May 14, 2016

I was wandering by the Piri Piri Churrasqueira Grillhouse at the corner of Dupont and Campbell and took some time to check out the neighbourhood.  Just a few steps north there is a cluster of no-nonsense, newish buildings.  They look like the kind of place you might go to pick up parts for, say, a malfunctioning Moccamaster or maybe confer with an insurance broker.  But no, in fact, here is a chance to look at art in Toronto.

Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects – David Clarkson

Speleogenesis, I have just learned, means the origin and development of caves.  In the exhibition of paintings by David Clarkson, called Remotes, caves function as formal device, content and metaphor.

Here’s another word you don’t hear often: trippy.

On entering David Clarkson’s show there is a painting by the door.  It depicts a rabbit hole, yes, the pathway that Alice took into the discombobulating environment that made no sense.  In this painting bunnies, giant gems and a perfect oval looking-glass are bathed in a dreamy blue light.  For me this painting set up the whole show with a feeling of philosophical nonchalance.   The viewer is free to descend into a labyrinth of ethereal vistas and subconscious triggers without any kind of didactic price to pay.

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Detail of Rabbits and Mirrors by David Clarkson

The cave imagery is a constant in the show.  Such a potent symbol could be heavy handed but David Clarkson creates unpredictable, droll and imaginative art work that never stumbles into cliche.

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Cascade and Curtain by David Clarkson

Looking at Cascade and Curtain the viewer is in utterly unknown territory, gazing outward through the pictorial plane to glimpse what lies beyond the shimmering veil of liquid.  Which way is the sinuous sluice spilling?  Into the frame or out of it?

The inclusion 0f photographic elements, pop art fragments and tiny renderings of hallucinatory creatures combine to form an otherworldly tableau.  But it is the striking formal aspect – the yawning mouth of the cave – that creates such a powerful image.

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Moth and Frog by David Clarkson

A sense of claustrophobia dominates the painting above as ice and mist frame a route to open air but no, it is another cave that confronts the viewer, like a maddening hall of mirrors.  Life is delicate but relentless in this harsh environment.  And consciousness is brutally linked to physical realities.

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Statues and Fog by David Clarkson

In Statues and Fog surrealist tropes litter a grim trail to the void.  Here the cave is the tough slog of life itself.

Ahem…there is only one way out.

 

Erin Stump Projects (ESP) – Elise Rasmussen

Around the corner on Dupont there is an exhibition by Elise Rasmussen called Fragments of an Imagined Place.  (…am I detecting a theme…?)

As part of the artwork Elise Rasmussen declares that the myth of Atlantis “serves as a metaphor for the artistic practice.”  Within this context she presents some fascinating fragments of a Robert Smithson piece that was never created.

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People had a very different appearance in 1970 than they do today.  Within the selection of xeroxed newspaper clippings, cartoons, letters, pamphlets and snapshots is a picture of Robert Smithson posed as a rugged outlaw.  Truly, this artist was onto something new, big and bold and he looks the part.

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Robert Smithson circa 1970

The planned Earthwork was called “Glass Island” and it was to be constructed off the British Columbia coast near Nanaimo.  One hundred tons of broken glass were held at the border and finally sent back to Los Angeles.  Environmentalists opposed the project.

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Installation view of Robert Smithson’s “Map of Broken Glass (Atlantis),” 1969

Included in this sort of scrapbook-like array are copies of the Robert Smithson drawings for other Earthworks.  It was so startling and refreshing to see these humble drawings on graph paper, efficiently packed with ideas and potential.

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Detail of Fragments of an Imagined Place by Elise Rasmussen

I really liked observing the connection Elise Rasmussen created with Robert Smithson and his beautiful idea of a glass island.   She also produced a video in connection to the unmade piece.  Dancers in white stretchy pants and pastel t-shirts gingerly hold shards of coloured glass move and about in a serious though desultory way.

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Still from Video Fragments of an Imagined Place by Elise Rasmussen

https://player.vimeo.com/video/163575629“>Click here to see a section of the video

I wonder what Robert Smithson would make of the art world today?

 

November 1, 2014

Wet snow appeared briefly in the backyard this morning and it seemed that winter was looming as I set out to see some galleries along Dundas Street West, between Dufferin and Ossington, on this cold, blustery, overcast afternoon.

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I was surprised to see the work of Laura Kikauka (with Carl Hamfelt) at MKG127.   For some reason I had some vague, preconceived notion about what was waiting along this particular stretch of Dundas and this wasn’t it.

The show, which is entitled What Box?, is in fact filled with unanticipated and engrossing work that, as the title suggests, defies categorization.

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Stadium Moment $200

Laura Kikauda’s work is truly eccentric. She mines a rich vein of our consumer society’s debris to create numerous tiny, perfect worlds with her own uniquely disquieting sensibility. The show also contains video and various sculptures but it is the delicate, miniature dioramas which are the most fascinating aspect of this exhibition.

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Installation view of dioramas by Laura Kikauda

Each of the boxes, about four or five inches square or a bit larger, is accompanied by a title and a price, hand written by the artist.

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The Bright Underbelly of Subversion $300

Undoubtedly, the work is related to Joseph Cornell‘s boxes, through the form itself and the nod to
Surrealism, but whereas Cornell’s art evoked nostalgia and used fragments of desirable objects to create something referencing a lost reality, that is not the case with Laura Kikauka’s pieces. The materials she uses were never particularly precious or beautiful; instead she salvages that which was always more or less worthless. And the pieces she creates have a fragile, lyrical strangeness to them that is like the flotsam of another world.  Its easy to become transfixed before any of these odd pieces as they appear to capture moments in some transitory and unsettling narrative.

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Great Escape $280

One of the sculptural pieces uses black dominoes on which the artist has inscribed texts commonly found on tomb stones.  These solid little rectangles are Minimalism’s opposite.

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Wandering around the exhibition I realized I had visited this artist’s studio a few years ago in connection to the Electric Eclectic Festival, which is held near her home, known as The Funny Farm, in Medford, Ontario. There Laura Kikauka lives in a bizarre nest of thousands of found objects. With this exhibition she has shown an uncanny ability to edit a tiny fraction of those items into delicately evocative works of art.


ESP (Erin Stump Projects)

The show at ESP (Erin Stump Projects) has the svelte, young, stylish look I thought I would find along Dundas West.

Kotama Bouabane, who is exhibiting photographs and an installation on the main floor of the gallery, has taken a step up from Home Depot and RONA and explores the wonderful new materials available in the trade shows and interior design display outlets of the world. Outdated, Updated, Renovated is the name of this subtlely sophisticated show.

A sculptural installation consists of an array of materials displayed to create a tableau of colour, texture and surface.

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Kotama Bouabane also uses photography.  The artist captures incidental moments in the display universe to create almost formalist, painterly images which subvert the literal function of the materials.

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Upstairs at ESP is an exhibition called Painting with Fire.  It contains a number of cermanic pieces and photographs of ceramic pieces produced by Naomi Yasui during a residency in Denmark. These bulbous, ungainly forms, lightly mottled and coloured in nuanced gold and red, have a powerful, slightly menacing presence, like a science experiment gone wrong.

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According to the notes in the gallery, the process the artist used to make these works, known as “atmospheric firing” has a certain unpredictability.  The aspect of chance in the process is an important element in the work.  In that connection Naomi Yasui displayed a large box containing the process “rejects.”

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Details of “reject” items from Naomi Yasui’s exhibition


Le Gallery

I am a big fan of looking up close at unframed drawings.  Technically the art pieces by Scott Waters, pinned nakedly to the wall at Le Gallery are paintings – he uses something called acrylic ink –  but they have a deft freshness that feels drawing-like.  The deep, seductive blacks and unerring compositions make these artpieces a pleasure to view.

The content is intense.  From 1989 to 1992 Scott Waters served as an infantryman in the Third Battalion of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry, Bravo “B” Company.  Maybe that explains his focus on disaster and folly in the series.  The unrelenting twisters, the charred cabin of a downed airliner, the collapsed span: all have a Warhol-style cold eye on tragedy and mayhem.

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Some of the works have an emotional charge, like the depiction of the startled doe in headlights or the stoned chanteuse. We see the impending crisis and we want them to survive.

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