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Dick Averns
Calgary
October 11, 2010

With Calgary reported to be the city leading Canada’s economic recovery, some might wonder if this is at the expense of arts and culture. Others are taking a proactive line to make sure this isn’t the case, particularly via activism in the lead-up to this month’s civic elections. In this spirit, my report will look at a range of projects that connect community and economies of scale.



Mark Lowe, Bin 15

Calgary is currently host to the Mountain Standard Time Performative Festival. First held in 2001, M:ST has grown to become a mainstay for performative practices in the city. The 2010 incarnation includes Governor General Award-winner Istvan Kantor, Reona Brass, Dave Dyment, Mark Lowe, and a first time collaboration between Suzen Green and Ryan Statz. Lowe’s performative installation Bin 15 is set inside a grain silo and probes urban rural schisms, specifically the corporate monopolizing of family farms. Conceptually reminiscent of Rodney Graham’s City Self/Country Self, this project may not have the same “kick” as Graham’s, but Lowe’s sound art generated inside the bin is sure to pack a punch.



Suzen Green and Ryan Statz, How To Look For Work In The Big City

Another work that probes the challenges of meaningful employment is How to Look for Work in the Big City by Ryan Statz and Suzen Green. For this project, Statz will wear a three piece suit knitted by his partner, Green, trading in a “myth amongst the knitting community that a girl should never knit a sweater for her boyfriend, under the fear that all the labour and love used in its production will go unappreciated, or worse still, signal the demise of the relationship.” This public up-selling is sure to turn heads and bring serious fun to the streets.



Jennifer Crighton, The Condemned, 2010, installation detail

On another community front at the Pith Gallery and Studios, you can take in the compelling handmade installation work of Jennifer Crighton. This relatively new space housed inside an old building with almost obscured deco lines is located in Inglewood: one of Calgary’s oldest communities and one that is now subject to gentrification. This topic is addressed in the upstairs gallery via Crighton’s The Condemned. Three large-scale drawings, tiled together on scrap paper, depict local old houses. It’s worth noting that a candidate for the upcoming municipal elections not only visited the space, but also recognized the work. For although the glory years here have passed, she knew that one property had later become a brothel. From here, one can make links to Crighton’s interest in building new culture as she wonders aloud, “Are we integrating history?”



Jennifer Crighton, Sweater Porn, 2010, installation detail

This leads us to the downstairs exhibition space, home to the artist’s Sweater Porn. We find mannequins embracing on a dated sectional couch and wall works bearing, respectively, custom knitted forms and drawn knit patterns atop porn pics. With the gallery’s front room feel, Crighton is well placed to articulate that “craft and pornography often intersect around obsession… are found in private domestic environments…[and that] the relationship between these two things may be closer than we think.” Hence, Crighton’s additional reference to “stitch’n’bitch” sessions. Similarly, a symbiotic contrast would be that one obsession is invariably driven by women and the other by men. With the couch installation set in a dimly lit gallery window, a passing audience may wonder if the mannequins are cloaked in crocheted shawls or layered with fetishistic garments of titillation. Either way here are oft-hidden economies that enshrine historical craft with contemporary art.



Guido Molinari, Mutation Rythmique Rouge-Orange, 1966, acrylic on canvas

Turning to the commercial gallery scene, Paul Kuhn has two shows this fall that promise to invigorate historical and contemporary approaches to the continuum of art and economics. In October/November, there’s a solo exhibition from the estate of Guido Molinari: one of Canada’s foremost painters from the modernist era. Think fields of colour, stripes, and hardening edges. Kuhn and Molinari were longtime friends (the artist passed away in 2004) and, although Molinari was known as a proactive individual inclined to sell work from his own studio, Kuhn has dealt his work since 1995. For this show, visitors will be treated to paintings from the 1960s, including canvasses up to six by eleven feet. Kuhn observes, “this is the classic Molinari period.”



Edward Burtynsky, Oil Spill #10, Oil Slick at Rip Tide, Gulf of Mexico, June 24 2010, 2010, chromogenic print

Following in November, Kuhn presents one of Canada’s biggest living names in contemporary art, photographer Edward Burtynsky. Known for his large format images depicting industrial development, this upcoming exhibit is drawn from two series: Oil and Water. Central to the show is new work from the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Apparently art really can create ripples through the crude currency lying at the heart of Canada’s energy business. Burtynsky will be in attendance at the opening on November 20th.

Investment of a different nature is occurring over at the University of Calgary where a major new building project is underway that will see the Nickle Arts Museum move to a new home in the Taylor Family Digital Library. This will see a shift from the conventions of the current discrete exhibition spaces into three new galleries spread over two floors, configured in a much more open format. Opportunities for programming multimedia and new technology will be enhanced in what appears to be a convergence of services and architecture.



From Unraveling the Yarns: War Rugs and Soldiers

John Wright, newly appointed Director of Arts and Culture for Library and Cultural Resources calls the move, “an integration of ideas, collections, and people, with art and archives presented as a whole to further discovery and research.” One of the downsides of the move is that for the next year the Nickle has ceased regular exhibition programming while the twenty-five thousand holdings in the permanent collections are being prepared for relocation. On the upside, the new space will be free of charge, bring in more traffic, and, during the transition, weekly lunchtime lectures will continue in the old space until the end of the year. Additionally, Michele Hardy from the Nickle has co-curated an offsite exhibit called Unraveling the Yarns: War Rugs and Soldiers. This showcases the Fyke Collection of Afghan War Rugs alongside some of the weapons that are depicted in these contemporary handmade weavings. The project is mounted at Founders’ Gallery in The Military Museum.



Artsvote Flashmob
 
In conclusion, while Calgary still has no major public museum of modern or contemporary art, there’s clearly plenty of activity to demonstrate things are moving forward. And for those that have been following my updates on transitions at other institutions, not only does ACAD have a new president (Dr. Daniel Doz), so too has curator Wayne Baerwaldt been named acting Vice President Research and Academic Affairs. And for those who want a say in the bigger picture this fall at the polls, Artsvote has been taking to the streets to mobilize the cultural sector. From flashmobs to polling candidates on their arts’ platforms, the cultural economy is not rolling over.


Dick Averns is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose exhibitions and performances have been presented internationally. Recent essays appear in Diabolique (catalogue), Crossing Cultures: Conflict, Migration, Convergence, and periodicals including Canadian Art, Front, and On Site Review. He was deployed to the Middle East with the 2008-2009 Canadian Forces Artists Program, and is exhibiting War Art Now at Calgary’s Founders’ Gallery. Averns teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design. He is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent.


Mountain Standard Time (5) Performative Festival: http://www.mstfestival.org/mst5/works/
M:ST continues until October 22.

Pith Gallery: http://pithgallery.com/
Jennifer Crighton continues until October 30.

Paul Kuhn Gallery: http://www.paulkuhngallery.com/index.cfm?page=4
Guido Molinari opens on October 16 and continues until November 16.

 

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