A Trip to Edmonton
Kenworth W. Moffett. Moffett's Artletter. Vol 1, No. 10 December, 1986
Canada is one of the few important sources for serious art today: The productive centers are in Toronto and Saskatoon, Edmonton, and, to a much lesser extent; Calgary and Vancouver. In terms of the number of artists the biggest of these centers is Edmonton. I hadn't been to Edmonton for over two years.
Edmonton is an oil town and things aren't going well for the oil business at the moment: Still, Edmonton, with a population of 700,000, has ballet, a symphony, an opera, and it exports theater to Toronto. It has the most spectacular and imaginative shopping mall in the world: it has the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and Wayne Gretsky. My reason for spending a week there is that Edmonton has an internationally important group of artists which bears watching. Also Edmonton has the best gallery for contemporary art in the world and the University of Alberta in Edmonton has the best studio faculty in the world.
Edmonton is a kind of art utopia where the establishment is the avant garde. Most important is Terry Fenton, director of the museum since 1972; who has provided the leadership and the support. Thanks to him Edmonton has been open to the best in contemporary U.S. art and the best of it's own art: Fenton draws criticism but he has gotten fantastic results. A list of other important catalysts would include Karen Wilkin who served as curator 1971-1973 Michael Steiner (from New York) who led an important workshop in 1973; a number of English artists who immigrated to the city beginning In the late 60's, and the present curator Russell Bingham.
No artist in Edmonton - or anywhere else for that matter - challenges taste these days more radically than the abstract painter Graham Peacock: his art often requires a second or even third look: I have criticized him before for being inconsistent but this time he was very much on track. The big difference from this summer was that he had added a more aggressive, coarser surface to his explosive "crazed" drawing: When he kept up the color the effect was overpowering: I have in mind especially a picture called Alms but there tare two or three- others in his studio that were just as good or almost as good: The only precedents I think of is certain works by Hans Hofmann and Clyfford Still but Peacock is completely his own man and, in my view; a very important painter.