Saturday, February 28, 2009

Gallery Going: Mark Lewis, O'Connor Gallery, Goodwater

Though art market ups and downs are still on the minds of most, art itself is soldiering on at Toronto galleries like Monte Clark, O'Connor, and Goodwater. Read on here at the National Post for my column on what's up at these venues--including a new work by Venice Biennale '09er Mark Lewis. (Text is also after the jump.)

Image of Donald Woodman's The Selling of the West: Life Is Good from

Moving Pictures
Leah Sandals, National Post
Published: Saturday, February 28, 2009

With the Canada Prize debate still simmering and art auction results running the gamut, it's reassuring to see art still soldiering on in galleries throughout the city. Fortify with Balzac's coffee and go see for yourself on an east-end art adventure.


55 Mill St., Bldg. 2

Recessions favour staycations over grand tours, which means that few Torontonians may be on hand at this summer's Venice Biennale to see Mark Lewis's much-anticipated Canuck pavilion display. But that doesn't mean one can't find a little piece of the Giardini in the Distillery this weekend, where a group show featuring one of Lewis's newest films closes at Monte Clark March 1. The Hamilton-born, U. K.-based Lewis is best known for his understated flicks that often challenge the ability of cinema to be understood as traditional art. This strategy is compellingly on view in The Cinema Museum, a 2008 project that shows the curator of a private London cinema museum giving a tour to Lewis's mute Steadicam. Dwarfed by towers of film canisters, rooms of filing cabinets and walls of old signage, the curator seems to embody both our cultural obsession with movies and our widespread disregard for the ageing technology that has nurtured it. What's offered up is both a place and a personality that evoke awe and apathy, stupendous-ness and stasis -- much in the way that viewers are rendered immobile by a darkened theatre's flickering images. Smart composite prints by L. A.'s Brandon Lattu also provide delightful food for thought.


145 Berkeley St.

Changes have been afoot this year at O'Connor Gallery. Long-time owner Dennis O'Connor decided to sell the business after a 13-year run. Then five-year staffer Geoffrey Person put in an offer and took over the reins. Since November, Person has put his own stamp on the enterprise by clearing out cases of Inuit sculpture on the lower level, providing a second gallery space to accompany the one on the upper floor. Until March 15, both spaces are occupied by husband-and-wife team Judy Chicago and Donald Wood-man. Woodman's compelling photos of western U.S. land development read as a sassier, more signage-oriented Edward Burtynsky, while Chicago's highlight is silkscreens on birth and family from the mid-1980s. Person says more changes can be expected when he sketches out 2010's exhibition schedule -- but until then he's anticipating a Contact show by JJ Levine, a young Montrealer known for co-founding a lesbian hair salon-cum-bike repair shop in the city's gay village.


234 Queen St. E.

Passersby might be forgiven for thinking not much is going on right now at Goodwater. After all, the current exhibition by local artist Nestor Kruger is so minimalist as to seem almost non-existent. What Kruger has done is stanch structural holes (heat-vent hollows and the like) in gallery floors and walls with precisely cut pieces of plywood. Many pieces end at roughly knee-height, like a moving box, causing a subtle double take. Closer to eye-level, a black plastic tube punctures the rear wall and spears glossy, black-painted gallery brochures into a kind of severe neoconceptualist blossom. Stunning it's not, but Kruger's experimental spirit paves the way for a couple of must-check-out shows to come: first an exhibit by Sobey Award winner Tim Lee that compiles all his art-process mistakes (tinges of prizewinner guilt, anyone?) and then a show by fellow Vancouverite Elizabeth McIntosh that promises to display her largest painting to date. McIntosh's abstract canvases are a treat at almost any size, so this could be a real head-spinner.

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