2021 Critic’s Picks: Winnipeg

By Chukwudubem Ukaigwe

Post-pandemic Winnipeg moves on with a newly completed Inuit art center as well as an intensified association with the globalized panorama of contemporary art. Murmurs of “NF-this” and “NF-that” can be heard through the walls of cheap studio spaces as art schools pretend to exponentially tend towards being obsolete.

Ella Cooper, Witness (Self Portrait Series), 2018, detail (from Born in Power at the Winnipeg Art Gallery)

Jaimie Isaac, former Indigenous curator at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, gave the city a striking group exhibition, Born In Power, in preparation for her drift from the Prairies towards the west coast. Former curator of Plug In ICA, Nasrin Himada also bestowed on us I’m Not Your Kinda Princess, a retrospective exhibition of works by 2021 Governor General Award-winning artist Lori  Blondeau, after which the game-changing curator drifted towards the other coast, leaving us naked with hope.

aceartinc. woke up from a much-needed slumber, making their bed for new programming under fresh leadership. On the French side of things, La Maison Des Artistes Visuels Francophones presented a Chase Martin solo show, is a bird is a plane is a man, in which the artist explored interpretation in mark making while interrogating gestural and digital aesthetics as they pertain to urban dialectics.

Take Home BIPOC Arts House is a metamorphic resultant of Chroma Collective, a collective birthed as a necessary advocative response to catastrophe. This brand-new artist-run center is Winnipeg’s centerpiece for the year as their first ever show, Embodied, They Hold Their Own, featured colorful photographs and paintings by Glodi Bahati and Bria Fernandez, and was curated by Kinfolk. Later in the year, Take Home gave us a solo exhibition, Within Otherness, by Bahati, where the artist presented her striking visual dissertation on loneliness as a material phenomenon.

Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez photograph at Blinkers Art & Project Space

Under new leadership, the recipient of the 2021 Lacy Price, Blinkers Art & Project Space presented New Photographs by Gonzalo Reyes Rodríguez. In this solo exhibition, the New York-based artist swings his pendulum between the fortuitously archival and contemporary uninhibited documentation. By overlapping and juxtaposing a set of found photographs with photographs of himself as well as intimate images of familiar spaces and objects, he was able to create an investigative literature that supersedes the brutality of a full stop. Just like Gonzalo’s images, this city is full of generative possibilities: Winnipeg is a semicolon et infinitum.

Chukwudubem Ukaigwe is a Nigerian born song, dispersed by a transient Atlantic breeze, currently passing through Canada. He consciously uses a variety of mediums to relay a plurality of ideas at any given time. He approaches his art practice as a conversation, or a portal into one, and in some instances, as an interpretation of this ongoing exchange. He operates as an interdisciplinary artist, curator, writer, and cultural worker, and is a founding member of Patterns Collective.