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L.A. Beat

New SAAG exhibits focus on modern architecture

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As things start getting back to normal, that means there will be new art exhibits and openings happening downtown.

 The Southern Alberta Art Gallery focuses on architectural styles for their four new exhibits, which officially open, Saturday, July 3 with an opening reception at 7 p.m.

“That is deliberate. We like to have programming with a  special connection and a similar theme. these exhibits feature modern projects involving architecture,” summarized interim curator Adam Whitford.

Morgan Melenka’s exhibit There are No Walls, only shimmering membranes opens at  SAAG, July 3. Photo by Richard Amery

There will be  some familiar images in the upper gallery as Vancouver and Vienna based  artists Sabine Bitter and Helmut Weber’s “Performing Educational Modernism” features images of works of Arthur Erickson, who designed the University of Lethbridge main building as well as Simon Fraser University in Vancouver.


“They explore egalitarianism and optimism from the ’50s-’70s,” he said.


“It’s how these open community spaces allowed students and  faulty to gather and cross -pollinate.”


The downstairs gallery features Edmonton sculptor Catherine Burgess‘s “Almost Actual.”


“She’s a senior Alberta artist. Her work plays with spatial  orientation, form and void and the basic  method of delineating  three dimensional space,” he said, adding burgess works in  steel and stainless steel. The names of the  works are an essential component as are the effects of the shadows the make on the walls.


“ She’s exhibited here three times. The first time was in the ’90s,” he said.

Another Edmonton artist Morgan Melenka’s “There Are No Walls, Only Shimmering Membranes,” is on the walls of the SAAG library gallery.

“We like to focus on emerging Alberta and Southern Albertan artists in the library,” Whitford said.

“ She‘s made a series of cut outs of columns inspired by  Ancient Roman and Egyptian architecture. But she‘s pasted formica on them so it is an exploration of junk spaces and junk architecture,” he said.


“ I’ve been picking away at this since the beginning of the pandemic,” Melenka said, adding she was inspired by Rem Koolhaas’s book “Junk Space  Essay,” which  inspired her to notice how much modern architecture was inspired by the ancient Romans and Egyptians.

Catherine Burgess’s  exhibit Almost Actual opens at  SAAG, July 3. Photo by Richard Amery

“Modern  architecture has been inspired by  it for the past 30 odd years, but I never really noticed it, It’s all over malls and ” she said noting  started playing with the idea.


“ It’s coated with formica because it is the cheapest material and and it shows how deceptive  it is. So I’m playing with the idea of wealth but in a more modern context,” she said.


The SAAG also features Treaty 6  First Nations nêhiyawak Edmonton artist and musician Matthew Cardinal’s  

“Ultra Violet,” which is part of the Into the Streets Public Art series.

“It‘s a photo mural.He's a photographer and musician who will be performing at our next opening. His photos of urban  plants are done with flash and a purple colour negative film,” Whitmore described.

“Performing Educational modernism,” “Almost actual” and  “There Are No Walls,Only shimmering membranes,”run from July 3 -Sept. 12.

“Ultra Violet runs from July 3. Nov. 14, 2021.


 There will be an opening reception for all four exhibits, Saturday, July 3 beginning at 7 p.m.

“Everybody is welcome, but we do encourage you to book ahead,” Whitford said.

— by Richard Amery, L.A. Beat Editor

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