Friday, January 1, 2010

Vue's Best of 2009 in Visual Arts*

I honestly don't know if enough happens within the visual-arts scene for trends to emerge, but sticking to the positive side, a few individuals have really stepped up in the last year and their efforts are duly noted.

In thinking about the best shows of the past year, Josée Aubin Ouellette has been a common denominator. From the programming of the all-ages Hydeaway space which saw solo exhibitions by some of Edmonton's most promising emerging artists such as Justin Shaw and Alexander James Stewart to curating daringly different exhibitions by Chelsea Boos and Jonathan Kaiser during the usually bland lineup of Nextfest, Ouellette has also been active in her own artistic practice as a painter, fashion designer and co-organizer of Institute Parachute, which has been involved in various activities such as organizing portable art festivals in the last few years. Working with what she's got, and remaining conceptual about her surroundings, Ouellette is doing good work with no false pretensions.

Another artist gaining momentum is Gabe Wong. Meeting him during the preparation for his recent exhibition, Where Do You Come From? which gathered illustrators and graphic designers from across Canada for an edition-based poster show and accompanying art book, it was clear that Wong's sense of overwhelming meticulousness was the result of hitting full steam. As co-author and co-designer for the recently published We Eat Together cookbook as well as receiving one of the city's upcoming public art commissions, Wong is certainly flexing the multitude of possibilities for an Edmonton-based freelance illustrator.

And in terms of injecting a new perspective and energy into the arts community, I will go on record and say how glad I am Anthea Black is back in her hometown after being away for over 10 years as a print-based artist, a freelance arts writer and curator and at one time the executive director of Stride in Calgary. From being the first exhibitions manager the AGA has ever had to organizing printmaking workshops for queer youth and holding arts writing workshops and challenges, Black is genuinely interested in generating community in a critical and conceptually challenging manner.

*First published on Vue Weekly

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