Like father, like son

Words: Barry Strader
Photos: Aminah Syed

Damian Moppett stands in the atrium of Edmonton’s Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA), hardhat on head, and directs traffic as workers install his massive, 7.8 x 4.6 x 4.6 metre, 180 kilogram, aluminum mobile, piece by piece.  

The mobile, titled Broken Fall, will take two to three days to install. It’s an homage to the work of well-known mobile artist Alexander Calder.

“My creative form of authorship is breaking the thing,” explains Moppett, originally from Calgary but now based in Vancouver.

“It’s a broken mobile. It doesn’t quite hang properly. A piece is on the ground that should be up in the air. It’s kind of like a failed mobile. I’m talking about the creative act and how destruction is an intrinsic part of that. Breaking things, throwing them out, destroying them, are sometimes interesting parts of creativity.”

Broken Fall will be the first thing visitors see when they enter the AGA for the exhibition Damian Moppett + Ron Moppett (Every Story Has Two Sides), part of the biennial Alberta Masters Series, supported by ATB Financial.

The second thing visitors will see will be a giant, colourful mural, Wizards, created by Damian’s father, Ron.

“It is a design that incorporates three of my paintings but it was developed as a digital file,” said Ron.

“Essentially what you see is vinyl wallpaper. It is a thing but it’ll have a life for the show and then it will be gone. I’m not a computer guy, so this was a great exercise.”

The full exhibition, which opens September 17, will feature paintings, sculptures, drawings, even video, spanning the careers of the Moppetts. It’s the first time the two established artists have presented their work together.

“We’ve divided the big upstairs gallery in half. I’ll draw a line down the middle and we’ll work it all out!” laughed Ron, still based in Calgary.

“It was an attractive offer, that’s for sure, and an opportunity to dig deep into what you’ve done, what you’ve forgotten you did, and wonder what you were thinking when you did that. You can share observations with each other. It’s been grand.”

For Damian, the opportunity to work with his father seemed funny at first, but once he thought of the possibilities, it was too good to pass up.

“I’m most excited about seeing our works together in the various spaces and how they overlap and how they talk to each other,” said Damian.

“We both have an ongoing dialogue with the history of art and we’re both constantly looking at past works of certain artists, influences, things we’re inspired by. Our works aren’t only trying to be unique artistic expressions, they’re also trying to speak to things that have been done before.”

The exhibition was curated by Catherine Crowston, the AGA’s executive director and chief curator. The Alberta Masters Series, she says, is an important part of the AGA’s schedule.

“If you can see a Picasso with a Ron Moppett and understand that these artists work in the world together and create art in ways that people can understand, you see that artists from Alberta are just as important as artists from around the world,” she said.

Damian Moppett + Ron Moppett (Every Story Has Two Sides) runs until January 8. 

August 24th, 2016

Ron and Damian Moppett present together for the first time at the Art Gallery of Alberta. 

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