Tuesday, April 21, 2009

News You Can't Use: Time-Machine Shows

Lately, it seems I'm only going to see shows on their final weekend. This is a bad habit that I hope to break, because the result is that no one can really use the resulting highlights. Dang! Still, I saw some really fun works this weekend that you should go see if you have a time machine or some such:
  • William Buzzell at Paul Bright Gallery was really great. In a comic-book/dioramic style, Buzzell presents matrices of information and products that offer a kind of societal portrait. OK, so that doesn't sound so exciting, but if I say "reproductions of old Scholastic flyer stickers", that's much better, eh? Or "ersatz laptop displaying a porn site"? Or "colour wheels and theories"? After all, it's partly the range of Buzzell's subject matter as well as his intrictate informational style that makes the works so interesting.
  • Toronto Free Gallery's "Presently Absent" show gave a first exhibition glimpse at Christine Swintak's latest sculpture-performance project: for it, the artist bought an antique dining room set off Craigslist, hauled it to the countryside, used it for some meals, shaved it down to woodchips, and put it back on Craigslist. Photos, video, and the transformed table all provide documentation. The documentation, especially, of Swintak taking an outdoor bath in a snowy countryside/junkyard landscape, with the dining set sitting nearby, had a nicely absurd/retro Richard Brautiganesque feel. Johanna Householder also had a fun work in this show; she dressed up as Princess Leia and reenacted the "help me Obi Wan Kenobi, you're my only hope" sequence. To this she then added footage from the 1984 Challenger explosion, Ronald Reagan's related speeches, and most notably more shots of her own princess Leia enjoying privilege in the form of martinis and stock reports. Also interesting was Jenna d. Maclellan's work as an artist-in-reisdnece with "Petits Mains," an immigrant women's charity in Montreal. 
  • At Xpace's "Inner and Outer Space" show I quite enjoyed works by Matthew Williamson and Mark Pellegrino. Williamson continued the Star Wars theme with an LED display sign displaying summaries of Star Wars films, like a kind of trekkie Jenny Holzer. Pellegrino continued the mood with an installation, The Psyche-Master Chronicles, that mimicked a life-size Doctor Who-type cockpit strewn with toys, joysticks and TV monitors.
  • Over at MKG127, oft-overlooked artist Ken Nicol showed a set of really interesting obsessive-process works, like a button that had been pushed 1,000,000 times, graph paper with the lines scratched off and placed in a tiny vial, and a mark-making work that used up all the ink in a single pen, and then some. I really loved how upfront this obsessive urge was.
  • A University of Guelph student show at Board of Directors turned up an interesting video work by youngster Gin Murray. A split screen shows various people dancing on the right-hand side of the monitor, while a young woman (Gin, I assume) mimics their dancing on the monitor's left-hand side. Part of what makes the piece work is that you know Murray had to really practice all these different moves to shift so seamlessly between them--kind of like a human cross-fade. Also, Saffron Hodgson's paper-mache jellyfish/pinata was really fun. It made me wonder "Are we (or perhaps, just me) having a paper mache moment?" I recently got an email about artist Hannah Jickling's "MFA in Paper Mache" project, so perhaps so?
  • Last but certainly not least, the combination of Janet Morton and Andrew Harwood at Paul Petro was really great. Loved, loved, Morton's huge, knitted and looping Doric column, while Harwood's sequinned pictures of Quebec psychic Jojo upstairs hit all the right kitsch notes; Harwood as a Jojo figure in black-light neon was also awesome.
Image of Mark Pellegrino's "The Psyche Master Chronicles" from Artist Bloc

1 comment:

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