‘The 100’ #35 – Ron Terada…

Ron Terada (born 1969) is a Vancouver born and based conceptual artist  working in various media, including painting, photography, video, sound, books, and graphic design. He uses signage and advertising as art forms and is best known for his monochromatic and neon signs onto which he transposes text.

(All credits due at bottom of page. Click on images for larger version).

On the left is a text-based artwork by Terada from 2010 that references Vancouver’s legendary neon past. It is installed outside of Vancouver’s iconic public library and this location emphasizes the art work’s message. Terada writes of this work: “The sign takes its cues from an era of signage when signs were seen as celebratory, grand and iconic – in effect, as landmarks in their own right, a kind of symbolic architecture… Taken within the context of a public library, the work touches upon – in a very poetic way – the use of words and language as boundless and imaginative, as a catalyst for a multiplicity of meanings.”  The tension between ‘words’ and ‘pictures’ is both real and not real – an idea explored by Magritte in his painting: The Treachery of Images (Ceci n’est pas une pipe); and this Terada work is testament to the way we read pictures and the way we see words.

Above is Ron Terada’s neon text piece: It Is What It Is, It Was What It Was, a sculpture that reflects on our present-day use of language and offers a general critique on a perceived state of complacency in today’s society. It Is What It Is evokes this specific moment in time and place in which we live, and in which the artist has produced his works.     (Ron Terada: It is What it Is, It Was What It Was, 2008, 15 mm white neon tubing, 91.5 × 449.6 cm installed. Purchased 2009. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa).

On the left is Terada’s Five Coloured Words in Neon (2003). Here Terada explores the poetic potential of the everyday, north American vernacular. It is deadpan, intelligent, emotional and strangely humorous.

Terada received his Fine Arts diploma in 1991 from Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia. . From 1998-2007 he held a sessional faculty position at the same institution. He also attended the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and the University of British Columbia.

Left is Ron Terada’s Stay Away from Lonely Places, 2005. (Installation view, Ikon gallery, Birmingham, England, White neon, brushed aluminum, Plexiglass, wood, paint). For this exhibition, Terada created a neon sign reading “Stay Away from Lonely Places”, from the Willie Nelson song title. Inside the gallery, a series of photographs document a variety of local signs he encountered. With their visual idiosyncracies or odd turn of phrases, the signs viewed in isolation are terse and cryptic

Ron Terada’s photography, light-boxes, video projects and neon works draw on content from everyday sources. Through his juxtaposition of text and images, he references popular culture and art history traditions, often taking texts from such items as outdoor signage to create other layers of meaning. His work has been exhibited in solo and group shows in Canada, the United States and Europe.

See Other Side of Sign, by Ron Terada. 2006. Courtesy of the artist and Catriona Jeffries Gallery, Vancouver.




This (left) Terada piece, Temporary, riffs on the Vancouver Park Board’s tendency of adding text to their public plantings.

Ron Terada’s 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.

Terada is represented by the Catriona Jeffries Gallery based in Vancouver.

Credits for Images and information: Wikipedia / Google Images / Catrionia Jeffries Gallery.

‘The 100′ series was initiated by my 100th Post in April 2012. As text and images are the essence of my blog my intention is to present 100 pieces of textual art from historical and contemporary artists and from my own hand. To view the series to date click on ‘The 100’ in my Category Menu.

18 thoughts on “‘The 100’ #35 – Ron Terada…

  1. This reminds me of the text in Edinburgh at the 2 modern art museums – I think one said ‘don’t worry it will be all right’. for some reason I have forgotten the other (opposite) one. text is compelling!


        1. Conceptual art is almost too complex to get into here – it’s the idea of art stripped from the formal components and from the traditional gallery concept of exhibiting. In modernist terms it begins with Duchamp. Yoko Ono’s work is a good example.


  2. Daddio, haven’t had a chance to read all of the “sign” post but I love that you included the “the words don’t fit the picture” sign. Remember our conversation on the piece after the trip to the CBC building?? Great to know the actual meaning behind the sign. So awesome to learn about the history of signs and that they had much more meaning in the past. Super interesting. Love YOu!


  3. I liked the phrasing “stay away from lonely places”; however, I find it difficult to appreciate this form of art, not because it is intrinsically invalid but because I don’t know how to identify with it. I like almost anything with “soul” in it, and I’m finding it difficult to appreciate this sign art.


    1. Giovanni, thank you for commenting. I completely accept that none of us feels touched by every art form – we all have our preferences and that’s how it is to be human. As an art history student and a teaching artist I have learned to be as objective as possible when viewing / critiquing works of art; however, I do have my own preferences, some quite strong – so I do understand your comment…


  4. Thank you for the introduction to Ron Terada. It resembles work I have seen before including colour and font but still, I like what he is doing, particularly ‘Stay away from lonely places.’


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s