Recently, when I was out gallery-hopping, a friend told me "You know what? I don't really go to Queen West anymore."
And in a lot of ways I can't blame people who think this way.
With the combination of rising rents and the recession, many contemporary galleries have fled the area to less costly nooks on Tecumseth, Ossington, and Bloor West.
Still, I'd have to say the trip to Queen West is still worth a visit, particularly this week, with a number of remarkably nice little painting shows. Here's the rundown:
Kris Knight @ Katharine Mulherin. To July 18.
For many years Kris Knight has made a practice of painting beautiful young androgynous things against vaguely Canuck-kitsch backdrops. In his lastest, very seductive paintings, the subjects are more beautiful and the settings more hoser-chic than ever. As David Balzer pointed out recently, Knight's painting skills still need work. The style can feel a bit too tight at times, a bit too self-limiting. But it's still well worth seeing for the fashion-spread beauty of these Hudson's Bay babes, and their log-cabin noir environs. The northern lights have never looked so hip.
Sadko Hadzihasanovic & Melanie Rocan @ Paul Petro. To August 1.
Dealer Paul Petro tries to frame these two separate shows as different looks at gender in painting. I don't really buy that schtick. But the shows themselves are worth looking at. Upstairs, in "50 paintings for my 50th birthday", Sadko Hadzihasanovic continues to show his facility with drawing and painting in an assortment of small works on panel. All seem quickly done yet deeply felt, a nice combination. Some, like the lead image on this post, are portraits humorous, mythical characters. Others are simply streetscapes of a tropical locale. Others are more realist-styled drawings from photographs. Together, they are a really nice summer show. Melanie Rocan, a younger painter than Hadzihansanovic, still seems to be working things out. Not all her compositions hang together effectively, but a few are perfectly ragged, situating themselves between reality and abstraction, between space and flatness. Her work is getting better.
Wren Jackson @ Paul Petro Special Projects. To July 15.
Former gallerist Jackson here provides another kind of perfect little summer show--quite small, almost postcard-sized, paintings of landscapes and what looks like lakeside docks. Though the statement for the show is somewhat sinister, these feel sunny, made in a spirit of enjoyment and cherished placeness. If an exhibition can be wonderfully modest, this is it.
And just a little further down the road... Lorenzo Pepito @ 2of2Gallery. To July 11.
Youngish Vancouver artist Pepito explores widespread (including, presumably, his own) sneaker obsessions in a series of smallish photorealist paintings depicting Nike sneaker boxes. As with Knight, the style sometimes feels too tight, but it is delightful the way Pepito lovingly reproduces each sticker or scrape on these boxes. These boxes themselves are kinds of fetish objects, not a one a like, each a product of thousands to millions of dollars of design. What drives this newfangled, way-cool version of old-man concerns like philatelyand numismatics? Pepito seems to seek to understand pop culture, and himself, through this painting project.
Images from top: Sadko Hadzihasanovic, untitled, 2009; Kris Knight, Wedding Blanket, 2009; Melanie Rocan, The Painting Side Show, 2009; Wren Jackson, untitled, 2009; Lorenzo Pepito, Free:Loom, 2008. Knight image from Katharine Mulherin; Hadzihasanovic, Rocan and Jackson from Paul Petro; Pepito from 2of2Gallery