Strike Out to See Something Striking

It’s last call on three winter exhibitions at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery. Comfortable Modernism closes its showing in the concourse cases on April 9; New Positions: Alexis Bulman, Andrew Cairns, Monica Lacey, Alexandra O’Sullivan closes on April 23; and Rachel Beach: Mid-Sentence wraps on May 7.

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Curated by the Gallery’s own Jill MacRae, Comfortable Modernism features a selection of handmade tapestries designed by Canadian sculptors and painters in the mid-1970s, intended to be displayed in public spaces. Toronto’s Fay Loeb initiated the tapestry project in response to the often cold and stark common areas found in public buildings. The idea was to bring visual and physical warmth to these spaces by providing cost effective, large-scale works that could withstand the wear and tear of high-traffic areas. Over the course of the following two years, Loeb commissioned 23 tapestries of designs by sculptors and painters from across the country, such as Michael Snow and Jack Shadbolt.

Trial fabrications were completed by skilled artisans in Mexico using a punch hooking method with a hand-guided, single-needle implement, allowing the artisan to complete approximately one square foot of the tapestry per day. The completed tapestries showcase designs made specifically for this medium, while reflecting the artists’ work in other media. The complete set of 23 artists’ proof wall hangings belonging to the Art Gallery’s permanent collection are a gift from Mr. and Mrs. Jules Loeb. Comfortable Modernism is on display in the Centre’s concourse until April 9.

Closing on April 23 is a selection of recent work by four young Prince Edward Island artists who represent a cross-section of developing local practices. Following a year of studio visits and interviews with over a dozen local visual artists, four were selected to represent a wide range of interests and ways of working. Ranging from photography to painting, video to installations, New Positions showcases the continual renewal of an inventive and challenging cultural scene.

The sculptures and two-dimensional works of New York-based Canadian artist Rachel Beach create a dialogue between form and surface, image and material, embracing geometry and clear lines, as well as colour, texture and pattern. While flirting with origins and the possibility of a fundamental formal order, however, the artist undermines such fixations through play, juxtaposition and staging. There is a pleasure in such play, a pleasure enhanced by the artist’s love of colour and texture. And there is also an opening up of meaning, in which the bodily references of Beach’s paper collages and inventive sculptures suggest new outlines, new limits of being, and new forms of being together. Mid-Sentence is curated by Robin Metcalfe and Pan Wendt, and produced in collaboration with Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery.

The Gallery remains open on winter/spring hours until May 14, welcoming the public from Wednesday to Saturday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., and Sunday 1-5 p.m.

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Illusion and Material in Mid-Sentence

New York-based Canadian artist Rachel Beach is opening her first major exhibition in this country in a decade. A collaboration with Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, Rachel Beach: Mid-Sentence will be presented at Confederation Centre Art Gallery from December 10 through April 30, bringing the artist back to the Maritimes, where she was originally trained.

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The show consists almost entirely of new creations, selected from Beach’s studio in Brooklyn, NY, where she has been based since 2001. Educated at Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and later Yale University, Beach’s work has been written about in The New York Times, Art in America, The Brooklyn Rail, among others.

Originally from London, Ontario, the artist works with abstract shapes and a variety of materials to produce colourful sculptures and two-dimensional pieces that play between illusion and material, geometry and surface. Her works typically deploy a vocabulary of shapes in creative interplay; although non-representational, they often evoke the human figure.

The Centre’s Pan Wendt curated the exhibition with Saint Mary’s Robin Metcalfe. “It is impressive to see what Rachel Beach has created over the past few years,” says Wendt. “Her studio, and everything in it, was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy, but she hasn’t slowed down at all, and her work has grown even richer.”

Gallery Director Kevin Rice looks forward to seeing the exhibition come to life in the Centre’s lower west gallery. “This exhibition will be like eye-candy, colourful and fascinating objects in dynamic arrangements,” he says. “Rachel’s work is known for its visual appeal and playful use of material and shape. Her sculptures are constructions built out of a variety of shapes that evoke folded paper, masks, the built environment, and the history of the medium. We are excited to bring her work back to the Maritimes.”

Rachel Beach: Mid-Sentence opens at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery on December 10. The artist will be present for an enriching exhibition tour on Saturday, December 10 at 7 p.m. All are welcome and the tour is presented free of charge.