Saturday, June 28, 2008

At the Galleries: Bloor/Lansdowne

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NOTE: Post updated Monday @ 9:20am to correct info on Dyan Marie's banners. See strikethrough below.

This week my galleries tour for the National Post took me to the Bloor/Landsdowne neighbourhood (apologies though about the map that ended up in the paper... it's not accurate in terms of Toronto Free Gallery's location, but the one I've put above is).

Writing about the area is a bit tricky for me, because while I'm glad to see affordable spaces for artists and galleries there, one wonders (as with any area realtors call "up and coming") really how long it will last. There's also real concerns I have about the area becoming unaffordable not just for artists, but for everyday residents as well.

I was impressed with the range of work I saw there, however.

I've been an admirer of Toronto Free Gallery for some time and think the new storefront space they have on Bloor is really is a great spot for everyone in the neighbourhood. Innovative programming like the current show Toronto Free Library (part one of which is pictured above), curated by two recent OCAD grads, Sarah Todd and Maiko Tanaka, is also a feature of the gallery that I bet will continue. (We're losing Todd to UBC soon but Tanaka will continue in town as a curator-in-residence at the Barnicke gallery; watch for what she does there.) It's also good to see the Ontario Arts Council and others finally funding the space after years of director Heather Haynes really continuing it as a labour of love.

Georgia Scherman's space further north off the beaten track offers a great contrast to Toronto Free. The space is hard to find but beautiful and huge, suited to types of contemporary art that often get a cramped treatment in the small spaces of most Toronto galleries. I also hope they can pull off more of those international collaborations like the ones they did for their recent "Lifting: Theft in Art" show--looking beyond the borders of Canada is rare in the local scene so I've got my fingers crossed for her. Right now John Massey's strange-but-I-think-good images of luxury cars set against "luxury landscapes" are worth a look (example above).

While there aren't many other spaces with regular programming open right now in the area, there is an increasing amount of public art. While it's made by various people, the push towards it originates, I think, amidst the activities of local artist Dyan Marie. Marie seems to have an incredible amount of energy for creating new area initiatives, from stencil graffiti based on local plant species to walkways decorated with scribblings from local elementary school students. Now new banners resembling the format of vinyl copies of her recent digital work "Un-still lives with traffic" (seen above) line both sides of Bloor, and a Richard Mongiat mural she recommended for the Bloor underpass nearby has come to fruition (I really like that mural, it's a very different tenor from the usual).

I think basically it's hard to place a focus on the area in some ways because it can seem all part of lining up the area for the g-word: Gentrification. I have to say even I was surprised to see more ads already for condos and hoardings for same going up near Mongiat's mural. And I know I'm not the only one who feels ambivalence about this in the arts community.


toronto condos said...

Hello Leah :) I appreciate your choice concerning the topic you are writing about. It is an interesting one, because there are not only people who wish to buy or rent a property not only for common use. Your post is though useful for me as a real estate agent interested in the Toronto condos . You are writing about affordability of this area...Well, it is still better than in New York, for example :) My opinion is, when one wish to have such a space in the area, he/she should think not only about a sole space, but also about a purpose and wider context of location of this space. AD condos - you are right stating your point, "Toronto is booming" with new condos and if there should be changed someting it the way you say it, it has to be done at the beginning of the process of a construction. Cheers,

Elli :)

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