While 2016 saw Calgary fall deeper into a recession, the art scene was on the up and up. Here are three exhibitions that I didn’t write about this year but I consider highlights. They indicate developments that will contribute a positive trajectory for contemporary art in the city for the year to come.
This year Calgary was lucky to welcome curator Lorenzo Fusi in the position of visiting academic curator at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design. He immediately made a mark with Performing the Landscape, an ambitious multi-site exhibition (IKG, Stride Gallery, TRUCK, Contemporary Calgary, and the Glenbow) featuring a mix of international artists (Mikhail Karikis, Cyprien Gaillard, Taus Makhacheva) and Calgary-based talent (Miruna Dragan, Jason De Haan). It’s extremely exciting to have a curator engaging a wider range of international work while maintaining a close eye on the local context. I’m looking forward to see what he has on deck next.
Colleen Heslin, Spotting Elegance within the Chaos, 2016, dye on cotton and linen
The Esker Foundation continued to be the most enduring glimmer of light for contemporary art in Calgary with perfectly produced exhibitions like the pairing of Colleen Heslin: Needles and Pins with Jack Bush: In Studio. Heslin’s hand-dyed textile abstractions alongside rarely exhibited Bush paintings was one of those synergistic combinations which leads to surprising connections between two otherwise disparate artists. Esker, helmed by Naomi Potter and Shauna Thompson, shows no signs of slowing down as they kick off the new year with Earthlings, an exhibition of ceramic sculptures and works on paper by Roger Aksadjuak, Shuvinai Ashoona, Pierre Aupilardjuk, Shary Boyle, Jessie Kenalogak, John Kurok, and Leo Napayok.
The press release for Material Girls, an exploration of material practice in relation to feminized space at Contemporary Calgary this past spring, asserted in the first sentence that the exhibition “is about women taking up space.” Yes, please. This unabashed, fully embodied, messy, funny exhibition originally from the Dunlop Gallery (curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Wendy Peart) provided a refreshing (nay, essential) counterpoint to Calgary’s generally masculine energy, especially during Stampede week. I would visit and kind of loiter in the exhibition space; it just made me feel better. Exciting things are to come for Contemporary Calgary: they just cleared three million in fundraising for their new space (what recession?!) and I am eagerly anticipating newly hired Lisa Balidssera’s contributions to the local cultural landscape.
Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.
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