Patricia Ainslie: Profile - Art Gallery of the South Okanagan
Paul Crawford arrived at the Art Gallery of the South Okanagan as director and curator in November 2006 and has already made a significant contribution to the visual arts in the valley. With his insatiable curiosity and strong interest in research, he has identified internationally recognized artists who have a connection to southern British Columbia, who lived here themselves, or have connections through family or friends.
Over time this will materialize into exhibits at the gallery, the first one of which was Robert Murray, whose work was on view at the gallery this spring. Crawford had met Murray at Toni Onley's home in Vancouver in 1996 and their friendship continued. In 2006, when Murray told him of his exhibit which had come back from the National Gallery of Canada and was in still in crates, Crawford seized the opportunity and brought the show to the AGSO. This was a major coup for a small gallery, and a small community. Murray, who lives in West Grove, Pennsylvania, is an internationally recognized sculptor who works in steel. At the Emma Lake workshop in 1959, he met Barnet Newman, an important avant-garde New York artist, who invited him to New York. Murray went there and remained to build an international reputation for his monumental sculpture. Sixteen of his lyrical, abstract working models and one larger sculpture were on exhibit in Penticton, along with large scale photographs of the final onsite installations. This gave a retrospective review of this important American artist.
Another international artist Crawford will bring to the AGSO is Agnes Martin, who is a renowned minimalist artist. Martin, born in Saskatchewan in 1912, grew up in Vancouver in the 1920s and 1930s. She spent summers in the Okanagan and still has relatives in the area. In New York from the 1950s, she be came an esteemed minimalist along with Sol LeWitt and Donald Judd, using predominantly geometric rectangular compositions, repetition, and neutral surfaces in arrangements of simple ordering. Crawford initiated the process whereby Agnes Martin received the Medal of Excellence from the Royal Canadian Academy for her lifetime contribution to the visual arts in Vancouver at the RCA's Annual General Meeting on May 28, 2004. Now deceased, Agnes Martin was delighted with this honour. In Penticton from October 5 to November 18, 2007, we will have the opportunity to see a suite of 30 prints from the portfolio On a Clear Day, 1973 with its small methodical and meditative grids, as well as ten other works.
In addition to these high-profile international artists, Crawford will build on the strength of the gallery for showing Okanagan artists with national reputations such as John and Joice Hall. He also believes in collaboration with other institutions in the valley, and in sharing collections and exhibits. On view in the summer was the exhibit Drawing on Identity, done in collaboration with the Osoyoos Museum and Osoyoos First Nations Band. This included charming, lively images drawn by children to honour traditional Okanagan language, culture and evolving new ways of life.
Crawford's key goal for the Art Gallery, as well as the exhibits, is to build a collection that reflects a broad view of the Pacific Northwest and provides a context for the work of BC artists. We are very fortunate to have Paul Crawford in our community. Stop in the gallery to see the results of his energy, enthusiasm, and commitment.
Further information is available through the gallery website www.galleries.bc.ca/agso