Friday, September 21, 2007

Art Central, Calgary, September 2007

Spread out over three floors on one of Calgary's renovated and rejuvenated corners is Art Central, a hub of 56 galleries, studios and knick knack art + design stores.

From the street level, Axis Gallery looked promising, and it did turn out to be best space inside the entire building. Currently showing was Greg Gerla's figure photography, which was less interesting than most of the other work on display including Jim Mroczkowski's mixed media meditations and Caroline James' abstract explosions. Also found were works by Edmonton based artists Ryan McCourt and Tony Baker (now relocated to Toronto), which lent to the strong regional representation of contemporary artists. A lot of Calgary-based artists appeared to be exploring the city, not in any inventive or original way, but the changing city was a dominant preoccupation.
As I rounded the back corner of the gallery, I came upon a conversation that I can only assume to be gaining in popularity.
A man, mid forties to fifties, business attire, was confidently pondering, "Yep, I still like that one . . . Since I bought my new place in Canmore, I'm looking for something to fill the walls. I got a lot of walls!"
And so the gallery representative measured a large black and white Turner-esque painting to make sure its dimensions would accommodate. I left at this point to browse the other galleries and shops, whose works were all mediocre and cramped into their spaces, but as it goes, the taste of commerce over substance lingered during my entire experience.

Realistically speaking, the tenants of Art Central must sell their work on a fairly consistent basis to make Calgary's rental fees, but this self-described axis of Calgary's art scene registered more as an "arty" mall than a destination point for any arts community. Art Central seems to be a good idea, but the overall atmosphere and quality was homogeneous and lack lustre.

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