Thursday, January 31, 2008

Jude Norris, "Between the Lines: Digitized Dialects and Encoded Traditions" Harcourt House, January 10 - February 16, 2008*

The works of interdisciplinary artist Jude Norris span over two decades and two continents. Trained in the European tradition of visual art and design and exhibiting on both sides of the Atlantic in performance, video and film, and installation, Norris began combining her Cree heritage into her works as she eventually explored her roots. The result is Between the lines: Digitized Dialects and Encoded Traditions, currently exhibiting at Harcourt House until Feb 16.

An accumulation of her antler, braids and nest series, it is a return of sorts, as Norris’s first solo exhibition occurred here in the Edmonton region. During her artist lecture last weekend, she spoke of her antler pieces as collaborations with the land and with the animals, finding the beauty in its shape, placing them in arbitrary positions and building off of intuition. Though explanations posited on intuition always leave an empty hollow feeling where a thought should be, the antler series is by far the weakest visuals in the show, and the words reflect the end results. The “encoded traditions” hang listlessly on the wall and their dull metallic colouring draw away from the beauty of their natural forms. Coated within a new context, the antlers do not speak to what they are supposed to represent, and even just as a basic visual stimulant they are neither striking or engaging.

Norris fares better with her video “Strong Woman Dress,” a loop of images featuring contemporary Metis women from across North America accompanied by a short audio description of who they are and what they do. Norris created this piece as a reaction to all of the negative media images of First Nations women, and she excels in celebrating the positive, reaffirming the belief that we can go on so long as our hearts remain strong. The audio repeats in a style of a mantra, a description Norris prescribed to her antler series, but which in fact is also at work in the video works, and succeed far better aurally.

The strongest piece, however, is her “Buffalo Basket” which dates back between five to eight years in the making. Inspired by her time in Vancouver and witnessing the nomadic mobility of used shopping carts by the homeless (many of which were and remain First Nations people), Norris creates an experience that is at once soothing and alarming, drawing her viewers in with scent and sound, but retaining an element of surprise with what they see inside of the basket. Resembling a baby carriage for a shell with the dome of a sweat lodge, “Buffalo Basket” wails and groans from the back corner of the gallery. Nestled inside a peat moss bed there rests a monitor with visual and audio of buffalo roaming.
It’s the sound of the buffalo that surprises most viewers, many of which have never heard the deep neigh of this animal. And it could dawn on the spectator that the foreignness of this animal’s voice as preserved in its fragile and nomadic carriage speaks to the larger issues of homelessness and cultural conservation as being silent and invisible issues to the popular mainstream. But inside of the gallery, the incessant sharp grunts of the buffalo echo throughout the space. Even with Harcourt’s carpet, the sound is not entirely absorbed, resonating fully and freely for all who enter to hear.

Image credit: "Buffalo Basket" Jude Norris, 2007

*First Published in Vue Weekly, January 31st to February 6, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Write/Print, Extension Gallery, until February 20, 2008

As the inaugural student exhibition in its new home in Enterprise Square, Extension Gallery's "Write/Print" brings together interdisciplinary and intergenerational artists and writers. Situated directly outside of the temporary home of the Art Gallery of Alberta, and possibly the future home to FAB, Extension quadruples in size from its former living room sized space and opens up the definition of public office lobby art. Available to the general public and open seven days a week, the once hidden and forgotten Extension Gallery has suddenly become the most accessible gallery in the city--and becomes a prime location to engage with local art works.
The current exhibition features students from a creative writing course collaborating with students from a printmaking class. As a positive move to foster interdisciplinary work between writers and visual artists, the results remain on the safe side of art. Resembling more as an exercise in openly responding to each other's content, the works in general do not inspire the active description of "collaboration." But as responses, the works are more than worth viewing and reading. In its new accessible home directly above Bay Station, one can only hope that the calibre of future exhibits will meet and engage the increased traffic of its present location.

SKIN: Walter Jule, Selected Works, 1968 - 2008, FAB Gallery, January 8 - 24, 2008

SKIN aptly summarizes the U of A’s Centenary retrospective of one of their most celebrated Professor Emeriti, Walter Jule. As the first stop before hitting Hungary, Argentina, Oregon and Calgary, the works spanning both floors of FAB Gallery cover forty years of Jule’s career as a printmaker. Escalating his craft as well as the U of A’s international reputation as a leading printmaking centre, Jule represented the glory years of arts in Alberta.
In 2008, the works created during that era still resonate with each passing viewer. Jewels brought back into the public eye include “Reflection on Darkness” (1976) as an exemplification of his penchant for fusing the graphic with its alchemy, pushing light into a cutting ripple across its own shadow. The luminescent Untitled pieces from “The Killing Room Series” (1980 and on) begin to explore self referentially, breaking the frame of its plates, reveling in the complexity of different materials used and revealing traces of its own process.
The number of print and graphic based marketing posters in this retrospective also signals a time when graphic designers had greater freedom to communicate their art, when marketing still meant an opportunity to creatively seduce a viewer’s attention--and to not jar us from the mass produced numbing repetition. In a sense that is the very essence of printmaking, as there can be an infinite number of slightly differentiating reproductions made, but only one original design can exist.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Four Outside Views, McMullen Gallery, December 14 - February 10, 2008

Alberta, as discovered and captured in “Four Outside Views,” sits as a unpopulated landscape, a place of peace and worship, and a land that is as open and free as our imaginations. At first, these are seemingly typical landscape portraits of the Rocky mountains and rolling plains, reminding you of road trips down and throughout Southern Alberta. Only looking deeper into this set of works, you see that there are no roads, no passageways, no obvious hints of human presence. This land of increasingly sparse trees and fading magnificent views reflect the paradox of Alberta’s slowly deteriorating landscape. The majesty of experiencing the looming Rockies and looking over the expanse of rolling plains--these are experiences unique to the region and unfortunately, these are also declining moments in modern memory. Alberta’s natural landscape has been riddled by development, golf courses and oil dunes--signs that we as a province are thriving economically. But preservation and conservation of the land remain surprisingly silent views. The artists in this show provide an inclusive portrait of Alberta as we in this generation can experience it; but as time and unprecedented development continues, the experience of connection to a natural Alberta will only be a memory.

Image credit: Pam Wilman, "Lone Pine Tree"

Artists: Adeline Rockett, Pam Wilman, Sophia Podryhula-Shaw and Donna Miller

Re-Drawing the Line, Art Gallery of Alberta, January 19 - February 17, 2008, by Guest Artster Ted Kerr

Joan Greer and Helen Gerritzen from the University of Alberta’s Department of Art & Design have for the third year in a row curated an exhibit consisting of work from Artists residing in the U of A’s Graduate Studios. The exhibit as a whole aims to highlight “the innovation and diversity of contemporary drawing and related design practices.”

Running the gamut of mediums from Caitlin Wells’s video installation, "Time Line" to Eric Steenbergen’s etching, "2’ Mantras," all seemingly respond to the question, "What does 'line' mean to you?"

Scott Cumberland’s "Carnival," a collection of colorful, rounded blob forms seem to dare the viewer to remember that lines do not have to be straight. A similar theme is explored in Elaine Wannechko’s movement filled photograph “Drips in a Cracked Wall." Both explore line as it relates to chaos and control.

Maria Z Madacky’s meticulously created "Listen" offers through her craftsmanship of taught parallels the idea that line is essentially about creating order. Leslie Robinson’s "Instructions for tying ties" which includes instructions sheets complete with color coded diagrams, a mirror and a selection of black ties allows, one to come to the same conclusion, but this time it is up to you to do the work.

As a product of drawing attention to the various forms that line can take, Greer and Gerritzen invite the viewer to see how “line” exists all around us, first in the gallery itself and then beyond in the world at large. Suddenly the river of cracks in the old Bay building floor seem ripe for contemplation as do the white weedy cords that take up the space between the electrical outlet and bottom of Andrea Pinheiro’s light box installation, "Not so much the things."

And Pinheiro is right. As successful as the collected work is in examining line, it is not so much the things on display that are exciting as are the processes that led to their creation.

Pinheiro’s work is as much about the exquisite moments she captured on film as it is about the “marks created during the development”. The small yet transportive moments embedded in the 6x6x4 LED boxes; crossing the Atlantic, finding a clearing in the woods, are for me emblematic of those that almost pass you by before you pause, realize the beauty and vow to never forget them. By layering these experiences with the moment of development the viewer is brought in to witness not only the physical lines of the work but also to relate line in reference to time and thought.

The colorful and evocative, “Still Life” a mixed media piece by Gillian Willans was for me the most refreshing moment of the exhibit. Planted deeply in un-precious narrative, the 24” by 32 1/4'’ image unleashes the viewer away from the considerations of line and places them in a fluid world that could be as easily inhabited by a sleeping grunge princess as with a dead witch.

Re-drawing the line takes viewers to a point. It is a formal show in an established gallery with well thought–out work by talented artists, curated by intelligent people and as the case with lines--can only go so far.

As Antoni Gaudi said, “The straight line belongs to man, the curve to God”. Upon leaving the gallery, thanks to the comprehensive exhibit, one is more aware of the line based, designed world we live in and left with an almost insatiable craving for curve.

Re-Drawing the line
Works from the University of Alberta Graduate Studios
Art Gallery of Alberta
19 January to 17 February, 2008

Ted Kerr is the first Artster Co-orespondent to contribute to the growth of Prairie

Friday, January 25, 2008

Cat Fight: Rematch! The Artery, January 11 - February 8, 2008

It’s been less than a year since the first Catfight! graced the sharp corners and overhead lighting of ArtsHab Gallery. Resurrected in its second life in the Artery, a space that continues to prove itself to be one of the better exhibition spaces in town with its large white walls, spot lighting, and beautiful dark flooring, Catfight: Rematch! once again addresses the implication of female-to-female aggression.

Curated by Dirt City grinder Andrea E Lefebvre, known in some circles simply as Ladyballz, the intention behind the show isn’t to lament empowerment, even though Lefebvre’s Laila Ali drawings say otherwise. Perhaps it’s from growing up with a lot of sisters, or the fact that Lefebvre still counts a lot of strong women as close friends, but the intention behind Catfight! straddles somewhere between reactionary politics and moot issues. Women fight, but what of it?

There’s the forefront “Cunt” by Gabriela Andrea Rosende Gonzalez that speaks for itself. Marian Switzer’s passive aggressive candied hearts present the other end of the emotional spectrum. Infusing a bit of concept into the show is Jana Hargarten, freshly painting scratches over the face of her piece, destroying the memory and monument of a girl, possibly a former friend, posing during better times.

The show also presents Tammy Salzl’s last as an Edmontonian before her impending move to Montréal, and her disturbing “Deliverance” reveals a stormy scene of mothers at sea, throwing their wee ones overboard into the violent water. The fluidity of her strokes for both the women and the sea suggest serious elements of power struggles, and this mother of two will be missed until her future exhibitions come this way.

In addition to the returning roster of artists dishing out more interpretations of female aggression from a female perspective, two male artists have been added—and their inclusion adds a blatant sense of humour that was suggest but direly missing in the first and rest of Catfight!.

As sexually pessimistic as it may seem, the men simply make fun at the theme without thinking female aggression is an issue. Michal Wawrykowicz gives us a painting of a regular guy fighting a cat. Surprisingly, the work was not painted specifically for the show, but the piece contributes a weighty balance with its nonchalance. Ashley Andel, the other male artist in this 12-artist show, weighed into the cliché of a traditional girl-on-girl cat fight with a highly energetic drag photo series. Donning a slip, a wig, and some smeared red lipstick, Andel wrestles with his girlfriend in bright, show-stopping close-ups that at first just looks like an American Apparel advertisement of two girls fighting.

Two gaunt figures, brightly tinted cheekbones and pouty red lips, the seduction of the photographs echoes many of our media’s depiction of skewered female power, but Andel’s hairy armpits and sharp jaw line keeps us from falling too deeply into the theatrics.

“It’s a response to masculine insecurity and cliché,” Andel says. “I was fully aware that I’d be surrounded by women in this show and I wanted to make the most banal example of a catfight I could (Jillian and I end up in lip-lock), while slightly referencing artists like Pierre Molinier, Claude Cahun and Cindy Sherman, who blatantly use themselves as theatrical fodder.”

Though compositionally there is some relation to Sherman and Molinier, it is mostly the nod to Cahun’s sexual and gender ambiguity that succeeds as a play on the term cat fight. Lithe displays of aggression shouldn’t be bound by sex and gender, but be represented by all human behavior that blurs such limitations.

Image credit: Ashley Andel, 2007

Catfight: Rematch! runs until Fri, Feb 8 at the Artery (9535 Jasper Ave) and features works by Tammy Salzl, Penny Jo Buckner, Marian Switzer, Gabriela Andrea Rosende Gonzalez, Amelia Aspen Shultz-McPherson, Natalie Danchuk, Ashley Andel, Andrea E Lefebvre, Michal Wawrykowicz, Jana Hargarten, Charlotte Falk and Lisa Rezansoff.

First published in Vue Weekly, January 24 - 30, 2008 Issue #640

Land: REProduction, Megann Christensen, Latitude 53 January 11 - February 9, 2008

At times, art is not about the final product but about the process and research that leads to tangible objects. LAND RE:PRODUCTION, by Edmonton-based artist Megann Christensen, is a prime example of an art exhibition conscious of its own incompletion. Currently exhibiting in the ProjEx Room at Latitude 53 Gallery, LAND is a culmination of new and old ideas melded together by the artist. Toying with big ideas of sacrifice, landscape, identity and globalization, the works in progress include a series of paintings completed this past summer that point to far greater research yet to be completed.

Turning her interests onto the political fields of surveillance, capitalism and the role of sacrifice and identity, a plain piece of paper with a sprawling thought web begins the exhibition. The sprawling thoughts match the ambition of the room where ideas have not been connected beyond their proximity to each other. There is an image of the excavated Tollund man, largely believed to have been a human sacrifice, that does not compliment the corporate mentality that the artist is striving towards. But Christensen is putting out these ideas to generate feedback, going so far as mounting a semi-started canvas with grid lines still intact, which she will return to once the exhibition ends.

By far the most interesting works at play are the series of photographs documenting the process from digital imagery to manipulated digital imagery and the stages in between. Taking note of the formal evolution of a single piece of work, the snapshot presentation traces the step by step intuition behind a painting, “HMLND01,” on the adjacent wall. The title nods to the painting’s digital origins, but the digital has roots in something more traditional.

Originally from Hinton, Christensen created a clay replica model of the Hinton hills that sits on display. Creating a source for her digitalized “fake landscapes,” as she calls them, all of the proceeding imagery stemmed from a prototype created from memory and from travels. Only from presence does she then create the landscapes, fake only in her comparative categorization of presence and product. The digitized landscape continues to be dominated by the irrefutable break across its center—the horizon—that signifies the formation of any landscape, real or otherwise. With a skin-like texture and colour, the Alberta landscape grows into a manipulated imagery of memory and biography, foregrounding a sky of columned text (pulled randomly from the business section of the newspaper). Though it may have been more appropriate to create an original body of text to espouse ideas of interest and research, the effort does reach the cusp of new territory.

Finding frustration in the sole focus of formal details of art, Christensen believes that art should be about greater things than itself. “Art needs to mean more to become relevant and important to our general society,” she says. “It needs to reach out more and say something. I see my job as an artist to communicate bigger issues and to maybe get people thinking about them as I learn about them, too.”

Image credit: Megann Christensen, 2007

First published in Vue Weekly, January 24 to 30, 2008 Issue #640

Thursday, January 17, 2008

100th Prairie Artsters Post: small, Art Gallery of Alberta, January 19 - March 24, 2008

Photo credit: Allen Ball + Kimberly Mair, 2007

The looming block of concrete and glass stands undisturbed by what exists nearby. A comparatively small statue, barely noticeable, memorializing the 1967 police killing of student protester Benno Ohnesorg, sits solemnly on the edge of a photograph that is obviously dominated by The German Opera House. Taken on a rare sunny and deserted morning last summer in the district of Potsdamer Platz, the photograph at once contains and re-imagines the visible and invisible traces that remain from the events leading up to 1977’s period of state crisis in the former Federal Republic of Germany.

Allen Ball and Kimberly Mair’s project “The German Autumn in Minor Spaces,” part of curator Marcus Miller’s small exhibit, reconfigures public urban landscape in the postwar cities of Berlin, Kassel and Stuttgart, as ripe with paradoxically loaded yet unmarked sites of memory and monument. The photograph critiques the public art initiative on the site of the German Opera House of an event that is largely considered to be the watershed moment for the urban guerilla movement that pushed the state and its people into chaos. Their use of photography as document at once mummifies the forgotten and sealed historical issues into the everyday accessible, and in so doing opens up our interaction with public space as a site for multiple experiences based on the relations of knowledge and presence.

Mair has been researching the Red Army Faction and urban guerilla warfare as part of her Doctoral candidacy in Sociology at the U of A. Joined by visual artist Ball this past summer, the two traced out their photographic cartography as urban researchers documenting seemingly small and invisible landmarks.

“Being present within the spaces we photographed was alienating, because they seemed smaller than they were in our imaginations,” Mair shares.

“Nevertheless, sometimes we felt debilitated within them. Viewing the images in their exhibition-ready configuration has a starker alienating impact than that of being present. Vertigo might describe the experience of seeing the images now, because they confront us as familiar but haunting alibis. There is something threatening about their imposition on our memories of these spaces that have multiple existences for us, too.”
Reiterating that personal experiences are shaped by both biography and collective cultural memory, “The German Autumn in Minor Spaces” asks viewers to investigate, to get in close to the work and question the larger issues of culture in public spaces. While Mair and Ball have already been accepted into the Art in Public Spaces conference at NYU this May, their project will be part of The Art Gallery of Alberta’s “small” exhibition running Jan 18 - Mar 24.
Alberta-based artists Bonnie Fan, Shane Krepakevich, Craig Le Blanc and Harold Pearse round out their idea of scale in the inaugural exhibition in the newly minted RBC New Works Gallery. Curator Miller explains that the exhibit will be an obtuse understanding of small, playing with scale and notions of small rather than presenting nano-sized works of art.

Image credit: Craig Le Blanc, 2008

There are the statician’s drawings from Krepakevich, who traces out the romantic renderings of highly personal cartographic exactitudes with the cold precision of a scientist. (These works are completely separate from his window installation, which kicks off another new exhibition space in the AGA). Fan, who along with Krepakevich exhibited in last spring’s The Apartment Show, gives us a view into the lives of birds. Impressed by Fan’s miniscule works of fine art hidden in the deserted mailboxes during The Apartment Show, Miller wanted to see what the artist would do with this theme, resulting in a series of elaborate bird houses intensifying a scaled-down perspective. In contrast, Calgary’s Craig Le Blanc brings his trademark high sheen sculptures of scaled-down colossal buildings that are at once a specter of space and an overwhelming presence of liquified form. As the largest work by far in the room, the scale of small is evidently a relative term.

And expressing the concept that is at the heart of this exhibition are Pearse’s columns of personal sketchbooks. Containing the daily drawings of his past 20 years, the 30 to 40 sketchbooks are stacked as a measure of one man’s artistic life. As small as that may seem relative to the number of sketchbooks ever filled, the presence of accumulation remains one of the greatest gestures in scope.

First published in Vue Weekly, January 17 - 23, 2008

Monday, January 14, 2008

Spacefarers of the Expanse, Tony Baker, January 10 - February 16, 2008, Harcourt House

Image credit: Tony Baker, 2007

“There’s lots of ways to die.” That’s the sentiment shared as viewers are propelled into Spacefarers of the Expanse, a gallery sanctioned Choose Your Own Adventure exhibition currently in Harcourt’s front space. Navigating through Baker’s world of Gordions, Gibs, and Molvins, the explorers of the Expanse faces many of the same problems found elsewhere in this galaxy. The constant need to trade, to fuel, lookeys dominating the planet of flat-arte, and having to start time and time again from where you began, this universe of unabashed nerdom is at once a hilarious and darkly isolating, pessimistic and paranoid place.
Executed in raw, elementary drawings tacked onto rudimentary backings, each image is almost worthy of trading card status (were it not for the odd jutting nail and creased borders). The much-welcomed move to exhibit in sketchbook fresh results suits the subject matter far better than the heavy burden of previous frames and canvas. Half spontaneity, half highly coordinated organization, Spacefarers can be read as some predeterministic rendering of our doomed humanity, but for now, Baker has deftly disrupted the side-to-side gallery viewing experience with an extremely intricate narrative that returns to some basic primitive notion of fun with art.

Sonic Cubes, Catherine Béchard and Sabin Hudon, January 11 - February 9, 2008 Latitude 53

Enclosed in six seemingly still and silent cubes, a multitude of aural sensations await. Sputtering rain, crackling firewood, sighs and whispers; these and many more sounds from the mundane everyday trickle out as you lift and rotate each light weight cube (best to rotate in x, y, z pattern).
Stripped of their original context and embodied into wireless, wooden sonic cubes, the recorded sounds create an experience that is at once estranging and alluring. The sound gurgling out of a bath running does not resemble its sound-image understanding without the image. A slight rotation leads you to possibly leaves rustling, or a motor idling, or to any one of the experiences you try to recall, but taken out of their spatial surroundings, sounds foreign and comforting. The full experience of the exhibition comes when each cube is up in the air, sounds moving/hands moving, and the infinite combinations of tones and timbres clash and meld.
A comparison to Cardiff and Miller is resisted because the two sets of artists are ultimately exploring different realms. The duo of Béchard and Hudon may find closer affiliation with Martin Hannett, Factory Records producer at the forefront of creating space within sound. Obsessed with recording, it is the basic structure of a sound, any sound, and its relation to the space around them, that sits at the root of their artistic inspiration.
A truly interactive installation, Sonic Cubes is part three of an ongoing evolution of cubed sound. Part one produced a cube far too large and heavy to even lift; part two connected cube and computer with thick wiring; and the next step remains to be anticipated.

SNAP Gallery January 10 - February 23, 2008

Definitely the most appropriately paired exhibition to begin the year, SNAP kicks off 2008 with Patrick Bulas and Mitch Mitchell delving into their respective representation of particles, light and space. Unexpectedly, former U of A grad Bulas' 'Our particles are in motion' was outshined by current MFA candidate Mitchell's double layered drawings of complexity theory. "Dispersion Series 1 & 2" was at times difficult to view with the awkward overhead flourescent lighting bouncing off the sheets of acetate and mylar; but in moments and from certain distances, the physics and astronomy in Mitchell's works provided a tangible rawness to Bulas' heady bleeds. Dividing Dispersion into urban cities of New York, Detroit, New Orleans and Indian Hills and the fictional topographies of Springfields, Flaggland and Sentinal Pass, the constellations created represent strong abstractions of raw space and time. Density through repetition somehow still leaves room for diversity, and this 'In Progress Series' warms the way for its future MFA grad show.

Image credit: "Springfield" Mitch Mitchell, 2007

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Prairie Artsters: January 10, 2008

Prairie Artsters was on a December hiatus because I was (and am at this very moment of writing) in the city of Berlin. A city that’s clearly changing, with a steady influx of immigration and cranes in the sky, nearly 20 years after the fall of the wall Berlin still remains one of the most affordable European cities to live in—and draws those who wish to pursue their artistic abilities without having to make a lot of money to survive.

While here, I caught up with ex-Edmontonian visual artist Claire McLarney—who, at this point last year was mounting her main room solo exhibition, Acts of Violence, at Harcourt House Gallery and working full time as a prepator for the Art Gallery of Alberta. Travelling and visiting Berlin this past summer, she decided to stay on to live and create here. Though she had to give up an increasingly promising existence, McLarney admits that otherwise she has felt no lingering attachment to the city she grew up in and the place where she completed her BFA.

Over beers and cigarettes in East Berlin, McLarney shares, “The day I got here my body responded to the city. This place just feels alive. After I left, I immediately missed Berlin.”

Working in documented transient states where the art produced exists only for short periods of time, McLarney feels she can work and live here more freely than before. She continues, “I don’t want to diss Edmonton, because there are a lot of opportunities there right now, but maybe that’s bullshit since everyone’s getting kicked out of their homes ... but Berlin is just a lot more open. Everyone is out on the streets and you never see the flickering of any televisions in any windows. People who come here want to actually do things, not just chase money.”
That approach to art and to life, about engaging and responding to your surroundings, was something she did not feel in Edmonton, or more fairly, perhaps did not have the time to feel between working full-time and personal distractions. The fact that McLarney has also been comfortably living off 500 Euros a month makes the priority of devoting more time to making art than to making rent a far greater possibility.

“I can do my work here and not get stared at or questioned,” McLarney states, acknowledging that she shouldn’t care if people stop and stare, but also pointing out that she has found Berliners to be more laid back and willing to have art be part of their daily lives. Art making and exhibition is far less alienated by the general population and in the media. There are also far more contemporary international exhibitions—at any given time, there are shows like the newly commissioned Jeff Wall prints and Roman Signor that are currently exhibiting in town along with emerging artists and acclaimed permanent collections.
Continues McLarney, “Every artist I know needs to make art or else they feel fucked up. It’s not like they always know what they’re doing, but they also don’t always need to be making objects. Art is about finding a way to respond to the world.”

First published in Vue Weekly, 2008. January 10 - 16, 2008.

Friday, January 4, 2008

“11404” Gillian Willans, Andrea Pinheiro, Monica Pitre and Friends, ArtsHab, December 6, 2007 - January 17, 2008

Sharing artistic inspiration along with sharing a bathroom, the former residents of 11404 came together one last time to address their time together as friends, as artists, and as individuals that permeated each others lives.

During the year and a half of their cohabitation, Gillian Willans, Andrea Pinheiro and Monica Pitre were all MFA students at the U of A (Pinheiro and Pitre in printmaking and Willans in painting). 11404, currently and appropriately exhibiting in the residence hallway/gallery of ArtsHab, reveals all new works made after the end of this specific era. During this time, 11404 hosted friends and artists from across the country and North America, serving as a crash pad and an incubation of thoughts, ideas and community. But Pitre has since moved out shortly after her graduation, Pinheiro has already transplanted herself to Vancouver, and Willans is nearing her spring graduation.

Aesthetically, all three of these artists do not share any strong formal or contextual similarities (but on a surface level Pinheiro and former roommate Anna Szul’s pieces do strike a resemblance to each other). Instead, what is revealed through this exhibition are their personalities. Each artist remains an individual quite distinctly from each other, but it is interesting to see how living together under this intense period shines through so differently in this show.

Willans’ neon-realist paintings walk you through their living space, from the clutter of shoes in the front foyer to a portrait of keys and mail lain as an installation painting in the hallway of ArtsHab. Willans’ work deals most directly with 11404, and rightly so as the sole remaining tenant from the original three. Pitre on the other hand, the first to move out, created a space within the exhibition space, bordering a section off with billowing ceiling trim. On your right reveals a cluster of small framed works that begin from the ground up and winds around a small corner. The works, resonating a deeply personal and mysterious tone, are contained by a suspended window-drawing and a single brass leaf lamp. The work may not directly deal with the subjects of 11404, but its contrast to the other works acts as a much needed separation of thought and private space (and also as reminder that Pitre was clearly the one conscious of atmosphere and lighting at 11404). And Pinheiro’s works, often sweeping in its isolation, appears hushed in this show, murmuring certain lines of nostalgia and closure in the final show as an Edmonton resident. But near the end of the hallway gallery there is a wall of old notes and polaroids that capture the every day communication and memories, and it becomes clear that the time shared at 11404 was filled with love and mutual respect, and the exhibition is a very honest and bittersweet celebration of that era.

Artists: Willans, Pinheiro, Pitre, Holly Sykora and Anna Szul

Thursday, January 3, 2008

December in Berlin: an unofficial Prairie Artster update

As far from the prairies as possible, the author of Prairie Artsters spent most of December in Berlin carousing the city and inevitably, its fantastic contemporary arts scene. Here are some highlights pulled and expanded from a postcard e-mail sent.

-mike kelley at jablonka. the entire exhibition space was taken over by
his superman/kandor inspired bell jars of crystalized cities and with
the lighting and sound of whirling wind and projections on every wall,
you felt like you were inside one of the bell jars.

Work by Roman Signer, Bottes 1986

- roman signer at the hamburger bahnoft! he just makes shit happen. he
creates, or better yet, he explores improbable and mundane situations
and documents them from start to finish. my favorite was one of his
video works, 'don't cross the line' that he shot in the mojave desert,
where the shot begins in an oil drum filled with bright yellow police
tape that is taped to three red balloons and the camera follows the
trail of tape and balloons as they cross the desert sky without ever
actually crossing the line.

- an entire hall of only joseph beuys.

- Anselm Keifer took up most of bahnoft's large foyer with his huge
lead walk in that was the very emanation of melancholia.

Work by Anslem Kiefer, Volkszählung, 1991

- Berliner Galerie had a special contemporary conceptual show, maybe by
emerging artists as they were all born around 1970. it was a very
exciting international show with great pieces by clemens krauss
(overhead perspective of people walking, but up close, the density of
paint is mountaineous) and florian slotawa

- seeing large scale works upclose of Sigmar Polke and Gerard Richter
was also a complete treat. Richter's colour bomb Atelier situated next
to his older dark Grau - 349/2 was really something else. and these huge
Polkes up close really shows how fucking crazy his process must be.

Work by Sigmar Polke, The Three Commandments Found, 1998

- I keep falling for Donald Judd. don't know where the resistance comes
from, but I might just plain love his work. Recently seeing the National Art Gallery in Ottawa's collection of his floor based works definitely triggered something that has developed here.

- Jannis Kounellis took over the entire ground floor of the Neue Galerie
with an existential steel labyrinth. Already built like a temple, it is these sort of projects that make me wonder if the process of installing the works of art isn't the mystery of art itself.

East Side Gallery, photo credit: Amy Fung, 2007

- East Side Gallery, the longest remaining stretch of the Berlin wall is entirely graffitied by over 100 artists from around the world. Most of it has peeled off, but the entire city is soaked in graffiti and for the very most part, it is absolutely beautiful.

- I also went through a lot of the museums and classical collections, and was very informed to learn of all the deutsch counterparts to each era and excavation. The commercials were mostly standard and seeing the bust of Nefertiti was not as exciting as I had thought it would be, nor was the impressive and entirely overwhelming byzantine collection at Gemalderie, but by then, the museums themselves that housed all of these works had become most exciting to explore.