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Sarah Todd
Nate McLeod & Cassandra Paul at Pith Gallery, Calgary
August 25, 2015

Pith Gallery is a relatively unusual space in Calgary, but it inhabits the artist-studios-upstairs/art-gallery-downstairs model seen in many other Canadian cities (the burgeoning 221a empire in Vancouver and the now defunct White House in Toronto, for example). Located in Inglewood across the street from the Esker Foundation, it provides a foil to Esker’s monied super-slickness. Changing up exhibitions every three or four months, Pith primarily exhibits work from local and emerging artists.

Nate McLeod & Cassandra Paul

This season’s exhibition is from Calgary artist/curator/arts-admin person Nate McLeod and artist Cassandra Paul, both of who are relatively recent ACAD grads. Titled Under New Management, the two-floor exhibition is instantly recognizable as “contemporary painting” – aka painting as installation – with canvasses installed over doors, propped up against the wall, on the floor, etc. I learned from the gallery sitter that the artists share a studio, which is abundantly evident in the way the exhibition is cohesive to the point of appearing to be a solo show. The work itself is a super-pop ode to summer. A relatively traditional painting of a lifeguard station stands out, as do neon rainbow text-based paintings that include winking de Kooning signatures. A black thrift store vase (contemporary art loves a vase these days) makes repeat appearances as a kind of faux-naif Morandi nod. The tropical coloured packaging of Palm Bay (a sparkling vodka drink, I’ve since learned) is a leitmotif throughout the whole exhibition (including an entire wall of diagonally spaced cans), employing the time honoured pop-art strategy of subverting wide ranging marketing for aesthetic means. I couldn't see the connection to the “internet and digital technology in contemporary painting” mentioned in the press release, but it doesn’t really matter since Under New Management succeeds as an effervescent summer exhibition occupying the deeply important niche of not-commercial, not artist-run centre exhibition spaces.

Pith Gallery Gallery and Studios:
Nate McLeod & Cassandra Paul: Under New Management continues until September 19.

Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. She has previously worked at Western Front, InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre, and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. She has also produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein München, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.



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