Friday, August 1, 2008

Toronto Reviews Roundup

This is a long weekend, which makes the city seem extra-dead, but if you're around there's actually a lot to do under the sun. Here's some strong shows closing soon that I recommend seeing:
  • Matilda Aslizideh at Pari Nadimi Gallery – An emerging Vancouver artist takes on the tragedies of real-life child soldiers to both fantastical and visceral effect in this must-see show. (Though Nadimi's site says it goes only to July, NOW listings have updated it to run to Aug 2)
  • Working Title at Diaz Contemporary – I’m not normally a fan of abstraction, or of painting, but Monique Mouton’s work here (image above) really wins me over, as does Sally Spath’s careful, electric-feeling installation. Mina Totino I’m less crazy about—could be that her work fits into more traditional painting tropes—but the show is still worth a look, as I point out in this week's NOW.
  • Enacting Emancipation at A Space – A Space raises the political art flag (that many others shy away from) yet again in this show highlighted by work from Venice Bienniale Golden Lion winner Emily Jacir. Jacir, who is Palestinian and splits her time between Ramallah and New York City, is represented here by a 2001-3 work that documents requests from people banned from the West Bank, as well as photos of her enacting those requests. They include both the poignant—"put flowers on my mothers grave"—and the practical—"pay my phone bill." This work has traveled a lot, and with good reason; it is very deeply effective.
  • Proof at Gallery 44: In this 15th edition of the artist run centre’s emerging artist show Gallery 44 features work from a diverse array of practices. Susan Blight was the highlight for me with her self-portraits that show the practice still has relevance, and will continue to into the future, for many individuals. Also good, in a different way, is Michael Love’s pinhole photograph of himself in which he takes an unusual turn of using a bullet to create the pinhole. (I have to say I disagree with David Balzer this week in his assessment that Love's "intellectual" take is more worthy than Blight's "emotional" one; intellectuals have their own form of self-aggrandizing and narcissism, dontcha know.) Michele Crockett’s more conceptual work on the value of a penny is less compelling, but lingers.
Closing later, but worth seeing too:
  • Stories in Pieces at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery: A really nice group show with both big Canuck names (Geoffrey Farmer) and relative newcomers (Liz Knox). As I mentioned in the National Post last week, I especially loved Jon Sasaki’s Antihero D├ęcor Room, which plunges you into your own spooky film noir.
  • Wu Wing Yee at Drabinsky Gallery: Delicate and strong at the same time, this recent Toronto-via-Hong Kong arrival has created a masterful series of work that positions Chinatown kitsch in protective cages and cocoons. Could be maudlin; instead, marvelous. I wrote last week that it's one of the best shows of the summer, and I'm standing by that.
  • Summer Group Show at Paul Petro: Like many other summer shows, it’s a grouping of largely leftover inventory. But there are some really lovely works here, including Fastwurms' glittering Frog Tire from the late 90s (apparently just recently released from their own storage vaults in Creemore’s backcountry) and Julie Beugin’s lush indoor/outdoor painting (pic below; watch for her show in February 09). I also really liked Jennifer Murphy’s collage work, Natalka Husar’s uneasy Judgment Boy Study, and Olia Mishcheko’s eloquent pen and ink drawings.

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