October 2020 to September 2021
The Wall located on the CBC Plaza on the 700 block of Hamilton Street across from the Vancouver Public Library is an artists’ platform made possible through a unique partnership between Vancouver Heritage Foundation and the CBC, with support from JJ Bean Coffee Roasters and the City of Vancouver Public Art Program. It is the site of a changing program of artworks responding to and reflecting upon Vancouver’s built environment and includes an Artist in Residence program at the CBC Archives. With The Wall and its cultural programming, Vancouver Heritage Foundation is broadening the way in which Vancouver’s built environment is interpreted and perceived.
The Wall Partners
CBC / Radio Canada
JJ Bean Coffee Roasters
City of Vancouver
Vancouver Heritage Foundation
Additional support is provided by Knight Signs and Process Color
The WALL Public Art Project: The Birth Of Gianthropology ~ The Giant Hand & Loaf
Didactic Panel Text:
The Giant Hand And The Birth of Gianthropology
In the grand scheme of Vancouver’s heritage, the neon period from 1925 to 1960 is perhaps the city’s most heralded example of its transition from gloomy sawmill town to vibrant metropolis. At the peak of this glowing epoch there were thousands of electrified gas filled glass tubes in the Terminal City’s neon jungle. A big hiccup in this bright-lights-big-city story came with the blackouts of WWII when civil defence restrictions lead to a new category of no neon outdoor advertising known as “Spectaculars.”
When McGavin’s Bakery approached Neon Products for an animated neon of Mother Hubbard’s bread, a “Spectacular” was suggested instead. A hand of enormous proportions was proposed, roughly the same size as the Statue of Liberty’s, but instead of grasping the eternal flame of freedom, Mother Hubbard’s digits would raise on high a leviathan loaf of liberty bread! Genius! McGavin’s, a big supporter of Victory Bonds, approved.
Ironically, work on the Giant Hand & Loaf didn’t begin until after blackout restrictions had been lifted at the end of the war. Progress slowed when McGavin’s roof required fortification supporting the added weight. Then the “Spectacular” installers were unavailable, preoccupied by a Log Cabin Cookies billboard featuring a real log cabin with smoking chimney and Mom inside whipping up maple creams. Finally in September 1948, the “Spectacular” crew convened on the roof of McGavin’s and over the next four months assembled the sheet metal loaf and concrete mixed with vermiculite hand, and a cuff hiding the steel bridgework. The finished Giant Hand & Loaf stood atop McGavin’s bakery from 1949 through 1973.
When Henri Robideau photographed the Giant Hand & Loaf in February 1973, its cuff had blown away in a wind storm and one of its fingers had rotted off. This image became the first in his life-long photographic study of humanity’s attraction to bigness, a new science he called Gianthropology. He conducted Gianthropological Digs along the Pacific cordillera throughout the 1970’s, culminating in the 1980 exhibition Giant Things, featuring the Giant Hand & Loaf as its signature image. Expanding on that huge success he launched the Pancanadienne Gianthropological Survey, portaging around Canada in the 1980’s, photographing the monumental in the form of panoramic images. After a dozen exhibitions of his panoramas, they were catastrophically destroyed in the Montreal flood of July 14, 1987. His lost work was later celebrated in the 1988 post deluge book Pacific To Atlantic, Canada’s Gigantic!
Turtle Islander Henri Robideau, born 1946 in Bristol Connecticut, came to Vancouver in 1969, a refugee from the violence of America. His photography and writing are grounded in history, humour and the ironic tragedy of human existence.
The WALL is located on the traditional, ancestral and unceded territories of the xwməθkwəyəm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) and Səlílwətaʔ (Tsleil-Waututh) peoples.
EXHIBITIONS OF GIANTHROPOLOGICAL WORKS
• Giant Things, Viewspace, Vancouver.
•Pancandian Review of Panoramic Views, Coburg Gallery, Vancouver.
•Nuclear~Free Zone: Gianthropological Low-tech Panoramic Photographs In Search of Peace, The Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.
•The Pancanadienne Gianthropological Survey, Peter Whyte Gallery, Banff.
•Études Géanthropologiques Pancanadiennes, Dazibao Gallery, Montréal.
•Return of The Pancanadinne Gianthropological Survey, Coburg Gallery, Vancouver.
•Gallery in Transit, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.
•The Pancanadienne Gianthropological Survey, Open Space Gallery, Victoria, B.C.
•The Pancanadienne Gianthropological Survey, Kamloops Art Gallery, Kamloops, B.C.
•Gallery in Transit, Hastings bus, Vancouver.
•Pacific To Atlantic Canada’s Gigantic, Presentation House Gallery, North Vancouver.
•Pacific to Atlantic Canada’s Gigantic, Toronto Photographers Workshop, Toronto.
• La Vie En Géanthropologie, VU, Québec.
•Canada Gigantesque, Centre Culturel de Dorval, Dorval, Québec.
•The Monumental Speck: True Tales of Human Greatness in the Trackless Universe, Foto-Base Gallery, Vancouver.
•The Henri Robideau Gianthropological Resource Centre, MacLaren Art Centre, Molson Community Gallery, Barrie, Ontario.
GIANTHROPOLOGY IN PUBLIC COLLECTIONS
British Columbia Art Collection
Canada Council Art Bank
Canadian Museum of Contemporary Photography
Children's National Medical Center, Washington DC
City of Vancouver
MacLaren Art Centre, Barrie Ontario
Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
National Archives of Canada
National Gallery of Canada
Paved Arts, Saskatoon
The Photographers Gallery, Saskatoon
Seattle Art Commission
Surrey Art Gallery
Vancouver Art Gallery
Winnipeg Art Gallery
•Words and Images, National Film Board of Canada Still Photography Division, Kent Street Gallery, Ottawa.
•Selected Works From Recent Purchases, Seattle Art Commission, Seattle.
•Vancouver: Art and Artists 1931-1983, Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver.
• October Show, Vancouver.
• Contemporary Canadian Photography from the Collection of the National Film Board, a traveling
exhibition. Venues include:
–Edmonton Art Gallery;
–Winnipeg Art Gallery;
–National Gallery of Canada;
–Dalhousie Art Gallery;
–Art Gallery of Hamilton;
–Musée du Québec.
• Warehouse Show, Vancouver.
• Gallery in Transit, Winnipeg, and Edmonton.
•New Canadian West, two person show with Patrick Close, Gallery 101, Ottawa.
• Landscape, Marylhurst College, Marylhurst, Oregon.
•Contemporary Canadian Photography, Film in the Cities Gallery, Minneapolis.
• Urbanarium, Vancouver.
• Marques et Contrastes, Galerie Séquence, Jonquière, Québec.
• Documentary Styles: Seven Contemporary Canadian Photographers, Burlington Cultural Centre, Burlington, Ontario.
• Mirabile Visu, Musée de la Civilization, Québec.
• Panorama des Panoramas, Centre National de la Photographie, Paris, France.
• 4th International Conference of the Visual Arts, Ars Mundi, Vancouver.
• Welcome Back, A Celebration of the Works of Jeannie Kamins & Henri Robideau, Silverton Gallery, Silverton, B.C.
•15 Pacific Northwest Photographers, Whatcom Museum, Bellingham, Washington.
•CVAA Roundup, Oceanside Gallery, Parksville, British Columbia.
© 2021 Henri Robideau