Walk a little bit down Lebreton Street in Chinatown and you will see a parking lot to your right and a white garage. Enter the building, and there’s no sign of an automotive repair business. What you will find instead is the Central Art Garage. It opened its doors last September and is bringing challenging conceptual art to Ottawa.
You will be greeted by bespectacled Ottawa artist, framer and curator, Danny Hussey, who is recognizable by way of his amazing beard and friendly smile. He co-owns the Garage with his partner, Bridget Thompson. [Sweet side story: Bridget, who is a physician in her other life, and Danny met at an art auction. They were both taken with one another and with art and went to look at paintings together on their first date].
Danny himself has been an artist for more than 20 years and also provides framing services at The Garage. I had a chance to sit down with both Danny and Bridget to talk about the beginning of Central Art Garage, and its latest exhibit, ‘Paper Pusher’.
“We wanted to show art in Ottawa that was a little bit more challenging,” said Danny. “We were looking at a way that we could show really high caliber work in a space that juxtaposed that…now we have a space that is a former garage that is showing museum caliber art work.”
So the Central Art Garage was borne. Well perhaps, it did not happen that simply. Danny’s Plan A was to go back to school to pursue his Master of Fine Arts. He and Bridget discussed a Plan B (a gallery). By the time he was accepted to school, they were both feeling very enthusiastic about launching the Garage, so they went with Plan B instead. Last August, during a visit to Venice for the Biennale, they began preparing for a September launch. They had to renovate the space, make calls and before they knew it, artist friends and contacts began to send art to The Garage in record time.
The Central Art Garage’s website describes the Paper Pusher exhibit as: Pushing not the obvious limits of the physical material. Pushing not the immeasurable horde of signed numbered reproductions that fuel some parallel art economy. Pushing in fact the boundaries of what would be perceived as a work on paper. Paper Pusher questions standardization and challenges set traditions of size, shape, and source.
Kristiina Lahde has etched patterns meticulously into envelops and has hole punched the word delete repetitively onto sheets of paper which hang over an office wall divider. Ken Nichol is a very detailed-oriented and thorough artist who carefully etches lines out of paper and collects them in small bottles which are put on display. These works challenge the observer to think about the utility and standardization of paper products, workplace efficiencies and redundancies, technological change and environmental degradation. At least that’s what the exhibit made me think of. Perhaps you will have a different impression?
That is the idea. These work are intended to challenge the visitor. The Central Art Garage can make one question the very notion of what art is. In fact, that is the Garage’s intention, while showing art in an accessible and friendly space.
“It’s exciting to add another space to the arts community in Ottawa, which is really cool, and vibrant and growing,” said Bridget. “When you look back 10 or 20 years ago, Ottawa is becoming a much more exciting city.”