Art Gallery of Grande Prairie

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Gallery reopens with John Kissick: A Nervous Decade

By Diana Rinne
Herald-Tribune staff

The Art Gallery of Grande Prairie re-opens its main exhibit space this weekend with new exhibit featuring the work of Canadian artist John Kissick.

The main gallery space has been closed since September 2010 for construction. This past September, the gallery was completely closed while the exhibition and reception areas were completed including new flooring throughout.

The gallery will celebrate the re-opening with a reception this evening for Kissick’s exhibit A Nervous Decade.

Co-organized by the Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont., Art Gallery in partnership with the Kelowna, B.C., Gallery, the exhibit has been touring since the summer of 2010, said curator Crystal Mowry who is in Grande Prairie for the installation and opening.

The show itself is not a retrospective, but rather a glimpse at the work of Kissick, an abstract artist, from 2000-2010.

“That kind of ambivalence around naming that decade seems like a nice fit for the show because he has been working through ideas about originality and what it means to be something new for the course of his practice,” Mowry said.

“And also what does that mean when you’re a painter when you have that weight on you and you’re striving to make something that speaks to people in the here and now?”

The show itself consists of some 20 large abstract paintings.

“I won’t say abstract expressionist but I would say, oftentimes, when people see his work they would put it in that trajectory or focus. I think that’s fair, but I think what he does is also part of a much larger conversation about making art in general,” Mowry explained.

Kissick is currently the director of the School of Fine Art and Music at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ont. Trained as a painter and writer, he attended Queen’s University at Kingston, Ont., Cornell University and the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Institute for Higher Education. He has held teaching and administrative appointments at Penn State University’s school of visual arts and the Ontario College of Art and Design.

Kissick’s exhibition record includes numerous solo exhibitions in Canada and the U.S. And his work is in a number of important national public collections.

“What you will see is just over 20 paintings that are large and dynamic and vibrant, and for lack of a better word, kind of jittery,” Mowry said.

“There’s a lot of energy that seems contained in each one of them and that’s the result, I think of the sometime bewildering palette of colours that he is working with.

“There are lots of oranges and yellows and brown and purple and all of these curious colour combinations, but also lots of texture and lots of pattern within these paintings kind of fighting against one another with in a shared space basically.”

Kissick will be in Grande Prairie for the opening on Friday.

“John is one of the most generous and articulate artists that I’ve had the chance to work with in recent years,” said Mowry.

“I think what he brings to his work is the special combination of being a maker but also of someone who has taught as well.

“He has complete comfortability in talking about ideas but is never proposing that he has all the answers either, which makes for a generous conversation.”

The reception for John Kissick: A Nervous Decade will open Friday at 7 p.m. at the Art Gallery of Grande Prairie in the Montrose Cultural Centre, 9839-103 Ave.

The show will be on exhibit until Dec. 10.