Big Star is a neon sign that refers to the influential 1970s rock band of the same name. Soundtrack for an Exhibition is a video installation in which the image depicts the playing of its own musical soundtrack on a vintage record player. Terada’s subtle sensibility and humor are at play in both, exploring with fine line between aspiration and failure.

The Jack paintings are Terada’s most recent and emotional work, centered on the dramatic and tragic life of Canadian-born artist, Jack Goldstein (1945-2003). Jack is a series of black canvases with white lettering, reproducing text from Goldstein’s memoir, Jack Goldstein and the CalArts Mafia. A prominent postconceptual artist, Goldstein committed suicide in 2003, leaving his memoir to tell the tale of his early success as an artist, his relationships in the art world, and his eventual downward spiral to drug addiction and poverty. With Jack, Terada returns to language-based painting to pay homage to the late artist. In the photograph Who I Think I Am (2010), an image of Terada’s finger points at a photo of Goldstein and his dog, also named Jack.

Terada received his Fine Arts degree from Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver in 1991, and went on to hold a faculty position there from 1998-2007. Terada received the VIVA award from the Jack and Doris Shadbolt Foundation for the Visual Arts in 2004 and the Victor Martyn Lynch-Staunton Award, Canada Council for the Arts in 2006. He also received a public commission for the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games.

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