November 20, 2015

Report from LA

Thin, fit, relaxed, tan, friendly: LA people are all that.  (So friendly: Many will launch into their life story at the swerve of a skateboard.)

The city is heaving with cars.  Red tail lights as far as you can see.

There is a gorgeous fade in the sky from blue to orange.

Malibu…..that haunting word. 

I felt particularly “LA” drinking Bulletproof coffee.  Who knew that regular coffee (ugh) is infested with mold!  The Bulletproof slogan is “Search.  Discover.  Dominate.”  I’m down.

Looking at art was not really on the agenda in LA but I did drop into Bergamot Station and wandered into a few random galleries.

It seemed that LA artists are in thrall of their city.  They get to the heart of light, air, artifice, nothingness and the dazzling fade.

Captains of the Dead Sea, the title of an exhibit at Sloan Projects, is a collection of photographs by Alia Malley.

Alia Malley

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BS_3788 by Alia Malley

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DV_7352 by Alia Malley

Some of the photos have a seventies Conceptual Art feel.  They achieve the unadorned documentation look so prized in that era.

Alia Malley creates a book from the work and, once assembled, a layer of Hollywood is added to the work.  Are we location scouts?  Have we stumbled across an abandoned set?  We search for the elusive narrative in the title and sequence of images.  But there is no story just soft focus, like squinting into the sun on Venice Beach.

At Leslie Sacks Contemporary work by Anish Kapoor and Mark Katano are on display.

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Artwork by Anish Kapoor

The prints by Anish Kapoor joyfully capture the LA buzz.

Mark Katano’s work combines calligraphy and drip painting.  I liked reading Mark Katano’s notes about the show: “Each line represents nothing more than its own creation, and each piece finds meaning in the harmony of its own structure.”  Got it.  I am feeling very West Coast.

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Big Head by Mark Katano

Looking at Eric Nash’s paintings at Skidmore Contemporary Art made me appreciate the icon as subject.  It’s all there: the blue and orange fade, the loneliness and alienation, the endless driving and searching, the desperate longing for meaning. (Note: The Sunset Blvd painting at the top of the post is also by Eric Nash)

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Sunset 76  by Eric Nash

And then I stumbled across the Richard Heller Gallery’s show of work by Devin Troy Strother.

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Installation by Devin Troy Strother

The show is titled They Should’ve Never Given You Niggas Money and it references a comedy sketch about Rick James by Dave Chappelle.  To see the hilarious clip there are two links below:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dJB0BkJlbbw /

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z63dJbcl1VU /

This is an exuberant show that takes on the tropes and stereotypes that dog black youth but it also a carnival fun house and that slams the deadly smugness of the Politically Correct with humour.

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Details of Installation by Devin Troy Strother

It was another beautiful day in LA.

The Richard Heller Gallery was full of slim, blonde teenagers taking selfies and outside the sun was shining.

 

 

November 5, 2015

Trek to King City – Richard Serra’s “Shift”

Having lived in the US for a number of years I was somewhat reluctant to participate when my friend insisted we knock on the door of a strange farmhouse in King City, about an hour north of Toronto.  Egress to the site of Richard Serra’s earthwork / sculpture Shift was no longer possible from the adjacent subdivision.  A passing jogger suggested we try the overland route, which would be trespassing.

“We are pilgrims,” we explained when the farmer opened the door, “looking for the Richard Serra sculpture.”

The farmer was cool (and unarmed) and in fact he recalled the period in the early seventies when the sculpture was created.  “Cement trucks arrived every day all one summer,” he said.

Richard Serra was a young artist at the time.  He and his girlfriend, Joan Jonas, together visited the site which belonged to art collector Roger Davidson, who commissioned the piece.  The artwork references their joint walks around the fields, which have a mildly rolling topography.  It apparently traces the natural zigzag path the two would take from the points which were furthest from each other but from which they were still visible to each other.  (You have to be there.)

“It will be about a half hour walk,” the farmer told us.

We set off:

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We passed various attractive outbuildings, associated with the farm.

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..saw water systems, signage…

…and then made a left down the most idyllic path….

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…edged by a corn field.

We got lost for a while….

… but met another friendly farmer who directed us onward…

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and we then found the landmark below.  It’s a…some sort of wood storage device.

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We skirted a swamp….

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….got covered in burrs, clamored up a muddy hill and there it lay: internationally obscure, audacious, sprawling, precise, stately, playful, supremely confident, enduring, elegant, startling, and big.  It is worth the trip.

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Shift by Richard Serra

Great afternoon in King City!   Although the subdivisions are encroaching, and from time to time a developer insists the artwork be destroyed in the name of progress, the Township of King has seen fit to designate Shift as protected under the Ontario Heritage Act, preventing its destruction or alteration.  All the local people we spoke to seemed to have a soft spot for the artwork.  My friend (whose idea it was to make the trip) is sure there will be a gift shop and parking for 300 in another decade.  In the meantime it was time to go home and get the burrs out.

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November 1, 2015

The Power Plant

The Power Plant was originally part of the active, industrial Toronto port, built in 1926 for the purpose of housing heating equipment for the Queen’s Quay Terminal.  Maybe Carlos Amorales was referencing this vaguely industrial past with his installation entitled Black Cloud, on display at the The Power Plant Clerestory exhibition space, until January 2016.

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Detail of “Black Cloud” installation by Carlos Amorales

As cities became blackened and gritty in the distant industrial past, pale moths adapted by darkening their hue and thus were less visible to predators.  In the installation a massive swarm of black moths (made of lazer-cut black paper) has returned to recall a former incarnation of Toronto and settled in the airy, brilliantly lit gallery creating a striking, graphic effect, which hovers between the sense of a slightly menacing infestation, with overtones of pestilence and doom, and expensive wallpaper.  Of course, in this era, the industrial muscle of Toronto has been banished and the waterfront is now all about shopping, dining, walking around and absorbing culture.

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Detail of “Black Cloud” installation by Carlos Amorales

It was nice listening to Ed Pien give a rather emotional talk about the Black Cloud installation.  Ed Pien and some members of the audience became tearful in connection to a reading on the fleeting nature of time, loss, love, and just, well, life.  It must have been something to do with that sad Sunday afternoon feeling you get when you realize you have to get up early and go to work tomorrow.

In an adjacent galleries three sumptuous film loops by Mark Lewis are showing.  Pavilion, shot in the atrium of the TD Center, is a gorgeous mesh of grids, glass sheen and intersecting planes caught in strangely tentative and yet fluid camera movements.  According to the curator’s notes Mark Lewis’ films “reflect on the nature of cinema through the means of urban architectural perception.”  As a practiced consumer of film I immediately felt the presence of a narrative in this piece, possibly the story of an unhinged, peripatetic camera seeking connection amid urban alienation.

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Still from Invention installation by Mark Lewis

I See Words, I Hear Voices is the title of an installation by Dora Garcia, also at The Power Plant.  This artist pushes into various subconscious realms using compulsive writing, graphomania and voice-hearing.  The installation is dimly lit, features tables strewn with books and written materials; a lengthy, subtitled dialogue-heavy film is in progress featuring what appear to be academics engaged in intense discussion; antique chalk boards display symbols and random words, and mysterious drawings are barely visible in their position high up near the rafters.

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I See Words, I Hear Voices Installation by Dora Garcia

This piece has a seductive absurdity that I really like.  It made me think about the pleasure of work, pure thinking, note taking, research, documentation, collaboration, all that studious activity that can be so engaging but in this case there is no  endpoint.  Rather it is diffuse, meandering, extra-sensory, undefined, ongoing, loose and circular.  It is quite a radical statement and a sly, subversive challenge to the way our society rewards the obedient producer.