Garry Neill Kennedy

Garry Neill Kennedy, artist, teacher (b at St Catharines, Ont 6 Nov 1935). In 1967 (presiding until 1990) he was appointed the first president of the NOVA SCOTIA COLLEGE OF ART AND DESIGN (Halifax) and in a very short time transformed a conservative and traditional art school into an energetic avant-garde institution au courant with the newest developments in the visual arts and drawing on the best international artistic talent. As an artist rooted in conceptual art, suspicious of art systems and traditions, and doubtful that valid art is possible unless founded in disenchantment and critique, Kennedy has played a sly deconstructionist game.

A series of 1976-77 paintings began from the premise that the traditional reasons for painting were long exhausted and that the craft and the material conditions of painting - paint, brush, canvas - were the only trustworthy realities that remained. Although scornful of references to taste, and mechanically executed, the works that resulted were unexpectedly strange and beautiful. With a shrewd sense of humour his subsequent work has probed the systems that operate in museums, commercial galleries and the art world, and has increasingly slipped into overt critical engagement with broader social issues.

An exhibition, "Art Work/Work Art: The Administrative Art of Garry Neill Kennedy," (Owens Art Gallery, Sackville, NB, 1993) showed that Kennedy's artistic strategies and the administrative ones of the college president, rather than distinct practices, were often co-extensive. In this exhibition, his scepticism about authoritative structures underlying professional management was explored in a series of works based on appropriations from popular magazines. Kennedy exhibits regularly with Cold City Gallery, Toronto, and a retrospective exhibition focused on his wall painting originated at the Owens Art Gallery in 1996. A retrospective of Garry Neill Kennedy's work was also presented in 2000 at the NATIONAL GALLERY OF CANADA. In 2004 he received a Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts and that year was also made a Member of the ORDER OF CANADA.