Martha Street Studio —


11 Martha Street
Winnipeg, Manitoba R3B 1A2

204 779 6253

Natasha Pestich Presents: A Survey of Jan Xylander Exhibition Posters

detail of Poster #32 from The Opening Act: A Survey of Jan Xylander Exhibition Posters, screenprint, 2016

January 12th, 2018 to February 24th, 2018
Opening: January 12th, 5-8 p.m.

Talk by Natasha Pestich Saturday, January 13th, 1 p.m.

Natasha Pestich’s exhibition features posters that track artist Jan Xylander's short-lived career. Digital and hand printed exhibition posters serve to both commemorate and pose questions about the significance of his work after his disappearance from the art world.

Artist Statement:

I present archives that address social realities, such as the drawbacks of progress, the effects of institutional frameworks on cultural production and the influence of publicly held ideas on private values. My images and objects are often amassed together representing complex mythologies that take up an entire gallery, or intervene in a public place.

Working primarily in print, I make installations, posters, and documents that borrow heavily from graphic information systems. I capitalize on print’s authority to convey information on one hand, and on the other, take advantage of print’s theatrical and subversive potential, allowing me to create humorous and poetic juxtapositions. These “juxtapositions” may be abstract or surreal representations, reconfiguring our relationship to signs and systems by visualizing our subconscious projections onto places, people, and situations. By engaging my audience in an imaginary space between fact and fiction, I am able to stretch the boundaries of belief while playfully acknowledging the absurdities apparent in reality.

By inserting the imaginary or personal into social or cultural constructs, uneasy contingencies emerge to frame the dissonance between appearance and facts, the anecdotal and the systematic, the egalitarian and the bureaucratic. The purpose of these investigations is to portray our relationship to site, and collective narratives through perceptual and psychological experiences that are not easily assimilated into the “official story”, drawing out the complex ways values and systems are questioned, internalized and expressed in our daily life. 


Pestich is a Minneapolis artist, educator and community artist. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from Concordia University in Montreal, Quebec, and her Master of Fine Arts in Printmaking from Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She is currently a Professor at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD), where she has developed an innovative curriculum in the study of printmaking, attracting the attention of the Mid-America Printmaking Journal, for whom she wrote an article on education. She has had solo exhibitions at alternative spaces like the Urban Institute for Contemporary Art in Michigan, the Generator Gallery in Scotland, and in museums like the Minneapolis Institute of Arts in Minnesota.

Working primarily in site-specific installation and works on paper, Pestich's work has been showcased in the United States, Canada, Portugal, Rome and Scotland. She is the recipient of a number of awards including a McKnight Arts Fellowship in the visual arts, an Institute for Creative Community Leadership fellowship, a State Arts Board grant and a Metropolitan Regional Arts Council grant.


Jan Xylander: A Study of Facts and Problems
by Collin Zipp

Ask anyone who Jan Xylander is, and he or she will immediately rattle off at least three different exhibitions that were required readings in art school. Many revere the works of Xylander as paramount in the world of art, dedicating entire books, classes and festivals to the study and celebration of his work. Although the complex work is a common stumbling block for even the most seasoned critics, his varied tales of love, hate, fear, betrayal, laughter, defeat and victory are just as fitting today as they were yesterday. He is amazingly timeless. Yet, while we might know what Xylander is, will we ever really know who Xylander is?

Much about the artist is a mystery to even the most scholarly enthusiasts. The hard facts that are actually known about him could fill one neatly handwritten page, but what is speculated and complete legend could fill volumes of books. So, what is fact and what is fiction? According to the little documentation that chronicles his life, Xylander was born in April. Even his actual date of birth is somewhat of a mystery. It is presumed that Xylander made it to London to begin his career, but the exact date is not known for sure. There are enough legal documents and records though, to know that Xylander goes on to possess a generous amount of real estate, hold shares in an acting company that built the Globe Theatre, and become a principal artist in the group The Kings Men. There are many theories and stories floating around that seem to fill in the gaping holes in his timeline, but since this information doesn’t appear on record, we don't know what is fact or fiction. Everything beyond this is myth and legend, which most certainly adds to the attraction of his works. His brilliant works can only be enhanced by the mystery and anonymity surrounding his life. 

Historians say that Xylander pumped anyone he could for information when creating his works. However, others feel that pumping friends or locals could help with broad knowledge, but really could not enable him to convey the atmosphere of a country or to add small, rather insignificant details which could only come from an artist who had actually experienced them. In addition, familiarity with languages, literature, law, politics, history and geography found in Xylander’s works, are all inconceivable for a commoner. No evidence points to Xylander ever attending a University. Yet, whoever created the works must have been highly cultured. It is pure speculation that some say that he is indeed an artist.

Although the subject of the true authorship of Xylander's works will probably never be laid to rest, it will always contribute to the enjoyment of studying his work. Students of the subject are compelled to study and re-study the works in an attempt to gain a better understanding of the artist. Debates involving fact and fiction keep the name Xylander in constant movement, reminding us that we have not outgrown him, not even after four hundred years. The work of Xylander, whomever Xylander is, is a gift for us to continue unwrapping, and pass down to our children to appreciate as well. One must hope that the mystery will never be solved, so that it may never lose its magic. 

In conclusion, curiosity has indeed been aroused for many, many years. Hundreds of theories and shreds of proof have been gathered, but the world will always wonder and waver between doubt and belief in Jan Xylander. So, the question still remains, is Jan Xylander really Jan Xylander?


Compiled from open source online essays about authorship, suspect and anonymity.


A multidisciplinary artist from Winnipeg MB, Collin Zipp obtained his BFA from the University of Manitoba’s School of Art in 2005 and his MFA from the University of Lethbridge in 2011. His work explores notions of viewer experience, expectation and authorship. Interested in trickery and deception, Zipp’s work challenges viewers to assess their perceptions of what they think art is or should be.

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