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Softcore Hard Edge: The Power of Suggestion

This fall, the Art Gallery of Calgary tries to sex up issues of abstraction in painting with “Softcore Hard Edge,” an exhibition that marries painters from Calgary and Los Angeles. Co-curated by LA Times critic David Pagel and AGC senior art curator Marianne Elder, the show’s title is intended to refer to “the power of suggestion—the main tool of the softcore porn industry” and, of course, to hard-edge painting, which the curators note has evolved into a softer, looser form since its birth in 1950s LA. There could also be some interesting spins here on regionalism, or lack thereof. Alberta representation includes Eric Cameron’s sculpture-like layer paintings, Dave and Jenn’s wild off-the-canvas constructions, Wil Murray’s loopy, sprawling mashups and Mark Mullin’s experiments in melded mark-making, while California-originated works sample Philip Argent’s slick, digital-flavoured canvases, Tim Bavington’s barcode-like translations of rock songs, Ingrid Calame’s street-stain-based abstractions and Monique Prieto’s narrative-inspired oeuvre. (Californians will get a chance to gauge geographical similarities for themselves when the show travels to Claremont Graduate University next summer.) Rounded out by works from John Eisler, Bradley Harms, Harry Kiyooka, Laurel Smith, Allison Miller, Karl Benjamin and other artists, “Softcore Hard Edge” promises diversity, if nothing else. “This is a joyous, juicy exhibition that looks like it makes sense,” says Pagel, “But the longer you linger, the stranger it gets. It’s a user-friendly instance of knowledge changing as it accumulates”—a handy definition, perhaps, of contemporary abstraction these days, wherever one goes. (117 8 Ave SW, Calgary AB)

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