On Saturday from 12-2pm, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is hosting a dual book launch. Fredericton-based Goose Lane Editions has published both books that visually and literarily delve into the lives of two celebrated Nova Scotian artists: Jacques Hurtubise, edited by Sarah Fillmore (AGNS’ Chief Curator) and David Askevold, edited by David Diviney (AGNS’ Curator of Exhibitions). Arts East caught up with Diviney a couple days before the February 25th launch.
AE: What inspired you to create David Askevold: Once Upon a Time in the East?DD: The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia had a long association with David Askevold, beginning in the late 1980s with his inclusion in the group exhibition Eighty/Twenty: One Hundred Years of the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design and with the acquisition of Kepler’s Music of the Spheres Played by Six Snakes (1971-1974) alongside other early works. To date, David is represented in the permanent collection by 21 works that together characterize the broad scope of his strategies and approaches to production. In 1999, he was the inaugural artist-in-residence at AGNS, where, over three months, he developed one of his first digital works, Harbour Ghosts, Halifax (1999), a triptych subsequently purchased by the gallery. In conjunction with his residency, the gallery was pleased to host Cultural Geographies, a solo exhibition organized by the Confederation Centre Art Gallery & Museum (Charlottetown). More recently, film and video works by David were included in the group exhibitions Into the Wild at the Western Branch in Yarmouth in 2010 and The Last Frontier and Framed in 2011 at our main gallery in Halifax.
Steadfast today, as it has been for some time, in the conviction that David was one of the most influential artists of his generation, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has furthered its commitment to his work with David Askevold: Once Upon a Time in the East. This project is aimed at celebrating David’s life and accomplishments. It is also the hope that this platform will focus new attention in Canada and abroad on David’s significant contributions to the world of art.
AE: How is the variety of Askevold’s conceptual art forms portrayed in the book?DD: David is recognized as one of the most important contributors to the development and pedagogy of conceptual art. His film and videos from the late 1960s and early 1970s were some of the first of the art form the world ever saw. His famous Projects Class at NSCAD brought the likes of Sol LeWitt, Vito Acconci, John Baldessari, Dan Graham, and Lawrence Weiner to work with his students, focusing critical attention on Halifax, the school and on his own unorthodox approach to making art. This early professional history had a profound influence on the direction of his practice in the decades to follow. The various strains of his exploratory journey – sculpture and installation, film and video, photo-text works and photography, and computer-generated imagery – are explored in the publication and attendant exhibition.
AE: How long did it take to put the whole book together?DD: This project was initiated in late 2005 by Ray Cronin, Director/CEO of AGNS, then Chief Curator, in concert with David himself. Notes from their initial conversations have faithfully guided this project to fruition over the course of its development and production between 2010 and 2011.
AE: How did you decide which images and contributors to include?DD: As the publication accompanies an exhibition of the same title, it was important, of course, to have some correlation between the two, in terms of the imagery in the book and the 40 artworks included in the retrospective. At the same time, it was equally important to treat the book as a stand-alone document that surveyed David’s career in greater depth than the exhibition possibly could. David often worked collaboratively so it seemed fitting to ask many of his long-time colleagues and friends to lend their voices to the project. On this note, particular appreciation is extended to the writers: Aaron Brewer, Ray Cronin, Peggy Gale, Mario Garcia Torres, Richard Hertz, Tony Oursler, and Irene Tsatsos, each of whom bring a decidedly personal perspective to an examination of David’s eclectic practice. Norma Ready, David’s partner, offered invaluable input on this front.
AE: How has the response been since the book was released in the fall 2011?DD: The feedback has been more than positive. Since its release – the English edition was finished in October 2011 and the French edition in December 2011 – I’ve been in dialogue with people across Canada and around the globe, from Germany to Los Angeles. In fact, the buzz around this project has led to confirmation of a new venue for the touring exhibition. In July 2012, Once Upon a Time in the East will open at the Armory Center for the Arts in Pasadena, California. David has a rich history and strong following in the Los Angeles area. It is exciting to see the book and show heading there.
AE: What is your own artistic background?DD: I obtained my BFA degree in 1995 from the Tyler School of Art at Temple University (Philadelphia) and graduated in 1998 from the MFA program of NSCAD University (Halifax).
I’ve worked for nearly 15 years in the cultural sector as a curator, educator and artist. I was the Director of Eye Level Gallery (Halifax) until 2002 when I moved to Lethbridge, Alberta, then Kamloops, British Columbia, to pursue curatorial and teaching positions. I’ve held the position of Assistant Curator, Southern Alberta Art Gallery (Lethbridge) and have taught courses in the areas of sculpture, drawing and gallery studies at Alberta College of Art and Design (Calgary), University of Lethbridge, Thompson Rivers University (Kamloops) and Sheridan College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning (Oakville). I’ve been with the AGNS as Curator of Exhibitions for two years or so.