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Al Neil was born in Vancouver, BC in 1924. In 1941, he worked as a surveyor with the Department of Transport, helping to build the wartime airfield at Port Hardy, Vancouver Island. He served in Normandy during the Second World War. After the war Neil worked at a variety of jobs, including clothing salesman, postal clerk, roof tarrer, lighthouse keeper and jazz musician. Neil passed away in Vancouver on November 16, 2017
Al Neil co-founded Vancouver's Cellar Jazz Club in 1952 and performed with artists such as Art Pepper, Conte Candoli and Kenneth Patchen. He married Marguerite Sanders circa 1964; they separated in the early 1970s. During the 1960s and 1970s Neil became known for solo and ensemble performances which combined music with texts, art assemblages, slides and prepared tapes. He performed regularly at the Western Front in the early 1980s, and his collage works were exhibited in galleries such as the Vancouver Art Gallery, Coburg Gallery, and Atelier Gallery.
Neil lives in Vancouver, BC, with his partner and collaborator, Carole Itter. Their Dollarton beach cabin was the last remaining of a number of beach shacks in North Vancouver, and was removed from the waterfront in 2015. As of 2016, a collaboration of grunt gallery, Creative Cultural Collaborations (C3) and Other Sights is working to remediate and repurpose the cabin as a studio for a floating artist residency program.
Neil’s published writings include “West Coast Lokas” (Intermedia 1972), “Changes” (Coach House Press 1975; reprinted by Nightwood Editions in 1989), and “Slammer” (Pulp Press 1981). In 2003, Neil was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from Emily Carr University of Art & Design. His work was the subject of a retrospective entitled The Al Neil Project, in 2005, organized in part by grunt gallery. Al Neil’s artwork was featured on the poster for the 2008 Vancouver International Jazz Festival, which included a concert called Homage Collage: Improv for Al Neil. In 2014, Neil received the Vancouver Mayor's Arts Award for Lifetime Achievement.
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Created December 24, 2015. SS
Al Neil's entry in Ruins in Process: Vancouver Art in the Sixties: http://alneil.vancouverartinthesixties.com/bio-cv
North Shore News article: http://www.nsnews.com/news/district-debates-squatters-cabin-1.2229644
Grunt Gallery blog post: http://grunt.ca/blue-cabin-reports-and-resources/