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Winnipeg
Steven Leyden Cochrane
Wanda Koop at the Winnipeg Art Gallery | Nic Adamson at C Space, Winnipeg
March 03, 2015

The Winnipeg Art Gallery, a Tyndall stone sarcophagus at the best of times, was especially dead when I ducked in this past Saturday. In fairness, the museum is between major shows: after five months, its lackluster and long-running Dalí-themed cash grab is finally behind us and the next self-styled “blockbuster,” a sprawling cache of Greco-Roman sculpture on loan from Berlin, won’t open until late next month – at which point it will remain on view for a punishing fifty-one weeks.



Wanda Koop

Confined to the front atrium, a new suite of paintings by Wanda Koop is, for the time being, the main attraction. The WAG can often seem indifferent to contemporary art in this city; as a show of engagement, throwing a few Koops up in the lobby is not exactly inspiriing (though this is no comment on the work itself).

Grumpiness aside, the eight nine-by-seven-foot monochrome paintings are indeed beautiful (if a touch bloodless) and, in fact, beautifully sited. Washy black ink and acrylic on unprimed canvas greige nicely echo tones in the fossil-flecked limestone walls, while the paintings’ massiveness and minimal handling highlight the scale of the architecture space, imbuing it with an uncommon airiness – a feat of alchemy perfectly suited to Koop’s reflective, daydream imagery.

That imagery adds a compelling subjective layer to her familiar conceits: VIEW from HERE interpolates landscape imagery from past series into a new body of stylized human heads. Where typically Koop’s proto-cities fruit like fungi in undifferentiated Petri dishes of painterly space minimally recalling floodplains and prairies, here they coalesce alongside natural features to form surreal, sphinxlike facial expressions. Koop enlivens the literal but lovely meditations on physical and psychological “place” with subtle humour and wit – the deftly-accomplished paredolia is a pleasant surprise each time, and the feline footprints trailing from one river scene are an unqualified delight.



Nic Adamson

From the WAG that afternoon, I cut through the downtown Bay to catch a bus to C Space, where Nic Adamson was gallery-sitting and strumming a guitar on the last day of his video exhibition Bright Burn.

Adamson’s own “meditations on place” are equally clever but at once more seductive and sarcastic. Lo-fi interventions in the form of hanging screens transformed found footage of tropical vistas into an immersive pastiche, a plasticky fever dream of Bloody Mary sunsets and desaturated palms. Though the exhibition implied a critique of an escapist, constructed image-world, the improbable #FF00FF fuchsia of fluttering azalea blossoms was – to this Florida transplant’s tired eyes, at least – as real and true as anything, and a welcome and necessary departure from the consuming grey of late winter in Winnipeg.


Winnipeg Art Gallery: http://wag.ca/art/exhibitions/current-exhibitions/display,exhibition/175/wanda-koop-view-from-here
Wanda Koop: VIEW from HERE continues until May 31.

C Space: https://www.facebook.com/events/926500030717174
See website for current exhibition.


Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

 

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