Monday, May 26, 2008

A Rainy May-Day Wednesday Afternoon in Edmonton

There's something about gallery hopping on a rainy day, prompting a clean, fresh perspective awaiting. Only it's something I've rarely done in Edmonton. Between the large stretches of blocks between each gallery, poor public transit, lack of parking, compounded by Gallery Walk's line up of mostly unappealing and recycled roster of artists, the rainy lonely trek through our city streets is more often dismal than inspirational.

As the rain slowed, I pulled on my gum boots. First, I stopped in at Latitude 53 to see both their renovations and their Consumable Waste show. Led by some of Edmonton's hottest young green designers, the show was disappointing to say the least. The exhibition was seemingly isolated from the city and oblivious to the challenges of fitting over-sized coat racks and rotting chairs into an ergonomic lifestyle. Out of all the items displayed, only Palette Industries' OSB Buoy Bench was of note in its simple raw utility. Otherwise, the basic principles of craftsmanship were mostly nowhere to be found and the arbitrary check boxes beside each item ticking off "improves quality of life" was outright laughable. Their lack of functionality and design was echoed by the glaring chill of bids missing by each item. The works created were neither here nor there. Simply impractical, but imbued with good intentions, it was a frustrating start of literal garbage as the rain started again.

Next I headed for Lando Gallery, where they were in the midst of setting up their auction sale for the weekend. Representing regional landscape painting and photography, the highlights continue to be their ceramic works by Saskatchewan artists Mel Bolen and Rod and Denyse Simair. Dominating the showroom floor, which is unsettling to walk amongst ceramics uncased in full fragility, Bolen and Simair's delicate porcelain finishes shine in contrast to the dark stained floors. (A beautiful space, the floors I finally realized are too dark in contrast to the heavy dark palettes on the walls.) Impressive were Simair's crystalline gaze and wheel thrown works as well as Bolen's gentle folds. The hands on craft of ceramics requires more patience than I normally have reserved, but today something struck home about the clay-rich land and the transformative power of ceramic art.

Aimless, I strolled by the Gallery Walk with no pull to go into any of them. I ended up on the other side of central at Mandolin Books for a coffee and caught Keith Walker's glass art exhibition and an accompanying photo essay. Always bright and whimsical in shape and colours, Walker's glass works did not at all match the photo essay, which told a story more akin to a day in the life of a steel worker. Dramatic black and white close ups, veins tensed, serious demeanors, and all around heavy metal work in action, these photographs were an intense contrast to the bubbly circus top works lining the top of the bookshelves. Walker's skill is undeniable, and his works can straddle both worlds of solo exhibition and background accents, but they sit here a top bookshelves in a store that looks to fold or sell in the very near future.

It still rains, nearly a week later, and these reflections still stand with no clear direction.

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