Out of Nowhere: a group show of Winnipeg artists
For the exhibition, "Out of Nowhere", gallery artist Sarah Anne Johnson and Border Crossings editor Meeka Walsh have selected a group of ten artists from their native city of Winnipeg. The work of these Winnipeg born artists represents a range of media: painting, drawing, photography, video, and collage. Drawing on Winnipeg native Marshall McLuhan as source, these artists have clearly massaged their mediums. Most are relatively young and several were shown in the acclaimed "My Winnipeg," an extensive exhibition that premiered at La maison rouge in Paris and recently opened at the Musée International des Arts Modestes in Sete, France. This show, however, marks the first US exhibition for most of them.
Winnipeg enjoys an almost mythical reputation as a creative center. The region has produced the internationally recognized Royal Art Lodge collective — a group of artists that included Marcel Dzama, Neil Farber, Michael Dumontier and Jon Pylypchuk, among others. The noted filmmaker and director of ten feature length and countless short films, Guy Maddin, is a Winnipegger, as are painters Tim Gardner and Karel Funk and photographer Laura Letinsky.
The most senior artist in our show is Neil Farber, one of the founders of the Royal Art Lodge who is well known for his distinctive style of densely populating worlds filled with a curious cast of characters. Some are human and others not, and in his works he combines a fulsome intensity with wry and particular humor. The video team of Lasha Mowchun and Rachel Schappert also produce work which is intense and their video provides a Surrealist's lampoon of the artist's role in society. With Ted Barker, they are the youngest participants in the show but Barker's work, densely drawn and closely rendered in its exactitude shows a careful and precise representation of a history which is at once personal, historic and specific to place. Simon Hughes applies a mid century aesthetic to playful materials such as stickers and Lego-like building blocks and adds a repertoire of Canadian iconography from ice flows and snow to the dazzling Aurora Borealis.
Erica Eyres is interested in the fragile and resilient, inventive human condition. Her drawings and videos examine, with uncanny psychic accuracy how we perceive others and how we portray ourselves but her scrutiny is off-set with a certain humane generosity. Lisa Wood's painting and graphic works center on the subject of self-portraiture, rendered up-close and personal. Her gaze is unflinching.
There are two photographers in the exhibition, Steve Ackerman and Elaine Stocki. After having lived in New York Ackerman has now returned to Winnipeg, working on occasion with Guy Maddin and also producing his own work which often reflects the rough setting and indigent characters in his community. Elaine Stocki, who, like Sarah Johnson has an MFA from Yale lives in New York but identifies Winnipeg as home. Stocki theatrically challenges the expected limits of documentary photography and will be showing platinum-printed images of gymnasts who appear, like many of Stocki's figures, to inhabit a space of their own time and making. They are unique and other-worldly. Paul Robles, using a sharp blade and a fine hand, renders porn magazine images into lacy fret-work moths and butterflies, mounting their small forms in boxes that would have Vladimir Nabokov applauding.
Located in the geographic center of the country, Winnipeg sits on a vast flood plain that was once prehistoric Lake Agassiz. The wind sweeps across the wide expanse which, in winter, becomes what noted poet Robert Kroetsch called "the white erasure of snow". Artists are impelled each year to re-inscribe this clean sheet. It's this sense of opportunity, necessity and vulnerability that draws Winnipeggers together to work collectively and at the same time to assert an iconoclastic individuality. The city is both isolated and central. Its inhabitants have a strong sense of themselves and this generative quality produces the art which is attracting attention wherever it is seen.