Friday, June 29, 2007

Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art June 23 - September 9, 2007




Image courtesy of Paul Kuhn Gallery, Calgary: Mark Mullin, Absorption Rates II, 2007.

As it goes again, the structure of the biennial is far more interesting than the art represented, which when summarized, does not consistently capture the implied themes of "Utopia or Disaster," but maybe in the larger context, frames how art is viewed in Alberta.
There are strong works and artists represented: Mark Mullin of Calgary grounds his colour texture chaos with lines of solid circular tones, creating works that are visually stimulating in a very modern colour palette, and are far more impressive in person than in print; Jonathan Kaiser continues his estranging installations of suburban isolation, a very young artist with only a small handful of alternative group shows behind him.
There are also less strong works such as the multicoloured panel of rave photography or the computer/time counter that maybe belongs more as novelty than function in the lobby of a science centre than in the middle of any art biennial.
Heralded as an institutional showcase for Alberta artists, the AGA must be more clear as to what, who, and why they are curating these shows. To use the model of a biennial, is somewhat both precocious for Alberta, and in many ways, archaic and typical of Alberta. If the Alberta art scene is to gain national attention, arguably the raison d'etre of the biennial, and to market itself successfully, we need to first identify ourselves before we try to sell ourselves.

13 comments:

threedeeglasses said...

The opening was over at 8pm.

I don't understand why the AGA would bother to put on and promote an event of that kind, with catering and liquor, if it only ran 6-8. People were still arriving at nine, after the gallery spaces were shut and the lights turned out.

MC said...

You might remember Mary Beth talking of her time out east at the CBC. We were identified at that time, anyway, as "Calgary Painters and Edmonton Sculptors" (or something like that)... but, ALAS, that wasn't what Toronto was doing, so we all got scared, of course, and sat around asking ourselves how we could get the big city folks to like us... Yeesh. Look how far we've come.

Also, I thought it was interesting, when discussion got around to funding agencies, a woman in the audience (Cherie, I think) mentioned her knowledge of how the Canada Council juries worked, since she had served "four or five" times. Astonishing. Are there no other artists in the city that could get a turn in there somewhere? I thought there were term limits in democracies...

Speaking of term limits, Catherine remarked that opening up the curation of the biennial (rather than the scope of artists picked from) is out, because of the added expense... Hmm. Like, opening up the Biennial to multiple provinces and including more artists, wouldn't represent a big increase in expense? Ok...

"Jonathan Kaiser continues his estranging installations of suburban isolation"

Which one was Kaiser, again? I found much of the stuff in there was estranging, to be honest.

If the Alberta Biennial is supposed to be about "the best", then obviously, it needs to be chosen by someone who can tell the difference between good and bad in art. Instead, it seems as if it were chosen by people who honestly think there is no such thing as a difference.

THIS is problem number one, and it's a doozy...

MC said...

It was a stealth opening, 3DG.

MC said...

Oh yeah, also, MAN! Can you believe that Mary Beth's images (of work by Peter Hide, Isla Burns, Clay Ellis, Ken Macklin) wouldn't work, so she had to leave it with the Catherine Burgess piece, and skip over that portion of the talk (which would have actualy dealt with real live good art!)?

It was like a brief glimpse of sunlight, suddenly smothered by a dark fog. Very depresing...

MC said...

Wow. Graffiti tossed off on construction hoarding stirs up more dialogue than the Biennial, around here.
Surely, not an encouraging sign...

What do you think, Amy. Any further thoughts, or has it all been talked about more than it deserves already?

amy said...

Most people I know haven't even been to the biennial, so not too many bites here.
The issues raised don't seem to directly affect a lot of artists, who are just trying to produce and exhibit their work anywhere, and this idea of a regional group show with a foreign community of artists in a sterile institution doesn't seem that appealing. the biennial here certainly doesn't connote respect or prestige with people as much as it does elsewhere.
I think there's also a break happening with the history of what AB art has been and its consequential image (painters in cal, sculptors in edm) and we're going through an implosion of mixed media that has yet to sort itself out.

and yeah, the opening was a dud--especially in comparision to last year's all-nighter. but we didn't have to deal with artbar so it's a fair trade.

MC said...

"I think there's also a break happening with the history of what AB art has been and its consequential image (painters in cal, sculptors in edm) and we're going through an implosion of mixed media that has yet to sort itself out."

A break happening? An implosion of mixed media?
Care to elaborate/clarify? Seems like you're biting off alot with that statement. Maybe you should write a new post on these impressions of yours, so we can discuss...

MC said...

"If the Alberta art scene is to gain national attention, arguably the raison d'etre of the biennial, and to market itself successfully, we need to first identify ourselves before we try to sell ourselves."

Just for the sake of argument, imagine that we come to the conclusion that the best new Alberta art is made by Calgary painters and Edmonton steel sculptors (far fetched, I know, but bear with me). What if the best art around here didn't look like the art from other places? Would we embrace and promote it, or would we run the other way (like we have done for the last 15 years or so)?

Scary questions, I know...

Anonymous said...

By running the other way MC do you mean at a gentle lope or break neck speed?

HAH

MC said...

Does it make a difference?

amy said...

I think the community just has to recognize/verbalize what is good and bad (and why), and not just keep pandering to effort and ideas. we have to start being honest with ourselvs and each other, and start engaging with one another about our succint ideas to create a sense of support and creativity. (like with the sculpture post, very little dialogue, but it is because nobody really knows what to say about sculpture except those who make it--so share)
for me, it basically boils down to what the artist/piece is trying to communicate. and I think a lot of bad art (here and elsewehre) is just navel gazing and will never spurn on discussion beyond one basic idea or thought.

ahab said...

Two items from the post I agree with: one, the art in AB2007 does not remotely illustrate the title theme; and two, the AB2007 is (as I must assume you mean by 'precocious') overreaching and (as I must assume you mean by 'archaic') cliche.

Definitely, we who are interested in the art of the community should be honest with one another, but I take it for granted because it's never not true. But the flip side is that people aren't really obligated to be honest with themselves if they don't wish it.

I was also about to agree with the assertion that our community must begin to recognize and acknowledge its artists and their art. But that's just it. They mustn't - who says? If the art is good enough, some people will appreciate it and that's all I think we can realistically expect.

So we make the art as good as we can.

MC said...

"...nobody really knows what to say about sculpture except those who make it--so share"

Ok...