What to Look For in the Huge Oh, Canada Art Exhibit

There is a giant bear covered in flowers, poppies covered in latex, a van with holes punched into it and a bar that is really an art installation.


That is just the start of what can be seen in the Oh, Canada Contemporary Art from North America Exhibit

The exhibit opens January 31 and runs through to April 26. The 100 works by more than 60 artists is so big that four institutions are sharing the work. See the installations, multi-media, painting, photographs and more at the Glenbow, Esker FoundationIllingworth Kerr Gallery and Nickle Galleries

It's one of the largest surveys of Canadian contemporary art ever and this is the first time it will be shown in Canada. Because, well, this massive display of Canadian contemporary art appreciation was organized by an American.

Denise Markonish spent three years visiting hundreds of artists' studios looking for art that had people buzzing, but wasn't necessarily the traditional idea of what Canadian art is. She did it all for the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art, which showed the exhibit in 2012. 

Now, it is in Calgary. You can view the work in any order bouncing back-and-forth between galleries. Each location has extra programming including talks, tours, speakeasies and workshops. A full schedule of the events as well as bios on each artists and where his or her work is shown can be found on ohcanadayyc.com

In the meantime, here are just 17 of the more than 60 artists in the exhibit to seek out. 

Glenbow Museum


Annie Pootoogook

Annie Pootoogook, Composition (Evil Spirit), 2003-4. Pencil, ink, pencil crayon.

She’s an Inuit graphic artist born in Cape Dorset and currently living in Ottawa. Pootoogook's work portrays contemporary Inuit life. It gets a little dark, juxtaposing family and home life with alcoholism and violence.


Daniel Barrow

Daniel Barrow, The Thief of Mirrors, 2011. Mixed media.

Barrow creates live animated-films by layering drawings with overhead projectors. It’s performance work that tells us a story as he manually manipulates the images.


Douglas Coupland

Douglas Coupland, The Exhausted Landscape, 2011. Acrylic on canvas.

What would an exhibit of entirely Canadian content be without something from Douglas Coupland? The writer is also a visual artist. His work is influenced by design, technology and the 21st Century mind. 


Eric Cameron

Eric Cameron, Thanatos, 2011. Mixed media.

The Calgary artist and Alberta College of Art + Design instructor layered 100 Remembrance Day poppies with latex for his work, "Thanatos". You’ll have to look up for this one. The installation is hanging from the ceiling.


Terrance Houle

Terrance Houle, Iiniiwahkiimah, 2012. Vinyl.

Another Calgary-based artist, Terrance Houle is a member of the Blood Tribe. His art includes performance, photography, video and painting. His work on display at the Glenbow is from a collection called Iiniiwahkiimah, which means Buffalo Herder and also happens to be Houle’s Blackfoot name. 


Esker Foundation


Dean Baldwin

Dean Baldwin, Chalet, 2012, mixed media installation.

Baldwin’s works are big, architectural structures that aren’t usually what you would find in a museum. The one being shown at the Esker Foundation, for example, is a bar. It’s all about blurring the lines between performance and social practice. On February 26, March 26 and April 23, Esker Foundation is hosting a speakeasy evening with Village Brewery with the conversation happening around Baldwin’s bar installation.


Diane Landry

Diane Landry, Knight of Infinite Resignation, 2009, mixed media, dark room kinetic with white wall and white ceiling. Commissioned by L’OEil de Poisson, Québec City, with funding from the Canada Council for the Arts.

Landry creates audio sculptures using recycled and repurposed everyday objects. She wants to break the link of our memory of the object to create a new memory. Her “Knight of Infinite Resignation” installation is 237 water bottles filled with sand. The bottles act like an hourglass while at the same time comment on the world’s clean water supply.


Graeme Patterson

Graeme Patterson, Secret Citadel, 2013, stop-motion animation, 2:30 minutes.

Patterson is a self-taught stop-motion animator. His “Secret Citadel” work explores the trials and tribulations of male friendship. The story is told through an anthropomorphic bison and cougar who are brought together through playful creativity and torn apart by violent awkwardness. The whole experience takes about 30 minutes.


John Will

John Will, Nothing, 2012, vinyl and paint.

Will is a smart man with a lot of experience. He was born in Iowa in 1939, was a Fulbright fellow, he was a professor at the University of Calgary and has been a visiting artist in more than 30 institutions, including Yale. His work “Nothing” lists all of the artists in the Oh, Canada exhibit.


Kim Adams

Courtesy of the artist and Diaz Contemporary, Toronto.

Kim Adams, Optic Nerve, 2010, mixed media.

Adams likes to draw with holes. In this case, his drawing is on a van that had to be craned into the 4th floor Esker Foundation. The work lights up from within.


Illingworth Kerr Gallery


Clint Neufeld

 Photograph by Toni Hafkenscheid.

Clint Neufeld. One Yellow Rose (2012). Ceramic, wood, cloth.

He was in the military, then tried to be a firefighter and now Neufeld is an artist who likes to use his art to explore masculine identity. His work includes ceramic sculpture of engine and transmission transformations.



Photograph by K. Jack Clark.

DaveandJenn. -TheBindingLine- (2013). Acrylic and oil paint, bronze, wood, resin and mixed media.

DaveandJenn is the husband and wife pair of Jennifer Saleik and David Foy. They are from Calgary and their art is very detailed and technical, layering details from their personal life into complicated works. “The Binding Line” is one that you’ll stare at for a while and you might have already seen at TrepanierBaer Gallery this January.


Janice Wright Cheney

Photograph by Jeff Crawford.

Janice Wright Cheney. Widow (2012). Detail. Wool, cochineal dye, velvet, taxidermy form, pins, wood.

Her bear, aka “Widow” is the image you’ve seen on most of the promotion for this exhibit. Lest you think the rose-covered bear is some sort of large Valentine, it actually represents loss, grief and survival.


Sarah Anne Johnson

Sarah Anne Johnson. Cheerleader (2011). Unique chromogenic print hand-painted with photospotting and acrylic ink.

The Winnipeg-based artist is a photographer, but she paints on her photographs. Her work “Cheerleader” is a chromeographic print of a photo she took in the Arctic Circle. She added acrylic and photospotting inks.


Nickle Galleries


David Hoffos

Scenes from the House Dream: Winter Kitchen, 2007.

Hoffos’ work is an “illusionary installation”. Translation: he uses low-tech devices (dioramas, CRT televisions, mirrors, video) to create detailed imaginary worlds that are based in reality.


Garry Neill Kennedy

Garry Neill Kennedy, Spotted, 2009-12. 72 digital prints.

Kennedy’s photography work “Spotted” is made up of photographs that he didn’t take. Instead he collected and screen-grabbed photographs taken by other people of planes “spotted” taking off or landing. Some of the planes are part of the CIA’s rendition program and it is meant to be a comment on the American government’s reliance on torture.


Luis Jacob and Noam Gonick

Wildflowers of Manitoba, with Noam Gonick, 2008.

This work has an actor “dreaming” inside a geodesic dome that shows film projections on its panels. The projections represent the performer’s aspirations and dreams.

Oh, Canada Contemporary Art from North America runs from January 31 to April 26 at the Glenbow, Esker Foundation, Illingworth Kerr Gallery and Nickle Galleries. For more information, visit ohcanadayyc.com

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