Douglas Coupland’s art dwells on the same subjects as his novels: urbanism, technology and a culture accelerating toward uncertain ends. He distills loaded ideas into supercharged symbols, like the colossal toy soldiers at Fleet and Bathurst commemorating the War of 1812, and an orca sculpture in the Vancouver Harbour that resembles a pixelated JPEG. His work over the past two decades has been poppy and prescient, forecasting Internet ubiquity and commodification. Yet despite his skepticism, Coupland is a diehard utopian, energized by the knowledge, innovation and communication that technology affords us.
The new exhibit Everywhere Is Anywhere Is Anything Is Everything is the first major retrospective of Coupland’s visual art, divided into themes like “Pop Explosion,” “21st-Century Condition” and “Growing Up Utopian.” The ROM and the MOCCA have transformed into helter-skelter funhouses, filled with Coupland’s candy-coloured painted panels, towering Lego cities and an installation he calls “The Brain”: a room of 5,000 toys and trinkets he’s collected over 20 years from Craigslist and garage sales. The show swamps your brain with pop culture references, optical illusions and politicized polemics. His message? For all the fear and frenzy, there’s still plenty to be hopeful about.
Jan. 31–Apr. 26. Royal Ontario Museum (100 Queen’s Park) and MOCCA (952 Queen St. W.), couplandto.ca.