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Art and architecture to shock and awe

Submitted by caspence on Wed, 07/25/2012 - 11:34am

Winner of My First Professional Exhibition speaks about his work.

Michael Abel, winner of My First Professional Exhibition, will showcase his work at ArtPoint Gallery in December.By Caitlyn Spencer

Michael Abel, the winner of the first My First Professional Exhibition competition, didn’t come to the University of Calgary with a fat portfolio.

“My background in art was pretty minimal,” he says. “I took one art class before university. I made a portfolio because I wanted to go into architecture, and it seemed like a good place to start.”

Abel’s progress is clear from his win of the competition. My First Professional Exhibition sees students in the art department’s Studio Concentration compete to receive reimbursement for some of their course work and materials, and secures a solo exhibition at a gallery in Calgary. Abel’s show, Monumental Contradiction, will open in December at ArtPoint Gallery.

“It was a really strong pool of applicants, all outstanding students,” says Linda Carreiro, associate professor in art and the organizer of the jury. “But Michael was the unanimous choice by the jurors. His work is powerful and intelligent. His minor in architecture contributed to the solidity of his concepts.”

For Abel, pairing of art and architecture is a natural choice. “I look at architecture as an art form itself,” he says. “You take an idea and turn it into a machine someone utilizes.” This fall, he will begin his Masters of Architecture at the University of Toronto.

The paintings in Monumental Contradiction reflect this focus. Abel is producing large-scale paintings of iconic architecture in eight North American cities, painted in the theme of each city’s National Basketball Association team.

“The paintings are intended to be so graphic and filled with relatable forms that the viewers will be distracted from the underlying meanings,” Abel says. “It’s the same as when someone goes and looks at a piece of really iconic architecture. There’s shock and awe, but in reality a lot of these pieces have hidden meanings and historical meaning that most people don’t catch.”

Previously, Abel was surprised when viewers failed to catch the hidden symbolism in his paintings, but this time, he’s embracing it. “I want to fill the viewers with the same kind of shock and awe they’d feel seeing these monuments,” he says. “I want to distract them from the academic, conceptual dialogue with colour, paint viscosity, hard lines, and relatable subjects. I no longer expect or even want the viewer to ‘understand’ the work of art.”

Monumental Contradiction opens in December at ArtPoint Gallery, 1139 Adelaide Street SE. For more information on this and other exhibitions from the Department of Art, visit

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