Toppings, Glenn; Selman, Dallas Glenn Toppings & Dallas Selman, Black Night Rip.

Glenn Toppings & Dallas Selman


Chosen by: Ken Lum, Artist


“In 1978, I was spanking new to contemporary art and, except for some vague notion, I did not even know who Pablo Picasso was.  At the time I was trying to expand my science-student-self with my first ever visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery, having recently enrolled in my first ever art class at Simon Fraser University.  Up until then I had visited only two art museums, the first being the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York when I was in my early teens, breezing through all the wings except for the Egyptian rooms which was the point of my visit.  The other museum of art I had visited was in Philadelphia.  It is almost embarrassing to tell the story of my coming upon the room of Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnés.  I was nineteen years old then and I thought the room was empty but for a crusty-looking old door.  Years later, in art class, someone showed a slide that revealed the secret of this door and I was shocked!

Entering the Vancouver Art Gallery’s old and now long-destroyed Georgia Street building, I came upon a collections show.  I was really having a hard time trying to make sense of all that I was learning in art class.  I tried to be open-minded, but it was a struggle to temper my contempt for what passed for art.  I found it difficult reconciling my narrow idea of what art should be with what art was.  In that frame of mind, I came across Glenn Toppings and Dallas Selman’s Black Night Rip.  I remember trying hard to figure it out.  I liked the watery waves reference and that it was placed in a corner.  It was not quite as ‘nutty’ as a lot of other works on view and which I just did not get.  I also remember deferring to the authority of the Vancouver Art Gallery.  I figured if it was good enough to be part of the museum’s collection, it had to be good.  The problem was perhaps I just did not know enough about art to appreciate what was good.”


Glenn Toppings and Dallas Selman, Black Night Rip, date unknown. Sculpture, fibreglass. Collection of the Vancouver Art. Purchased by the Vancouver Art Gallery Endowment Fund.

Ken Lum’s career retrospective KEN LUM is on exhibition at the Gallery until September 25, 2011. 

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