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Maman, by Louise Bourgeois. Photo by Dylan Barnabe.

Contemporary art in the Capital

By Dylan Barnabe on September 1, 2012

For many, contemporary art can be a source of perpetual confusion and bewilderment. Deviation from customary styles, materials, and conventions of traditional art frequently causes furrowed brows and quizzical looks.

However, despite its elusive reputation, the world of contemporary art is very much alive and well in our city. The following is a list of six great local spaces – other than the National Gallery of Canada – in which to survey and appreciate art in the Ottawa-Gatineau area.

Cube Gallery 1285 Wellington Street, Ottawa

Located in the core of Ottawa’s WestboroVillage, Cube Gallery was founded by artist and curator Don Monet. The gallery hosts new group shows every month, providing visitors many opportunities to see exhibitions of up-and-coming, mid-career, and established local artists.

Until September 16th, Cube will be showcasing its current exhibition Like Father, Like Daughter. Kathy Haycock, daughter of acclaimed Arctic painter Maurice Haycock, showcases her Canadian landscape paintings alongside those of her famous father. Having grown up surrounded by Maurice’s work and that of his painting partner A.Y. Jackson, Kathy’s canvases are reminiscent of their deep and shared understanding of Canada’s untamed wilderness.

Galerie SAW Gallery 67 Nicholas Street, Ottawa

Ottawa’s Galerie SAW Gallery, located in Arts Court, has been at the epicentre of the city’s modern art scene since its inception in 1973. Especially interested in the promotion of political and socially conscious art, SAW Gallery has established its reputation as an artist-run centre looking to engage its audience and viewers through the vehicle of contemporary art.

Galerie SAW Gallery is currently in between exhibitions.

AXENÉO7 80 rue Hanson, Gatineau

Gatineau’s AXENÉO7 is a contemporary art gallery which deals primarily with visual and media art installations. It is home to a unique artists-in-residence program, which allows invited artists to live in the gallery for up to six weeks and culminates with their work being displayed in AXENÉO7’s spacious studios.

From September 6th through October 21, stop by AXENÉO7 to explore the relationship between two unique states of being in AmourAnarchie (LoveAnarchy). The title of the show derives from French composer Léo Ferré’s album by the same name, intending to provoke audiences to examine the intricacies, excesses, and commitment of both love and anarchy through art. AmourAnarchie opens on Thursday, September 6 at 7pm.

Gallery 101 1-301 ½ Bank Street, Ottawa

Founded in 1979, Gallery 101 is a non-profit artist-run space dedicated to the advancement of contemporary art. G-101 is known not only for the national and international talent it attracts, but also for its commitment in showcasing Aboriginal and Inuit art.

Until September 23rd, enjoy Joi T. Arcand’s exhibition oskinikiskw?wak (Young Women). Arcand’s photo-based work examines her experiences as a mixed-race First Nations’ woman through both personal and political approaches. Her photos, often a mixture of humor and nostalgia, address her family’s history and work to connect her memory to Canada’s vast landscape. The exhibition opens on Friday, September 7 (5-7 pm). Join Joi T. Arcand for a roundtable discussion on Saturday, September 8 (12-4pm).

Ottawa Art Gallery 2 Daly Avenue, Ottawa

The Ottawa Art Gallery (OAG) takes pride in being a major player in bringing together the artistic communities of Ottawa-Gatineau. Not only does the OAG house over 200 pieces of art in its contemporary collection, it is also home to the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, which comprises 1,600 works by influential Canadian artists.

In one of OAG’s three contemporary art rooms, Guillermo Trejo’s exhibition The revolution is called Atlantis will be on display until September 9th. Trejo’s pieces, prepared specifically for the OAG, are a cumulative showing of the artist’s work during the completion of his two-year Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Ottawa. He was one of six artists selected from his graduating class to showcase their thesis work in galleries across the National Capital Region. The exhibition looks to explore political propaganda through life-size structures, such as billboards or monuments.

Wall Space Gallery 358 Richmond Road, Ottawa and 2316 St. Joseph Boulevard, Orleans

Wall Space Gallery, located in both Westboro and Orleans, is dedicated to the advancement of Canadian contemporary artists. Initially specializing in custom-built framing, Wall Space opened its doors to the art world in 2003 and has since amassed a collection representing over 50 artists from across the country.

From September 20th through October 7th, the gallery is featuring visiting artist and film director Katherine Jeans. Katherine’s interest in capturing beauty in the ephemeral moments of everyday life is what drives her current exhibition In Search of BEAUTY, by examining the delicate grace and abstract colour of flowers. The show opens on Thursday, September 20 (5-8pm).

All six of these spaces are excellent sources for scouting out art (or simply trying to take another stab at understanding the “impenetrable field” of contemporary art). Whatever your view, try visiting one of these establishments and challenge yourself to experience something new.

Where do you go to see art in the city? Let us know in the comments below!

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