Winnipeg-based artist Holger Kalberg explores the history and legacy of Modernism and its relationship to utopian ideals. In The Colony, a mixed media installation of paintings and sculptural elements, Kalberg challenges the language of abstraction and representation, combining a visual lexicon of Modernism with the aesthetics and materials of craft and DIY.
Throughout the exhibition a subtle tension arises between the handmade quality of Kalberg’s works and their use of formalist modes and sensibilities. Kalberg describes this tension as ‘conflicted appreciation’ for the visual language and ambitious aims associated with modernist utopian ideologies of the 1960s and ‘70s. His process-driven paintings take the form of abstracted and fragmented portraits, calling to mind a historical period of optimism when social change was championed through individual action.
A sense of nostalgia pervades the exhibition. The works create a longing for a utopian world that may or may not arrive, and a sober realization of the futility inherent therein. The Colony presents a space to reflect on the historical moments where desire for an alternative model of society surfaced, moments where modernist ideals merged with experimentation and play. Within these instances, Kalberg is as much interested in the flaws as in the successes of these utopian models – even the word utopia itself, from the Greek meaning “no place,” reflects this embroiled relationship between optimism and impossibility.
In a sense, Kalberg’s works become anachronistic souvenirs from a future that has not yet come to pass. His exhibition can be seen as a starting point for a conversation about the various concepts of utopia and its relevancy in today’s society. The notions of experimentation, appropriation, craft, and design are central motives for much of the work and are reflected in a collaborative artwork installed on the exterior of the gallery. There will be opportunities for patrons to contribute to this piece during our public programming and children's camps.
Holger Kalberg, born in Germany, lives and works in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He graduated from Emily Carr University in 2001 and received an MFA from Chelsea College of Arts in London in 2007. Recent exhibitions include Reconfiguring Abstraction at the School of Art Gallery (2013), Paint at Vancouver Art Gallery (2007), as well as shows in Agnes Etherington Art Centre at Queens University, Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver, Clark & Faria in Toronto, Galerie Bertrand & Gruner in Geneva, Switzerland, and Galerie Hellebrand in Duisburg, Germany. He was shortlisted for the RBC Canadian Painting Competition in 2002, 2004, and 2005 and was a juror for the 2013 competition. He received a Canada Council Production Grant in 2006, BC Arts Council grants, as well as a University of Manitoba Creative Works Grant in 2013. Kalberg’s work can be found in collections in Germany, Switzerland, US, UK, and Canada. Holger Kalberg is represented by Monte Clark Gallery in Vancouver.
The Colony is organized by the Southern Alberta Art Gallery and curated by Ryan Doherty and Christina Cuthbertson. Funding assistance from the Canada Council for the Arts, Alberta Foundation for the Arts, and the City of Lethbridge.
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