Art News

The Winnipeg Art Gallery Stages Contemporary Interventions in the ‘Collection on View’

artwork: Adad Hannah - "The Raft of the Medusa (100 Mile House) 7", 2009 - C-print on paper - Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. On view in "Contemporary Interventions in the Collection on View" until August 31st 2012.

Winnipeg, Manitoba.- The Winnipeg Art Gallery presents “Contemporary Interventions in the Collection on View”, in the galleries until August 31st 2012. Selected contemporary works from the permenant collection have been strategically placed within the “Collection on View” series of exhibitions: European Renaissance and Baroque Art 1500-1700; The Academic Tradition in Europe and Canada 1700-1900; and The Modernist Tradition 1900-1950. The purpose of including these special pieces is to create symbolic, iconographic, and thematic links thereby augmenting the visitor experience. Hanging contemporary works adjacent historical works is becoming more commonplace in museums today. The subtle presentation of these unexpected guests is intended to leave it to you to discover, interpret, and learn through new associations. However, by virtue of the color, composition, and subject matter, these contemporary works certianly stand out and draw attention, providing you the opportunity to approach the art in your own way.

Adad Hannah is an artist working at the intersection of video, photography and performance. The photograph presented in this exhibition is part of an ambitious project which staged a version of Théodore Géricault’s monumental painting “The Raft of the Medusa” (1818-1819) in 100 Mile House, a community of 2,000 people in central BC. On May 2nd and 3rd, 2009 in the community hall the tableaux vivant was performed for several live audiences, and Hannah’s video and still cameras. The models held their poses for between five and ten minutes, creating an uncanny replica of Géricault’s painting rendered in living flesh. Joel Sternfeld’s colour pictures of the United States document the land and the people. Sternfeld’s approach to picture making was a quest to reveal the exciting and fascinating aspects of a place, in many cases finding these qualities in the most unlikely of areas. The work on display by Sternfeld is of a town named after a local miner, Joseph. Having a population of less than 300 people and composed of under a square mile of land, it is one of these intriguing places celebrated by this significant photographer. These are merely some of the thought-provoking highlights, but there are many more contemporary works that have been included to provide a fresh take on the historical collection. Come see what other artworks are waiting for you to re-discover!

artwork: Joel Sternfeld - "Joseph, Utah, June 1983", 1983 - Photograph - Collection of the Winnipeg Art Gallery. On view in "Contemporary Interventions in the Collection on View" until August 31st 2012.

Although a modern painting, William Kurelek’s “Hell (The Worm That Dies Not)” (1962) appears quite at home in gallery 1, alongside much older scenes of spiritual suffering and martyrdom. Although living and working in Toronto in the 1960s and 1970s, Kurelek was a devout Roman Catholic and identified immensely with the painterly iconography of northern artists in pre-Reformation Europe. Sandwiched between two turn-of-the-20th-century portraits in Gallery 2 is Janet Werner’s unsettling painting titled “Karen” (1999-2000). Werner has been painting portraits of characters that are significantly inward and withdrawn for almost a decade. This painting is an exceptional example of how contemporary artists are pushing the genre of portraiture forward. In gallery 2, Yves Gaucher’s “3rd Study for ‘Signals’ – Red Oxide” (1966) provides an arresting backdrop to Barzanti’s “Crouching Venus” (c. 1890). Although one might imagine no greater contrast to exist, the two works share a concern for precise and rational form. While Barzanti does so in Neo-Classical terms, idealizing the human form in such a way as to remove all sense of the figure’s individuality and particularity, Gaucher’s painting is pristinely modern in its reductive meditation on pure colour relations, absolved of any subject matter.

Much like the William Kurelek painting in gallery 1, Alex Colville’s late 20th century painting blends almost seamlessly into its 19th century surroundings. Its eerie stillness, however, marks it as a contemporary painting. The placement of “St. Croix Rider” (1997) within a display of romantic and largely European selection of works helps to highlight the dramatic changes representational painting underwent following modernism’s crescendo in the mid-20th century. Unwilling to merely replicate formulae from the past, Colville constructs a contemporary scene that nonetheless stands as a continuation of the Western landscape painting tradition. With his bronze sculpture entitled “Manitoba”, Joe Fafard makes use of one tradition in Western art—the genre of the odalisque—to humorously destabilize certain assumptions that commonly underpin the representation of landscape in Canadian art. In the Western European tradition, the odalisque usually refers to a painting of a nude or semi-nude young woman, reclined on her back or side, amidst a scene of Eastern luxury. Its effect is to both eroticize the female form and exoticize a particular, non-European, culture. Although in Manitoba, the subject appears in the odalisque pose, the significance of the pose—its traditional alignment with sexual desire, cultural exoticism, and colonialism—is undercut by the subject’s identity, that of a middle-aged Aboriginal man. Placed in the gallery amid a selection of paintings by members of the Group of Seven and Tom Thomson, the sculpture’s reference to a particular geographical region—the province of Manitoba—takes on new significance. By using a First Nations person to symbolize a territory, Fafard reminds us that landscape is as much about the people who inhabit it as the lakes and vegetation of which it is composed.

artwork: Alex Colville - "St. Croix Rider", 1997 - Acrylic polymer emulsion on hardboard - 26.5 x 106.8 cm. - Collection ofa the Winnipeg Art Gallery.

The WAG was established in 1912 when a group of Winnipeg businessmen, recognizing “the civilizing effects of art,” each contributed $200 and rented two rooms in the old Federal Building at the corner of Main and Water Streets. Thus, the WAG was born, becoming the first civic art gallery in Canada. Now approaching its centenary in 2012, the Winnipeg Art Gallery has developed from a small civic gallery to Canada’s sixth largest gallery with an international reputation. As it expanded, the WAG relocated premises several times to accommodate its growing collection, including its former residence in what is now the Manitoba Archives Building on St. Mary Avenue. The 1950s witnessed the beginning of several of the WAG’s specialized collections, including that of Inuit Art. The WAG is now home to the largest public collection of contemporary Inuit art in the world with over 10,730 works. The Decorative Arts collection, another area of specialized collecting, also began in the 1950s since when the WAG has amassed over 4,000 pieces of decorative art, covering diverse media of ceramic, glass, metal, and textiles dating from the 17th century to the mid-20th century. The third specialized collection began considerably later in the 1980s with the designation of the photography collection which now numbers some 1,300 works, largely of contemporary Canadian origin. Designed by Winnipeg architect Gustavo da Roza, built of pale Manitoba Tyndall stone, the current WAG building rises like the prow of a ship on its own triangular “ocean.” It was opened by Her Royal Highness The Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, on September 25, 1971. In addition to eight galleries, the building contains a 320-seat auditorium, a rooftop sculpture garden and restaurant, a research library, a gift shop, and extensive meeting and lecture space. The WAG footprint expanded in October 1995 with the opening of the new WAG Studio Building next door in the renovated Mall Medical Building. Home to the Gallery’s art classes, the WAG facility is the largest program of its kind in Canada, offering children and adults art classes taught by professional artists. Visit the museum’s website at …