University of Calgary

Monumental effort

UToday HomeAugust 28, 2012

By Caitlyn Spencer

Winner of the inaugural My Frist Professional Exhibition competition, Michael Abel. Photo by Caitlyn SpencerWinner of the inaugural My Frist Professional Exhibition competition, Michael Abel. Photo by Caitlyn SpencerMichael Abel, winner of the inaugural My First Professional Exhibition competition, didn’t come to the University of Calgary with a fat portfolio.

“My background in art was pretty minimal,” he says. “I took one art class before university. I made a portfolio because I wanted to go into architecture and it seemed like a good place to start.”

Abel’s progress is clear from his win. My First Professional Exhibition sees students in the art department’s studio concentration compete to receive reimbursement for some of their course work and materials, and secures a solo exhibition at a gallery in Calgary. Abel’s show, Monumental Contradiction, will open in December at ArtPoint Gallery.

“It was a really strong pool of applicants – all outstanding students,” says Linda Carreiro, associate professor in art and the organizer of the jury. “But Michael was the unanimous choice by the jurors. His work is powerful and intelligent. His minor in architecture contributed to the solidity of his concepts.”

For Abel, pairing of art and architecture is a natural choice. This fall, he will begin his master’s degree in architecture at the University of Toronto.

The paintings in Monumental Contradiction reflect this focus. Abel is producing large-scale paintings of iconic architecture in eight North American cities, painted in the theme of each city’s NBA team.

“The paintings are intended to be so graphic and filled with relatable forms that the viewers will be distracted from the underlying meanings,” Abel says. “It’s the same as when someone goes and looks at a piece of really iconic architecture. There’s shock and awe, but in reality a lot of these pieces have hidden meanings and historical meaning that most people don’t catch.”

For more information on this and other exhibitions from the Department of Art, visit