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Nickle Galleries celebrate 50 years of art

By Gurman Sahota, Oct 11 2016 —

Along with the Glenbow museum turning 50 this year, the Nickle Galleries at the University of Calgary will also celebrate 50 years of art. Curated by Mary-Beth Laviolette, Generations: 50 years of art at the University of Calgary and Beyond features artists who have either completed a degree or have been instructors in the department of art at the U of C.

“This is a journey of how the art community [on campus] situate[d] themselves in relation to the department of art,” says Kim Huynh, a featured artist in the exhibit.

Huynh, who has been an associate professor in the U of C art department since 1999, says one highlight is the variety of the exhibit. Split into three rooms on the main floor of the gallery, Generations begins by easing the viewer into the founding of the establishment.

“Helen Stadelbauer was the founder of the idea that the department of art should be situated at the university. She actually helped to bring in this first team to really try to run a program of studio art,” Huynh says.

With examples of ceramic, mixed media, traditional print making and use of objects, the exhibit is composed of 60 artists. Of the artists, half are studio instructors and the other half are alumni.

“It is a complicated survey of development,” Huynh says.

The exhibit is layed out chronologically, beginning with the early founders and students of the program. The first 20 years of the program are highlighted at the entrance of the exhibit, with works by John Kenneth Esler, Ronald (Gyo-Zo) Spickett and David Garneau — all  former U of C instructors.

The gallery has expansive space including a 30-foot ceiling. Huynh says travelling pieces rarely use the upper space of the gallery.

“[Artists] don’t make works for a gallery space, most of the time we make work in our isolation. I made [my] piece for this particular space, because not many galleries have the space,” says Huynh, whose installation features a tethered extension made of knitted elastic bands and embroidered carpeting.

The end of the extension has two white cowboy hats mounted on wood with a series of islands installed underneath.

With themes of social activism and the divide between corporate, ready-made culture and tactility with the use of manual labour, Huynh questions Calgarian society with her art.

“Each message seemed to require a different dimension in regards to a design,” Huynh says. “Viewers should consider all of these happening in one system, how we all accommodate each other.”

“In the ‘50s and ‘60s we focused on the playfulness of pigment and the processes of making but we are moving towards strong consciousness and awareness [through art],” Huynh says.

With over 70 pieces in the exhibit, Generations: 50 years of art at the University of Calgary and Beyond surveys 50 years of campus art and commemorates the department of art on its formation. Admission is free to the public and the exhibit is on display until Dec. 10.

For more information visit nickle.ucalgary.ca

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