By:Emily Haggstrom Issue: Biennial of the Americas 2010 Section:The Nature of Things
An Exhibition of Leading Contemporary Canadian Artists
For local artists, this year’s Biennial was a chance for the modest art community of Denver to showcase its talents and continue momentum that has been steadily growing over the past decade. It was a way to change how American dealers, collectors and artists viewed the city.
Denver is not usually considered one of the more notable art communities in the United States. Not because it lacks the talent but because it lacks the exposure. Avid collectors seek art markets like Santa Fe or New York when choosing to purchase high-end mediums from dealers and individual emerging artists.
Ivar Zeile, owner of Plus Gallery in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Five Points in Denver, is normally considered one of the leading community-oriented commercial galleries in Denver with its high concentration of work from local contemporary artists. However, during this Biennial, Zeile sought to exhibit some of the leading emergent artist in contemporary Canadian art.
In conjunction with Suncor Energy, the Canadian Consulate General and the Biennial of the America’s, Ziele featured innovative work from five profound artists around Canada. And while most of the city and its visitors focused on the countries of Latin America and their rich and diverse cultures, Zeile felt it was important to focus attention on a country, which despite its trading and allied status seemed to appear somewhat insignificant throughout the course of scheduled events. Denver is not usually considered one of the more notable art communities in the United States. Not because it lacks the talent but because it lacks the exposure.
“While the Canadian cultural system provides tremendous support to artists and the creative sector, the geographic proximity and political standing of the country tends to reduce a great deal of effort to the margins,” reads Ziele’s exhibition release. Like most artists, breaking out onto the international art scene is hard enough, but when a country is less known for its creative culture and more known for outrageous stereotypes, it is hard to garner legitimate attention. This common misconception has caused many avid art collectors and reviewers to overlook a country that is not only extremely worldly but rich in creative artistic expression and more importantly, close enough to be involved in the artistic community.
“You Are Here” displays work over a variety of mediums that Ziele hopes will stimulate and push the envelope of what people consider contemporary art. By featuring this selective group, he is capturing all that is happening within the contemporary art scene in Canada. Each piece was handpicked because of its ability for the viewer to lose himself in time and place.
One of the show's most illustrious artists, ceramic sculptor Brendan Tang, was recently named as a finalist for Canada’s prestigious national Sobey Art Award. His unique combination of traditional porcelain from the Chinese Ming dynasty era and French gilded ormolu blend into and almost drape over Japanimation prosthetics and manage to create a concise window for pop-art fanatics to peer into age old elitism. The contrast of color, sheen and time-periods in his pieces are immense, and the attention they command is equally similar. You Are Here
CGI artist, Alex McLeod who is garnering acclaim in Toronto’s Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art lent graphic ecological environments that twist and turn the viewer’s eye. His use of digital 3D to create art is one-of-a-kind. Each large print depicts a hybrid space that is neither a static nor dynamic piece. Its marshmallow clouds, rock-candy icicles and trees, mixed with sugar glazed virtual fantasy worlds keep the viewer lost in its unidentifiable scale of time or place.
But it was Canadian painter, Andrew Rucklidge’s Landscape’s in Peril that a traditional view of contemporary aesthetics came alive. His use of mixed-media on canvas and dark paint portray an almost ominous scene. Each cryptic landscape has no beginning or end, is no place but yet is everywhere and is a confusion of a time of solitude after what appears to have been a declaration of war on nature.
Multi-directional international solo-exhibitor Luke Painter displays lifelike ink drawings that seek to boggle and re-direct the mind. Displayed at the exhibit was a depiction of a person atop an indistinctive dwelling or figure, with marshy cattails sprouting out through an endless wooden-desert landscape absent of a horizon. The artist's drawings do not stray far from his stylized flash animations of eccentric urban environments. And while Zeile has an innate ability to choose art that bursts onto the "canvas" through forms such as sculpture, paintings, and graphic art, his final artist was and continues to be a familiar face of Plus Gallery, Douglas Walker, who unveiled a selection of work for an upcoming 2011 museum tour. Painting in only blue and white, Walker creates each piece on a diverse medium and uses atypical elements to apply each effect to that specific painting. No pattern is alike and each thin stroke invokes the artist to splash, trace and meander his brush across the piece. Visitors to his traveling museum will be surprised just how much an artist can do with what is typically considered "less."
Zeile is confident in his artistic talents and he has been asked to move his gallery to Denver’s eclectic Santa Fe Art District. But, he finds a sense of peace in staying put. He finds a sense of solidarity in knowing that his pieces are displayed in an area that is nestled amongst luxury condos and vagrant housing alike. Collectors and enthusiasts can be thrilled by his visionary creations. You Are Here and its artists solidifies Ziele’s ability to capture and bring attention to some of Canada’s most cutting edge pieces right in the heart of Denver without the notoriety or placement within Denver’s art district.