Critics’ Picks

View of “My Winnipeg,” 2011.

View of “My Winnipeg,” 2011.


“My Winnipeg”

La Maison Rouge
10, Boulevard de la Bastille
June 23–September 25, 2011

Manitoba’s wintry capital invades summertime Paris for this show, the first in La Maison Rouge’s series focusing on art scenes worldwide. Assembling work by seventy regional artists, the exhibition has avoided the tedium of an overhung survey by enlisting five curators to arrange seven separate chapters, each of which progressively unfurls the local characters of Winnipeg art.

“There’s No Place like Home,” the title of the first room visitors encounter, introduces the area’s history via a salon-style arrangement of archival photos of nineteenth-century landscape paintings, early-twentieth-century scenes of Manitoba, and videos made in the last decade. An installation next door takes on the feel of a natural history museum: Elaborate dioramas by Marcel Dzama and Kent Monkman, which show figurines interacting uneasily with forest wildlife, touch on disquieting themes of colonial conquest and modern reinvention. As if in response, on nearby walls one finds vibrant drawings by the Indian Group of Seven, a 1970s collective that aimed to advance indigenous contemporary art in a global context.

An adjacent screening room presents My Winnipeg (2007), Guy Maddin’s eighty-minute film, which imparts a dreamy but partisan, first-person account of the city. Artists in the collective Royal Art Lodge cast a more sardonic shadow in a following gallery, which includes faux-naïf drawings by Neil Farber (who illustrates a provincial town à la Where’s Waldo) and poignant sculpture by Jon Pylypchuk (in whose work a castaway animal, hastily assembled from fur and detritus, sits sadly on an island of broken glass). Downstairs, “Winter Kept Us Warm” exposes Winnipeg’s erotic underbelly: Paul Butler’s collage Southern Comfort, 2004, combines a liquor ad with soft porn to alchemical effect, while Andrew Valko’s painting Skype Connect, 2011, renders a woman undressing before a laptop. This latter work, much like the rest of the show, lays bare the ingenuity of Winnipeg’s artists, who counter their frosty environs with rare piquancy.