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Rewilding Modernity


September 27, 2013 to January 5, 2014
Talk/Tour: Sunday, October 20 at 1 p.m. with curator Lisa Baldissera

Contemporary art and the unique history of modernity in Saskatchewan and internationally are examined in this innovative exhibition. Featured are some of the most prominent artists working today in Canada and abroad, plus a selection of works from the 1950s to 1970s by Saskatchewan and international artists. A cornerstone of modern art emerged in our own backyard, at Emma Lake. The Emma Lake Workshops of the 1950s and 1960s formed a major part of Canada’s artistic legacy. They were led by eminent visiting artists and critics from around the world, including New York critic Clement Greenberg, American artists Donald Judd, Kenneth Noland and Frank Stella, American composer and artist John Cage, and English sculptor Sir Anthony Caro. A number of these participants had become aware of the province through its high-profile presence as the only region in North America to have elected a government on a socialist platform — a feat that was reported in the 1940s and early 50s in The New York Times, Time magazine and Newsweek.

The project, curated by Lisa Baldissera, Chief Curator, Mendel Art Gallery, will feature works from public collections, by a selection of the workshop leaders Rewilding Modernity and participants, along with new works by contemporary artists. The exhibition is a visual think-tank that considers the inherent presence of modern art in the art of today and provokes dialogue about its future. Among the artists represented are: Polly Apfelbaum, Bob Boyer, Robert Christie, Wally Dion, Mina Forsyth, Roy Kiyooka, Kenneth Lochhead, Medrie MacPhee,  Jules Olitski, William Perehudoff, Jennifer Steinkamp, and Robert Youds.

Rewilding takes its name from the ecological practice of returning tracts of land to a wild state; the intention is to reclaim natural landscapes, thereby creating some window into both the past and the future. The exhibition “rewilds” modernity by considering the ruptures, shifts and new ways of seeing to be found in modern and contemporary art practice. It also acknowledges the 77-year-old legacy of Emma Lake and its continued influence today, in the context of global visual culture.

The project includes “Call of the Wild,” a half-day public program featuring artist and critic talk/tours and a round-table discussion, moderated by Baldissera, with invited guests from Saskatchewan, the United States and Canada. The participants include: Robert Christie, a distinguished Saskatoon artist; Polly Apfelbaum, an internationally exhibited New York abstract artist; Jennifer Steinkamp, a Los Angeles installation artist and instructor; Robert Youds, a Victoria painter and sculptor; and art writers Bart Gazzola (Saskatoon) and Barry Schwabsky, a noted New York art critic, poet and editor. The former international editor of Art Forum, Schwabsky is the author of Vitamin P and Vitamin P2 from Phaidon Books.