A multifaceted artist and curator, Michael Morris was a catalyst for the development of the Vancouver art scene. As co-founder of Image Bank, he revolutionized the potential of mail exchange as a decentralized method of artistic networking. Settling in Canada at an early age, Morris became initially interested in painting by studying with Herbert Siebner. After graduating from the University of Victoria and the Vancouver School of Art, he continued his studies at the Slade School of Art in London. Back in Vancouver, Morris worked as a curator at the Vancouver Art Gallery and the Simon Fraser University Art Gallery in Burnaby, British Columbia. In 1969, along with Vincent Trasov and Gary Lee Nova, Morris founded Image Bank, a collaborative platform that engaged in an international exchange of reworked images and correspondences by mail, operating independently beyond museums and galleries. Taking its name from a play on a quote by Claude Lévi-Strauss, Image Bank was a conceptual system that embodied a shared consciousness drawn from subliminal mass culture imagination. Morris, Trasov, and Nova were further responsible for compiling addresses and image requests first published in early issues of the legendary FILE Megazine by the artist group General Idea and eventually collected in the International Image Exchange Directory published in 1972 by Talonbooks. Submitted artists included Anna Banana, Dana Atchley, Robert Cumming, Ant Farm, and the Fluxus artists Dick Higgins and Geoffrey Hendricks, in addition to affiliating with Ray Johnson’s New York Correspondence School and Robert Filliou’s Eternal Network visionary concept. Parallel to Image Bank activities, Morris was among the initiators of the prolific Western Front Society, an interdisciplinary artist-run center located in Vancouver. Combining elements proper to Pop Art with stances from Duchamp’s readymade and conceptual art, between 1972 and 1973, Morris and Trasov began working on Colour Bar paintings as a part of the ongoing Colour Research project. During their first two years of operation, thousands of Colour Bars were hand-painted on their rural property, “Babyland.” These rainbow bars were later proposed as props, filmed and photographed in various situations, representing a floating and infinitely variable form of painting. From the discontinued operations of Image Bank in 1978, Morris and Trasov established the Morris/Trasov Archive, consisting of countless ephemera, as well as photographs, films, and props. Morris was awarded an honorary doctorate from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in Vancouver in 2005, the Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts by the Canada Council in 2011, and the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Visual Arts in 2015. Morris’s works are included in the collections of the Montreal Museum of Fine Art, the National Film Board of Canada in Ottawa, the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, and The Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Artworks (25)