A few hours was recently and unexpectedly spent going from commercial gallery to commercial gallery. Starting at Scott Gallery, where Gerald Faulder had "Landscapes" to next door at Bear Claw Gallery, where Carl Beam opened with "Lateral View".
Image credit: Gerald Faulder, "Flying" 2007.
Faulder was disappointing nondescript as another landscape painter amidst Scott's lineup. The tranquility of the lakeside perspective was expressed clearly, as this perspective shines almost year round, but I find the world represented in most of Scott's strong Canadian programming to be a world I do not recognize or relate with. As impressive landscapes that cover this land, the paintings do not strike a chord that propels the viewer to explore; rather, they represent a world that is removed and isolated.
Image credit: Carl Beam, "Ionization" 2007.
Beam, as one of Canada's first Aboriginal collage/print artists to re-propose the First Nations people and identity, offers a series of meditative pieces that focus on the modern environment and our relationships within this place and time. Using the "I Ching" iconography in some of his mixed media works, as well as newspaper clippings, playing cards, and archival photography, the pieces are at best juxtapositions of cultural memory and personal memory.
Image credit: Doug Jamha, "Scissors" 1992-1993.
Onwards to Front Gallery, where local artist Doug Jamha exhibits work from the early 90s. "Scissors" is just what you would expect, which is unfortunate, as his former works with figures and phonebooks channeled a vibrant expression. In exhibiting work that is nearly 15 years old, there comes an expectation to re-evaluate, but this gesture was not expressed.
Agnes Bugera held an opening for former Edmontonian Ernestine Tahedl, whose impressionistic landscapes have a glow and glisten. Perhaps pushing one of the more Romantic programming schedules with always lush and dreamy imagery, the quality of work carried does usually speak for itself--a fact not necessary true for a lot of commercial galleries.
Image Credit: Tim Okamura, "Grey, White, Gold"
A loop back onto 124th St led to the Fall Show at Douglas Udell Gallery featuring prints by Picasso. As one of the more esteemed galleries in town, the Udell Gallery is suffice to say the closest art world Edmonton has to call its own. With international pieces by contemporary artists like Gabriel Orozco to big name Canadian artists Annie Pootoogook, Greg Curnoe and former Edmontonian-turned-New York based Tim Okamura, the programming at Udell can be quite stellar. It is just disappointing that the gallery and its reincarnations in Calgary and Vancouver are well-aware of their prestige and that they remain a space where not everyone does feel welcome.
And finally, a visit was made to the Lando gallery, perhaps the most striking gallery space in town. Sitting in the middle of the mini-industrial wasteland just north of 104 Avenue, local artist Adele Knowler "Lake Series and 20 years" was exhibiting a retrospective ranging from portraits to lakescapes and every step in between. Although Knowler's paintings were quite standard in content and composition, an overall sense of vastness was apparent across her subject matters.
Noted was that Lando too was carrying Picasso (engravings though) and featured locals Michael Levin, Mark Bellows, and Brenda Kim Christiansen. As this was the first peek into their programming, it was clearly the space that was most overwhelming and the space that gives plenty of reason to return to future shows.
Regular trips out to see the commercials have been difficult due to scheduling conflicts, but on this non-first and estranged outing, my non-first and estranged impression only confirms the reputation that Edmonton artists and galleries are not taking any aesthetic risks, especially in reference to the local programming. There is a slight diversity, which doesn't quite pronounce itself, but in a city that may never really champion its art scene, what do galleries and artists have to lose in challenging our humdrum viewer expectations? Will carrying Picassos change or develop art appreciation or will it only attempt to fuel a detached art consumption
of works one thinks we should have, rather than works we are compelled to have.