Friday, February 27, 2009

Two From Winnipeg

I was born in a small city which occupies the longitudinal centre of North America, aka Winnipeg. My family did not stay there for long, so I cannot (unfortunately) claim much connection. It as a place of extremes: it is either really, really cold or really, really hot. There are two seasons: Snow and Mosquito. It is not a place that suffers wimps gladly. If you can make it there, you can make it anywhere. And so, it has become Canada's most unlikely and fresh cultural incubator.

Continuing my homage to Toronto's David Mirvish Books, here are two bookish offerings from Winnipeg:

1): "The Winnipeg Alphabestiary"

To celebrate their 25th anniversary, Border Crossings magazine commissioned twenty-six wacky, wild, and wonderful works from some of Winnipeg’s most accomplished artists. The "Winnipeg Alphabestiary" includes full colour illustrations of the twenty-six original works, a foreword by noted American artist and Weimaranerist William Wegman, and contributions by Meeka Walsh and Robert Enright. From Wanda Koop’s A for Ape to Shaun Morin’s Z for Zebra, the animals that dwell in the pages of the alphabestiary challenge, conjure and inspire.
Viva la W!

The artists, from A - Z:
Wanda Koop, Aganetha Dyck, Shawna McLeod, Erica Eyres, Doug Melnyk, Kim Ouellette,
Janet Werner, Tim Schouten, Simon Hughes, Michael Dumontier, Marcel Dzama, Andrew Valko, Drue Langlois, Daniel Dueck, Jon Pylypchuk, Eleanor Bond, Dominique Rey, Diana Thorneycroft, Neil Farber, Adrian Williams, Sarah Anne Johnson, Alison Norlen, Bonnie Marin, Cliff Eyland, Melanie Rocan, Shaun Morin.

2): Cliff Eyland

"Bookshelf File Cards"
Feb 21 - Mar 21, 2009
Leo Kamen Gallery

Cliff Eyland grew up and was educated in Halifax. He is a practising artist, curator, writer, and Associate Professor at the University of Manitoba School of Art in Winnipeg. Since attending Nova Scotia College of Art and Design in the early 80's, he has made paintings and drawings exclusively in a 3"x5" index card format. Eyland believes that the library is the most important of all art institutions. Libraries should be the key to what is shown in art galleries, he insists, whereas the galleries should illustrate what is in a library.

His systematic devotion to the file card format began with a Fluxus-inspired student project, when he cut a copy of H.H. Arnason’s "History of Modern Art" into 3 by 5 inch rectangles and surreptitiously inserted them at random in the NSCAD library's file card system. He has since done many other library installations and interventions, including an invited project spanning a number of years at the Fogelman Social Science and Humanities Library at New School University in New York, in which he placed file card-sized drawings in books throughout the library.

In "Bookshelf File Cards", Eyland reengages his lifelong obsession with books and art by creating abstract images of books on shelves. These works begin life as digital illustrations on paper, which are then mounted on blocks the thickness of a package of file cards. Some of the images remain as digital illustrations, some are painted over in whole or in part. These little gems want to be displayed in groups of 3, 6, 9 or more, making a miniature library. Eyland is a master of colour theory and human colour perception: the highly saturated combinations tickled my visual cortex in a delightful way. I wondered what might happen if the work was on a larger scale. My curiosity was satisfied, as he reproduced a number of pieces in the show as posters. However, the larger format simply does not work, proving that 3"x5" is just right.

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