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Time to reflect on the art that made an impact in 2007

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ONE of the traditional symbols of a new year is the old man -- a Father Time-like figure, with a white beard and an hourglass -- shuffling out of the picture, while the new year, the baby, shuffles in.

In 12 short months, of course, that "baby" will himself be the old man, a reminder that the new year, before it's over, will bring its own set of challenges, triumphs and joys for us all.

For me, it will see me moving to Montreal in a month, leaving behind friends, family, and two jobs I've enjoyed a great deal -- one of them here at the Free Press.

And so, just like the ending of one year, and the start of another, it's both happy and sad at the same time -- a time of nostalgic reflection and dreaming of the future.

Of course, all of this ties back in to some art, too, and the last year has been another busy one on the local scene, with artists from here and abroad filling up our galleries with thought-provoking work.

And if I had to pick some of my favourite shows of the past year (never an easy task), the list might look something like this:

* Any of the Winnipeg Art Gallery's rotating shows from their permanent historical collection, particularly the local works. Seeing the history of our country, our province and our city depicted in visual art is always a vivid reminder of the changes, progress and shortcomings of the ongoing social experiment that is Canada.

It's also a reminder of the fact that over the course of several decades, Winnipeg went from a remote fur-trading post to a bustling, modern city.

* Buffalo Jump by Linus Woods, Urban Shaman Gallery. Borrowing ideas from such artists as the late Norval Morrisseau, Woods combines ancient mythology with modern art forms, while managing to go off in a direction all his own.

z Take Comfort by Charles Comfort, Winnipeg Art Gallery. This long-awaited retrospective was the culmination of years of labour by WAG staff, and brought in work from public and private collections around the country, showcasing five decades of work from one of our city's most important historical artists.

* Patrick Ross, Graffiti Gallery. The feel-good show of the year. After graduating from the gallery's innovative Urban Canvas professional development program, Ross presented a solo show that revealed his long and sometimes painful journey from inmate to artist.

* Erratic Spaces by Don Gill, Winnipeg Art Gallery. A view of our city through the eyes of an outsider, Gill's art project consisted of walking the streets of Winnipeg every day -- taking pictures, scribbling notes and meeting people.

z Cities by John Hartman, Winnipeg Art Gallery, and Winnipeg Trash Museum by Frieso Boning, aceart. Two shows that contained two very dynamic, contemporary views of the modern, urban environment. In Hartman's case, it was both the grandeur and the insignificance of our cities that was on display, while with Boning, it was a ground-level view of our throwaway culture.

* Diana Thorneycroft, Toronto International Art Fair. Succeeding both visually and content-wise, Thorneycroft's humorous critiques of Canadian culture (in which she places figures like Bob and Doug McKenzie or Captain Canuck against backdrops of iconic Canadian paintings) show why she continues to be one of our city's most important artists.

* Where is Here? by the Royal Art Lodge, Winnipeg Art Gallery. Arguably the most famous artists we've produced to date, the Royal Art Lodge (currently made up of Neil Farber, Michael Dumontier and Marcel Dzama) showed that they're at the top of their game, refining their technical skills alongside their quirky humour and keen social insight.

* Cyborg Hybrid by KC Adams, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Local artist KC Adams, whose ongoing Cyborg Hybrid project pokes fun at racial stereotypes and looks toward a brave new future, stepped into the big leagues with a solo show at our country's top art institution.

* Larger than Life, by Andy Warhol, Winnipeg Art Gallery. There's still just over a week left to see this exhibit by one of the 20th century's most famous and influential figures. And love it or hate it, there's no denying the importance of Warhol's work in terms of how we think about art, culture and fame.

lorne.roberts@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 27, 2007 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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