October 30, 2014

Good news!  Oliver Girling has been looking at art in Toronto too, and he’s blogging about it here:

Kim Dorland at Angell Gallery

Dorland’s paintings are neither abstract nor essentialist. On the contrary, they’re coiled into the material world, oil paint oozing directly out of tubes or splodged and scumbled on linen canvases; drawn to subjects that are twisting, like a chain link fence, or graffiti-writing swirls, or the knotted Hudson Bay blanket on a woman as she sits up in bed: an objective architecture, rather than the architecture of the artist’s psyche.

They’re particular, almost photographic, but avoid the spatial claustrophobia of scenic photography through optics like a sudden burst of pink dayglo paint. In the painting “Fireworks”, three shooters line up under a massive plume of smoke and go up, yet the effect of the bursts is as modest and spritely as cocktails in ‘50s magazine illustrations. But what I love is the afterglow, in pink dayglo, around balconies and doorways in the courtyard.

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Fireworks

In “After the Party”, he has produced the most convincing image yet of that most inescapable contemporary cliché: a woman checking her Facebook. What I really like is her splayed feet in the high-heeled pumps – very well observed; and the pale quality of the streetlights in late dawn.

After The Party

After the Party

But the piece de resistance has to be “Bay Blanket”, the fantastically roiled Hudson’s Bay complementing the woman’s emotional face, destroyed by thick paint, and contrasting with hundreds of neat little framed souvenir pix on the attic wall behind her.

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Bay Blanket

– blogpost by Oliver Girling

October 24, 2014

This is the weekend of Art Toronto 2014 otherwise known as the Toronto International Art Fair. This year there are 110 exhibitors staked out in the Metro Toronto Convention Center.

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The Art Fair is a slightly blurred snapshot of art in Toronto.  First and foremost it is a trade show, the objective being the sale of art. (In fact I learned today that on average 30% of a participating gallery’s annual sales are tied to the Art Fair.) To a lesser extent it is a venue for corporations to display their support of the arts and a platform for public institutions, large and small, to promote themselves.

In terms of institutions, I was a little shocked by the spectacle of the Government of Canada shilling for donors to support the Venice Biennale. The art ensemble BGL will represent this country in Venice in 2015.  BGL erected an installation in celebration of that fact. The piece is titled Canada Fancy.  (In French the title is Canada de Fantasie and I can’t help thinking something was lost in the translation.)  In any case, it is made of iron barricades, those politically charged crowd control devices, which have been recycled to fashion a giant playground carousel.  This is a festive piece and viewers are invited to climb aboard and enjoy a few minutes to glide happily in a circle.

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Around the corner is a display of the works shortlisted in the 2014 RBC Painting Competition.  Photos of a few of the paintings are posted below.  All these paintings have sophistication and style as well as an adherence to a corporate sensibility i.e. serious and safe.  It’s clear that the selection committee behind this competition had a certain criteria in mind.

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Cyclone by Karine Frechette

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Ballet Duo by Ashleigh Bartlett

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Before the Fire: 2014 Version by Gavin Lynch

Scattered across the site are some disparate “projects.”  It’s not quite clear if the projects were commissioned for the event, curated by someone or exactly how they came to be here.  Here are a few projects I came across:

Break Room by Thrush Holmes

It’s a messy biker clubhouse made of whacked together plywood. Sitting around in the Break Room felt sort of like being inside an early Kim Dorland painting. It just needed more flourescent orange.

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Three Pieces by Greg Curnoe

It was quite fascinating to see this long lost triptych from 1965 by the late artist Greg Curnoe. All art speaks to the specific time in which it was created. This painting screams sixties, from the trippy, posterish style to the stream of consciousness poetry.

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Detail from Three Pieces

Here are the words stenciled, in that essential Greg Curnoe style, on the rightmost panel:

SUNDAY MORNING – JANUARY
THE COVERS – THE SUN IS OUT
THE SUNLIGHT BLUISH THROUGH
THE WHITE CURTAINS – STRIPES
OF YELLOW ON THE GREY FLOOR
THE NOISES OF THE GAS
HEATER – THE SMELL OF YOUR
HAIR – THE WHITE WALLS


The Blind Pavillion by Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins

I admit I have been transfixed by the paint sample arrays at RONA from time to time; or by the wonderful thick books of wallpaper samples available at the Benjamin Moore location up the street. I could make something great out of that! The artists Jennifer Marman and Daniel Borins gave in to just that type of impulse to create The Blind Pavillion. An assortment of vinyl coloured blinds is automated so that the colours flip this way and that, blinds roll up and down and different colour arrangements are visible.

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Three Minute Miracle by Amalie Atkins

I loved seeing the little white tent, the felt boots and the floor of glass beads.  This was the environment the artist created in which to view her 16 mm film, a kind of modern fairy tale about working together.

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3 Minute Miracle installation by Amalie Atkins


Art Fair offered public panels both formal and informal.

I hung out in the Break Room and listened as C Magazine hosted a chat  about inter-disciplinary and cross-institutional art ecologies.  This talk highlighted the currently uneasy role of the long-term alternative arts space.

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Kim Simon (TWP), Amy Henderson (inter-disciplinary artist) and Amish Morrell (C Magazine)

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On a more “elevated platform” Canadian Art‘s David Balzer spoke to Stefan Hancherow (Curator), Elena Soboleva (Artsy) and artist Thrush Holmes about the pros and cons of “Curationism” and having someone else create your art playlist.

What about looking at art?

There are something like 4,000 objects in this massive, sprawling gathering.

Here are few of the things that attracted me:

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Tethered by John Player – Pierre Francois Ouelette Art Contemporain

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Tactical System by John Player – Pierre Francois Ouelette Art Contemporain

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Vielle peau by DGL – Diaz Contemporary

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Photograph by Sebastiao Selgado – Nicholas Metivier Gallery

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Detail of paintings by Ryan Foerster – Artsy

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Painting by Alex Cameron – Bau Xi Gallery

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Detail of painting by Steve Driscoll – Angell Gallery

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Photograph by Lynn Cohen – Olga Korper Gallery

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Organic 9702 by Andrea Juan – Praxis Gallery

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Untitled #3 by Callum Schuster – O’Born Contemporary

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Banger by Angela Teng – Wil Aballe Art Projects WAAP

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Papoose by Ron Eady – AREA Gallery

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Artwork by Jutai Toonoo – at Fehely Fine Arts

Joy Walker

Curved Lines (After Hokusai) by Joy Walker – MKG127

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Detail of painting by Carol Wainio – Paul Petro Contemporary Art

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Painting by Doug Walker – Nicholas Metivier Gallery

There were so many things to see at the Art Toronto event.  I really liked the the uncurated raw market feel of it where anything goes. It was fun just to be there despite the way the vast space was somehow been made to feel claustrophobic, the lighting, which was harsh and yet dinghy, the dead air and the overpriced, terrible coffee.

It was baffling how some simple things were poorly done, for example: I took in a talk by Bisi Silva from the Center for Contemporary Art in Lagos. She showed 20 or 30 slides. It was virtually impossible for the audience to see them because the lights on stage were not turned down. The woman came all the way from Nigeria to deliver a slide lecture. Why not make sure those slides are visible?

Art Toronto may want to try to fix those problems because, as ever in the marketplace, competition has arrived.  Feature Art Fair is just a few blocks away and takes place on the very same weekend.

October 23, 2014

What did we do to deserve this beautiful, warm day drenched in honey coloured light? People were actually walking around in tank tops as I exited the streetcar on the corner of Dundas and Ossington.

Cooper Cole Gallery

Jeremy Jansen and Graham Collins have filled the Cooper Cole space with bold, urban neo-Minimalist art works.

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 I was surprised to see references to arte provera, Germano Celant and Jannis Kounellis in the exhibition notes. Whereas the work does owe a lot to the manifestos and posturing of those Italian artists and critics of the sixties, it has been reinvigorated by these artists with a sophisticated update. The “poor” materials here are scrap metal, various found window frames and window tint polymers and the detritus of printing materials. Like the Minimalists before them these artists are overthrowing representation and symbolism to raise the truth-to-materials flag.

The painting depicted below, by Graham Collins, is made out of canvas, paint, reclaimed wood, glass and window tint

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Marcy II

The two artist’s pieces mesh well together and create a sleek and airy installation with lots of layers of glare and sheen.

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The really interesting part is that on closer inspection it appears that some of the materials have been upcycled so that the work has a distinctly hand-made look to it: the welding is lumpy, the window tint is bubbled, ill-fitting and wrinkled and the wooden frames are smacked together.

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Note to Self (Jeremy Jansen)

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Flag (Jeremy Jansen)

The aesthetic explored here is that of the cheap and hastily put together; and the materials championed are from industrial parks, DIY auto window tinting shops and down market condo sales centers. It is satisfying to see such a strong visually coherent statement emerge from all this junk.

October 18, 2014

This week I put the commercial galleries on hold and decided to check out what’s happening in the institutional realm.

Art Gallery of Ontario

What could I possibly say about Alex Colville that has not already been said?

The galleries were packed. The crowds seemed very familiar and knowledgeable about the work and its context. The pop-up gift shop was humming

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Revolver Necklace for $32 Available online from shopAGO

As I wandered through the show (for the second time!) I tried to figure out what draws people to this artist. Alex Colville’s life was shaped by the Depression, WWII and a marriage lasting seventy years. He lived in a small town. Those few facts constitute a set of experiences shared by few people living today. And yet the crowds seemed to identify and recognize something personal.

In fact, in August, when I dragged a visiting Australian relative to the AGO – a guy who was unimpressed by Niagara Falls and expressed disdain for art in general – he was transfixed by Alex Colville’s paintings. They seemed to speak directly to him. He even purchased a reproduction of Pacific, an elegantly composed painting all about dispair.

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Niagara Falls

GUN AND WATER

Pacific

Exacting, taut, restrained, subtle, precise: these words can all be used to describe the paintings. But within those muted tones and careful, painstaking surfaces Alex Colville planted content. Graceful young athletes and middle class pleasures are there but so too are fear, decay and death.

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Horse and Train

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Three Crows

In his rendering of the revolvers, bolting terrified horses, crows and his own bleak gaze at the relentless unfolding of life these paintings are not so much about any particular external crisis as they are about an individual’s efforts to endure.  Alex Colville addressed the human condition and his public responds.

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V-Tape

I accidently came upon an artist’s talk, by Lisa Birke, at V-Tape.

When I was in art school visiting artists gave talks almost on a daily basis.  Food and beer were provided for all so they were well attended events.  The talks broke down into two basic catergories: first, the vague, rambling, sometimes painfully awkward sessions where the speaker might say something like: “…and then I got interested in triangles…”  To me, that type of presentation was very honest and accurately reflected the artistic process, which is mostly unsure, groping and testing, interspersed with periods of incomprehensible clarity and assurance.  The other type of talk had a bit more of a sales pitch tone.  In those cases the artist forgot about the lonely, intuitive struggle to make art and just lined up a list of ideas that could be applied to the work after the fact, i.e. “…here the Hegelian Dialectic is represented as a triangle.”

I respected Lisa Birke for the dignified tone of her talk.  She gave a nod to Kant and Burke and the sublime but she was clearly in the intuitive, groping camp.  She talked about how she made the piece: failing and trying again and being cold and frostbitten and alone in the dark early morning; being embarrassed and unsure and continuing to try and figure something out.

The result is her video entitled Red Carpet.  The piece is lovely to look at, capturing some gorgeous extremes of the Canadian landscape experience.   It also constitutes an interesting response to the Celebrity Gossip culture that seems to be taking over the world, i.e. she is in solidarity with not just the consumers but also the producers of the endless painful parade of distraction.  The red carpet leads the protagonist under water and to obliteration.  She can’t stop.  We can’t look away.

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Art Gallery of York University

I went back to the AGYU to have a closer look at the Is Toronto Burning? show.

Once I crossed the 401 there were thickets of Ford Nation signs everywhere and it rained hard.  I prayed for God to save Toronto.

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View out the bus window

It was luxurious to have this trove of artefacts to myself as almost no one was around.

Some of the artists are so vividly represented.  I’m still not quite sure what to make of the question “Is Toronto Burning?” but David Buchan, for example, was definitely on fire during those years.

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He was so rakish and arch as a rat pack Lothario or Bond man or lounge act.  There are numerous videotapes of David Buchan lipsynching.  I watched him perform “Bread and Butter” (which was originally recorded by the Newbeats in 1964).  It is unforgettable.

I watched tough girl Elizabeth Chitty furiously shrugging her shoulders and whipping out her Polaroid like a lethal weapon.

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And I looked around a little more carefully.  Somehow at the show’s opening I missed the piece by Carol Conde and Karl Beverage in which they approximate poses from China’s Cultural Revolution ballet to spell out Art is Political.  I really like the ambition in this artwork.

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Art is Political

Here is an image from a Chinese Ballet which was hosted by the Kennedy Center in Washington in 2011.  The caption reads:  A landlord from the ballet cowers as one of the revolutionary woman soldiers hardens her face and strikes a pose with her pistol.

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But most of the time I spent watching Colin Campbell’s delightful videotapes.  One scene featured Colin with Ron Gabe, Tim Guest, David Buchan and Stephen Davey.  It seemed like yesterday.

October 12, 2014

There is so much excellent painting on display in Toronto right now.

This weekend I am travelling by car; chauffeured around and oblivious to any dramas on the TTC (a vague memory, until tomorrow).

Barbara Edwards Contemporary

Barbara Edwards Contemporary, on Bathurst just below Dupont, is showing the work of Ray Mead (1921-1998). This artist, one of the Painters Eleven, achieves a bell ringing clarity through his use of color in combination with spare, gestural forms.

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Roma

Untitled

Untitled

The paintings are bold, worldly and sophisticated while hinting at the psychological obsessions of the time: deep brooding complexes and anxieties burbling in a Cold War stew of dread.

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On Saturday afternoon the painting show and various gorgeous, brilliantly colored artworks leaning against a wall looked urbane and voluptuous.  Barbara Edwards and her colleague were considering a trove of Ray Mead works and very obligingly, they opened a fat portfolio of unframed pieces for my companion and me; and one by one, tenderly plucked the vulnerable artworks from between acid free sheets to show them to us.

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It was a bit like reading a coded diary and trying to interpret the entries: lovely to look at, tantalizingly heavy with meaning and forever opaque.

It was surprising, on exiting the gallery, to notice a big, bold Ray Mead filling the window of the frame shop and La Parette Gallery (“art of the sixties’) across the street.  Ray Mead left his mark on Toronto.

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Birch Contemporary

We zipped down Bathurst to Techumseh and Birch Contemporary.

Joyce Carol Oates frequently writes stories about young women who have a distorted view of the world.  They foolishly take up with sinister outcasts of one kind or another and soon things start going badly and people get hurt.  Janet Werner‘s show at Birch Contemporary, and particularly one of the paintings called Abby and Snow (which is also the title of the exhibition) made me think of the kind of struggle between the predatory and the vulnerable that Oates describes.

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Abby and Snow

In many of these works, loosely painted figures on amorphous backgrounds, Janet Werner seems to be speaking to an individual’s misreading, rejection or distortion of society’s norms or expectations.  She explores the blurred boundaries between cute and grotesque, assertive and repellent, demure and …um…dead, to spectacular effect.

Sunday (racoon eyes)

Sunday (racoon eyes)

Walker

Walker

Ballerina

Ballerina

I was particularly fascinated by Janet Werner’s take on enduring female archetypes: ingenue, pretty ballerina, horsey type, bimbo.  Her representations of these typically hackneyed cliches are riveting.

The current chatter around feminism and Beyonce, for example, becomes pale and superficial in contrast to these disturbing images encompassing profound female yearning, disappointment and pain.

Georgia Scherman Projects

Next door to Birch is Georgia Scherman Projects and an exhibition of paintings by Melanie Authier.

There is something about these paintings that makes them entirely of the moment.  Maybe its because we expect more from abstract painting now than ever before.  If Ray Mead was venturing into unknown territory in the fifties at this point it is well travelled terrain.  Melanie Authier uses the daring elements employed by a painter such as Ray Mead and combines them with references to all kinds of artistic romanticism from the past.  I was reminded of Turner’s deep, mystical space; my friend observed the nod to Casper David Freiderich’s majestic cliffs.  The work also has a connection to the current look of video game animation, the so-called “fantasy art” created by modelers to give gamers a daunting landscape in which to search and destroy.  These big, ambitious paintings package it all into something new.

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Rake-N-Snake

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Iron Belly

The show entitled Figments and Foils includes a number of small watercolours.  These pieces have the same sumptiousness, technical and spatial virtuosity as the larger works but they also have a freshness and spontaneity that is very appealing.

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WOP-Assembly

October 8, 2014

Hart House

Nestled in the U of T campus, just off University Circle, is Hart House, a student activity center which contains a gym and the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, among other facilities.

John G. Hampton, the curator of the current exhibition at Hart House, titled “Why Can’t Minimal,” for some reason decided to illuminate the lighter side of the Sixties art movement known as Minimalism. (Incidently, when searching for a good Minimalism site I stumbled upon a whole new meaning of the term. Yes, there is, in fact, a second type of Minimalism: it’s an entirely contemporary social movement which advises people on how to get rid of the excess stuff in their lives in order to make room for the essentials.)

Carl Andre, Donald Judd, Sol LeWitt, Dan Flavin, Frank Stella (for his minimalist Black Paintings) are a few of the artists associated with Minimalism. Carl Andre, the ultimate American Minimalist sculptor, likes to say “It’s all the materials… there are no ideas hidden under those plates. You can lift them up but there is nothing there.” No hidden ideas and therefore nothing funny… about zinc plates or a pile of bricks or massive oak cubes.

Rather than actually finding the humour in Minimalism what the curator did was round up some Conceptual artists who commented on utterly humourless Minimalist standards. The result has a particular off-key, dry wit (verging on absurdity) so close to the heart of the Conceptual artist.

Some of the works in this show are delightful: John Boyle-Singfield’s Untitled (Coke Zero) references the Hans Haacke Condensation Cube of 1962, replacing water with Coke Zero. The Coke Zero does create condensation but it has also undergone a gross transformation, breaking down into its elemental components: On top, an evil looking red liquid and below, a suspicious powdery substance.

coke zero

Ken Nicol created Carl Andre Drawer Piece and got into the spirit of “truth to materials” by typing the Carl Andre quote “If a thing is worth doing once, it’s worth doing again” on 1611 index cards.

File piece

I always associate John Baldessari with Cal Arts and a particular brand of flat humour that came out of that school. In his video Baldessari “sings” each of Sol LeWitt’s 35 “Sentences on Conceptual Art” to the tune of popular songs. It must have been Christmas when he made this video because the tune sounds distinctly like a holiday carol.

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There is a certain slyness to John Marriott’s various sized cubes surfaced with pigeon-proofing strips. They also achieve a cool elegance in an incidental, i.e. Minimalist, manner.

See below for an installation view and a close up of the pigeon-proofing strips.

cube and spikesspikes


University of Toronto Art Center (UTAC)

A few steps from Hart House is UTAC and an exhibition of the photographs of Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) called “We are Continually Exposed to the Flashbulb of Death.” This is a fascinating show for anyone with an interest in the Beat Generation.

A recording of Allen Ginsberg reading his 1955 poem “Howl” can be heard throughout the gallery’s rooms.

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It is, of course, primarily as a poet that Allen Ginsberg is known. These photographs however attest to his skill as a photographer (he was mentored in this ability by Robert Frank) and moreover they document a life profoundly rich in relationships, friendships and experiences.

Below, William Burroughs in 1953:

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Gregory Corso, Paul Bowles and Burroughs in 1961.

From Gary Snyder, Peter Orlovsky, Jack Kerouac and Paul Bowles to Kathy Acker, Rene Ricard, and Michael McLure the pictures in this show depict so many of the literary and intellectual luminaries of the past four of five decades. Each picture includes a description, hand-written by Allen Ginsberg, identifying the subject, the date, the place and the circumstances.

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An essay by Louis Kaplan in the exhibition catalogue quotes Ginsberg as follows: “The poignancy of the photograph comes from looking back to a fleeting moment in a floating world.” Captured here in black and white, the humble New York diners and living rooms of the fifties have disappeared forever. This show provides a glimpse of this vanished world and its inhabitants.

October 1, 2014

Today, on Spadina Avenue, I experienced the future!

Behold, the airy interior of a new TTC streetcar.

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The wide, bike-friendly, double doors opened (automatically) and I exited (in complete safely) at Queen Street and crossed southeast to Richmond, back in the present…sort of. The building at 401 Richmond Street, which has a seventies feel, was actually erected around 1900, for industrial purposes. It currently has so many culturally productive tenants that the management publishes its own in-house gallery guide.

There are numerous permanent art installations scattered around the wide, creaky hallways.

For example, near the main entrance are a group of photographs by Peter McCallum.  Below is a detail of one of the photographs, which document studios, workshops and infrastructure of the 401 Richmond site.

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This artist has so much skill and sophistication.  Grounded in an uncanny ability to discern and compose a nuanced, insightful view of a particular moment and place, and with superb technical skill, the photographs by Peter MacCallum are always instantly recognizable and a pleasure to view.

The Abbozzo Gallery

The Abbozzo Gallery presents drawings by Olexander Wlasenko.  I was flipping through the decades.  Suddenly it was 1965. These works in charcoal, unframed and velvety, conjure up a time when people dressed up for air travel and sashayed across the tarmac in kitten heels.

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Drawings by Olexander Wlasenko

Are these stills from Pierrot le Fou, Bande a Parte, La Chinoise or some other gorgeous Jean Luc Goddard New Wave film from the sixties?  Is that Anna Karina adjusting her makeup in a Paris boite?  These drawings have a cold intensity, like an old school martini, shaken but not stirred.

YYZ Artists’ Outlet

At the YYZ Artists’ Outlet the paintings of Andrew Rucklidge are on display.  The show is called “You and I are Shifters” and it is accompanied by an essay by Terence Dick, which raises all sorts of interesting ideas about post-photoshop, digital sampling and quantum physics.  This artist clearly enjoys pushing paint around canvas and appears to be painting about painting.  He has a dazzling repertoire of effects and techniques and he applies them to various riffs on a geometric diamond-like object.

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Painting by Andrew Rucklidge

Reading about the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche, which is coming up in a few days, I noticed how many of the performances and/or installations involve interaction and/or something called immersion on the part of the audience.  This is a trend that does not appeal to me, in fact, it strikes me as totalitarian in nature.  Despite the multiple and fascinating directions art continues to take there is something really satisfying about just looking passively at a painting by Andrew Rucklidge or any painting and accepting it as is.

Gallery 44 Center for Contemporary Photography

At Gallery 44 I came across an exhibition about wood called “Standardizing Nature: Trees, Wood and Lumber” by Susana Reisman. Yes, trees grow only to end up as a pile of lumber.

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Photographs by Susana Reisman

Whereas the photographs were competent, even impressive, the show had the tone of a science textbook. I was looking for the art part. I did find it in the secondary room, which consisted of a sculpture composed of numerous lengths of wood, some partially painted or decorated and simply leaning against a wall.

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Artwork by Susana Reisman

There is something quirky and anthropomorphic in this sculpture.  It’s so simple and yet it delivers something complex…and it smells really good.

Red Head Gallery

I wandered into the Red Head Gallery and found a show called “Insomnia Salon Soiree”, set up in connection to the Scotiabank Nuit Blanche event.  The numerous pieces in the show were not labelled and will only be on display for five days, to be dismantled once the hoopla over Nuit Blanche dies down.  A couple of paintings caught my eye:

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(At post time I don’t have the names of the artists who produced these works but I’m hoping the Red Head Gallery can provide me that information shortly.)

A Space Gallery

I read on the A Space website that this Gallery was founded in 1971.  That is a long time to be alternative.

The current show is called “Welcome to Tkaronto”  and among others, features work by Meryl McMaster:

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Photographs by Meryl McMaster

McMaster’s use of popping color and strange other-worldly costumes in stark northern landscapes spoke vividly to me about the rich culture of the Indigenous that is all around us in Ontario (and Canada) and yet hidden.

V-Tape

The V-Tape people think a lot about how to exhibit video…and there is a lot to choose from

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I was invited into a comfortable, otherwise empty screening room, which could accommodate maybe thirty people.  The lights were turned down and I watched the feature presentation.

Su Rynard‘s piece “As Soon as Weather Will Permit” is currently on exhibit at V-Tape.  It tells a story about an uncle who was a US World War II pilot.  Uncle Vern found himself endlessly training out the war in the luridly colorful desert vistas around Los Alamos…waiting…waiting for just the right moment. Eventually, of course, the weather aligns with the military and political imperatives of the moment.  The protagonist participated in the bombing of Hiroshima. To paraphrase the narration: they dropped the bomb and they left.

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Stills from video by Su Rynard

Su Rynard uses a split screen to mix home movies and archival footage; glowing dream-like sequences of bubbling atoms and frothing energy, radar screens, hand-written texts and folksy, matter-of-fact narrative to create a riveting piece. Although there is a brief mushroom cloud burst the artist uses restraint very effectively. For me, the controlled, dispassionate story and the undeniably voluptuous imagery combine to pack a potent message into this short, powerful piece.

Nicholas Metivier Gallery

After looking at only a sampling of the art on display at 401 Richmond I needed some air and took a walk along King Street to see the John Scott exhibition at Nicholas Metivier Gallery.

John Scott’s paintings are all about men’s business: motorcycles, spiraling jets, prize fighters, disasters, hulking cars,  and always the ominous “Dark Commander,”  the ultimate, critical, punishing father figure.

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Paintings by John Scott

The bunny figures, another of John Scott’s consistent characters, tend to be sympathetic, even endearing, although they sometimes get up on their hind legs and become, for example, “Imperious Bunny” which is also included in the show.  But its the “Dark Commander” that the viewer has to reckon with.  Who is this guy?

I kept thinking about opera when I was looking at this show.  In fact, the Commendatore is the name of the terrifying character in Don Giovanni who knocks on the door in the last act and in the horrible bass voice reminds Don Giovanni that “he invited him to dine..”  Then the vengeful creature exacts his bargain and drags Giovanni down to hell with him.

Maybe John Scott is exploring his feminine side with the inclusion of a couple of flower paintings in the show.

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Dollarama Flowers by John Scott

They are clearly labelled as “Dollarama Flowers,’ supposedly just the kind of disposable plastic trash we would expect a real guy would pick up.  They do add another dimension of emotional content to the show, like observing a biker at the supermarket: there he is, in full biker regalia, comparing cake mixes.