A Peek at the Institution of Art, October 1, 2010 to January 9, 2011, The Mendel Art Gallery, Saskatoon
BY: Patricia Dawn Robertson
It’s not every day that a public gallery is actually serenaded by art fans, but attendees of the opening event for the Mendel Gallery’s Under Skirt will be presented with four original songs performed by the Lethbridge-based Cedar Tavern Singers. The tunes are dedicated to the Mendel.
Under Skirt features an array of artists hailing from across Canada and the United States. Its aim is to be “sassy, playful, occasionally goofy,” says the Gallery’s associate curator Jen Budney. She’s been witness to the more staid, educational take on institutional critique in the late 1980s, and wanted to update that perspective and ramp it up with some satire so she commissioned new works, drew from the existing collection on the theme, and asked the Cedar Tavern Singers to compose some art songs.
Singers Mary Anne McTrowe and Daniel Wong were happy to oblige. The two collaborators have also made an original video to augment the soundtrack. These DIY artists surreptitiously recorded their first album, Songs for a Dead Hare, in a photocopy room at night at The Banff Centre, so they’re grassroots to the core. “We’re still devising the uniforms for the Mendel show,” says McTrowe, “something meat or ham-related, I think.”
McTrowe believes music is a “good hook” for people to access art, and they prefer an amateur aesthetic to a slick approach. “We aren’t a real band. We’re a performance project that looks like a band. It’s a clandestine way to get people interested in art history.”
Speaking of art history, Halifax conceptual artist and former Nova Scotia College of Art and Design heavyweight Garry Neill Kennedy has been asked to re-create Saskatoon artist William Perehudoff’s murals from Fred Mendel’s now defunct meat packing plant. Kennedy is well-known for his minimalist commentary on institutional art. “I like Bill Perehudoff’s work,” says Kennedy. “These are joyful little murals about music, dance and painting. It’s not heavy subject matter and the work is lyrical so it will be a joy to complete.” A retrospective of Perehudoff’s work will run concurrently with Under Skirt so visitors will get the opportunity to contrast and compare the two shows.
Kennedy is also keen to team up with other artists in the show who are doing work in the realm of art about art — including Dagmara Genda, Heather Nicol, and Nicole Cherubini.
Saskatoon artist Dagmara Genda’s works on vinyl in 2-D media will be pulled out from the wall and crumpled on the floor, says curator Jen Budney. According to the artist’s statement, “Limp landscape is a large-scale installation composed of 40 years and over 20 depictions of prairie landscapes from the Mendel permanent collection. Iconic forms and shapes are silhouetted in cut vinyl and hung in the gallery as a means of re-conceptualizing how the landscape has been represented. The result will be a skin, as if a landscape drawing peeled off its canvas.”
Works contributed by Heather Nicol and Nicole Cherubini will be drawn from the Mendel’s permanent collection. Nicol is an innovative sound installation artist based in Toronto whose installations have appeared in Nuit Blanche. Three of Nicol’s sound objects will be employed inUnder Skirt. New York artist Nicole Cherubini’s domain is playful sculptural ceramics. She has a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and her work reflects a hands-on, design-centric aesthetic with a conceptual twist.
When asked if Under Skirt is a bit of a tribute to the Mendel, which is set to relocate to more expansive facilities in 2014, Budney concedes that the corresponding Perehudoff survey exhibition plays a key role. The Optimism of Colour: William Perehudoff, a Retrospective (October 1, 2010 to January, 9, 2011) and Under Skirt are inextricably linked to the gallery’s history in Saskatoon. She adds that Perehudoff’s art career and The Mendel Art Gallery are deeply intertwined artistically and culturally.