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Exhibition Highlights

Artists are “builders.” Making things is at the core of what they do. Visual artists are those individuals who combine ideas, materials and technologies with the view to modelling an original way of seeing and interpreting the world. Curators working with the art of today are tasked with discovering, following, understanding and processing a varied range of production.

This diversity is reflected in Builders: Canadian Biennial 2012, a survey of more than 100 paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, video and multimedia installations created by 45 artists and acquired by the National Gallery of Canada over the past two years.

New artworks by emergent, mid-career and established “senior” artists is the mix presented in the exhibition that showcases some of the most provocative and important recent Canadian art. Builders also chronicles how curators in the NGC’s departments of Contemporary Art, Indigenous Art, and Photography have made decisions relating to art purchases and donations.

Working at an encyclopaedic institution whose collections span from present-day endeavours to historical masterpieces, the NGC’s contemporary curators build on past precedent to determine the present and future holdings of the latest art being made nationally and internationally.

To this end, Builders highlights a range of new productions by influential, some now iconic figures of Canadian art such as Michael Snow, Lynne Cohen, Chris Cran, Faye HeavyShield, Evan Penny, Joanne Tod, and Leslie Reid.

Within this established basis, the exhibition meanders along an engaging path featuring works by many newcomers to the collection including Ottawa-based painter Melanie Authier; Winnipeg-born, Los Angeles-based painter and sculptor Jon Pylypchuk; the multidisciplinary Toronto artist Sandy Plotnikoff; as well as Vancouver-, and Berlin-based artist Mark Soo with a unique sound installation.

Artworks by David Altmejd, Marcel Dzama, Sarah Anne Johnson, Ron Terada, Lynne Marsh and many other now well-rooted figures in the Canadian art milieu also figure prominently in the exhibition.

The multi-generational approach highlighted in the exhibition refutes the often-held bias that innovation and creative experimentation are primarily the purview of new and emerging talent. Rather, Builders asserts a commitment to recognizing and discovering contemporary artists across generations whose work exemplifies and builds upon determined and original creative visions.

In so doing, the second Canadian biennial at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, aims to recognize artists whose commitment to their chosen field has been, is, or promises to be such that the culture of their time and place is impacted aesthetically and consequentially by virtue of their contributions within it.