Wil Aballe one of our favourite Vancouverites and collaborates. When BAF opened early last year, he curated Post Rem, the inaugural exhibition, partnered with the gallery to facilitate a panel discussion on the state of Canadian art criticism mediated by Sky Goodden, and a one-day pop-up exhibition celebrating Vincent Trasov and the 40th Anniversary of his Mr Peanut Mayoral Campaign. Wil has a particularly benevolent way with art: the way he speaks about and cares for it is astute and generous, his passion recognizing its monumental importance in all aspects of life.
In 2013, Wil founded Wil Aballe Art Projects, or WAAP which currently exhibits an emerging and established array of internationally-renowned artists, but most notably, the younger generation of Vancouver artists. The program is comprised of a series of “art projects”, interdisciplinary, concept-oriented and space-based exhibitions in a variety of media including sculpture, video, sound, painting, printmaking, photography and performance.
During its inaugural 2 years, WAAP was located in a live-work studio in Vancouver’s Mount Pleasant and was conceived to be both a private and public art viewing experience. He recently moved the project to a gallery space at 105-1356 Frances Street (off Clark,) nearly in the geographic middle of INDEX and Sunset Terrace. BAF touched base with Wil to discuss his move to East Van, his curatorial practice and vested interest in a new generation of Vancouver artists.
Burrard Arts Foundation: Congratulations on your new space; the Angela Teng show looks wonderful. What is it that interested you about her work?
Wil Aballe: I came across Angela Teng’s work while hanging out in the studio spaces behind the gallery that used to be known as Exercise, now Model. I found her work very unusual but also remarkable as she was able to take a singularly unique approach to painting. Original painting in 2014, despite the medium being hundreds of years old – nearly impossible, but she did it! I found her work spoke very strongly within the discussion of materiality and painting in Vancouver, along with other practitioners such as Jeremy Hof, Sean Weisgerber, Emily Hill and Colleen Heslin. I was impressed by the boldness of her craft sensibility and then wowed by her process of crocheting strips of dried acrylic paint she has created.
BAF: Why the move to the new location on Frances Street? Was it challenging to host a private/public space?
WA: It was very challenging to host a private/public space, and after two years, felt that I had done as much as I could with my studio gallery space. I was eager to find a space that would allow for new possibilities in what WAAP presented. The move to East Van in a semi-industrial space was strategic as amazing things are happening on this side of the city and the gallery is spitting distance to hundreds of artist studios and creative companies, but also residents off of Clark and Commercial Drive, a potentially new audience.
BAF: How did you become interested or involved in the arts?
WA: I started as a collector and developed deep networks as such. I met artists, started doing studio visits, then got asked to sit on boards and got into programming events and curating exhibitions from there.
BAF: I notice you refer to “art practitioners” rather than artists. What’s the difference to you?
WA: I hadn’t noticed I made that differentiation! The two terms are really synonymous. However, I do work with artists whose practices I find compelling. They explore interesting ideas in their practices rather than just “make things”. Sometimes some of them make things quite well and it’s wonderful when that happens.
BAF: What is the most interesting thing that you see young Vancouver art practitioners/artists doing?
WA: I think it’s interesting how diverse the practices of artists in Vancouver have become. Distant are the years when the city was overtaken by primarily photo-based and/or conceptual work. The diversity of the type of work being made is evocative of the healthy ecosystem of artmaking that has developed in this city. Vancouver is lucky to be an artists’ city.
BAF: The projects you host are interdisciplinary. Why is that important to you?
It’s important to me because it’s reflective of how I look at art. I don’t tend to stick to a style or a medium. The exploring is in the spirit of my feeling that contemporary art should be pushing the boundaries of what can be made, done or communicated as an idea.
BAF: What are you excited about?
WA: With WAAP: I’m excited as to how the planned projects will develop over the year now that the new space is here and being considered by the smart artists that form the 2015 program. I’m excited to figure out how to shake things up so that the programming will continually surprise the gallery’s audience. I’m excited about the institutional scale of the new gallery space. I’m excited to learn new things about art and the gallery business as we figure out the next phase of the gallery. I’m excited to grow the gallery’s audience internationally as the gallery participates in international art fairs and artists are exposed to a new audience. I’m excited about the exposure to new things I’ll experience as I travel to these art fair destinations. I’m excited about the inevitable audience my artists will develop on a moving forward basis.