Saturday, August 15, 2009

Out Today: Karin Bubas Q&A and East End Gallery Hop

A couple of stories out from me in today's National Post.

First off is an email Q&A with Karin Bubas, whose pastel portraits of The Hills starlets got attention on the New York Times' blogs following mentions here and elsewhere. An excerpt:

Q Some people might say that art should focus on serious things, not superficial reality-TV characters. What would your response be?

A I'm surprised by the amount of discussion about the merits of my Hills pastels as subject matter for art. I didn't think that people would have such strong opinions or objections. Using celebrity as a study for art is nothing new. Whether it's Andy Warhol's silkscreens of Grace Kelly, or Jeff Koons' sculpture of Michael Jackson, or Elizabeth Peyton's painting of Jarvis Cocker, celebrity is a world that even artists are obsessed with.

I don't find popular culture to be superficial. I've often taken the position of voyeur, making an anthropological study into human behaviour and ways of life. Reality television is another form of this study. At the same time, I'm a big fan of reality TV. Survivor, The Amazing Race, Big Brother, bring it on! I also like critically acclaimed shows like Mad Men and Lost.

Also out in the Post's Toronto section is a survey of three enjoyable shows just east of downtown. An slice of that:

Goodwater Gallery
234 Queen St. E.
Some artists shy away from making bold statements, preferring subtle surprises. For his show at Goodwater, artist Andrew Reyes is decidedly bold. Reyes invades the central gallery space with two massive, criss-crossing diagonal columns. Then, in the rear of the gallery (you have to duck under Reyes’ mega tic-tac-toe to get there) one finds a single horizontal beam of drywall spanning the gallery from left to right at eye level. Appropriately titled Cryptique, Reyes’s artwork here gives no clues to its meaning beyond its own existence — no text, no explanation and no apologies. Those diagonal interventions conjure everything from the escalators of contemporary shopping malls to the signatures of pioneer-era illiterates, while the rear-gallery barrier could be a subtraction sign writ large or a high-jump beam gone obese. Though an enigmatic, noncommittal approach can sometimes kill works, Reyes’s piece survives it — because in the end, the sheer joy of seeing him change the space so dramatically and elegantly, like a 10-year-old with a prodigious gift for minimalist drywall, is almost guaranteed to produce the upturned arc of a smile. To Aug. 22.

Image of three of Bubas's The Hills portraits from the Charles H Scott Gallery


Anonymous said...

They are better than her watercolours of Dynasty fame but she really isn't too far off from employing bubblegum in her product.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for your comment...

I'm ambivalent about the bubblegum content... as with a lot of pop culture stuff, you kind of have to go, if it's so bubblegum (ie. irrelevant) why does it strike such a chord?

I appreciate it when art can smartly address those things which compel us (sometimes by the millions or billions) in the non-art sphere--when it doesn't keep itself to wondering "What Would Donald Judd [or Dan Graham, or Matthew Barney, or Cindy Sherman] Do?" -- but rather address experiences and icons in both felt and manufactured life.

Anonymous said...

Hi Leah,

The bubblegum I was referring to as a medium not as a label for kitsch. Overall, it appears that the time she did the Dynasty work up to the Hills work, I have a strange feeling that the artist was seeking the immediacy or attention that her "back to the lens" photographs did not illicit. It just looked like a crutch. Sort of like the trend when older artists tend to piggyback on some fabled classical work - The Illyad, the Divine Comedy, Moby Dick, any opera, etc... ( By the way, this is no way disparaging the canon it just seems so easy to prop up the context without regarding the flaw in the actual artist's work, as these stories, like all great stories, are for all time immortal.)
Again, it is better work and skill on her part but I can't help feeling that she is not too many steps away from imploying bubblegum than pastels.
To your follow up comment I think that it is perfectly fine to address any matter, there is only a non-art sphere and an art sphere for a tiny fraction that assumes there is. As for the millions and billions we should all be too busy living life to consider such.

Leah Sandals said...

Hi Anonymous,

Thanks for clarifying...

I can see how this work could push negative buttons for people. And on reflection I don't think, of course, that every work on pop culture is totally great. The work has to be strong as well as contain strong subject matter. I didn't mention that before, and I can agree with you on that point.

Sadly, I haven't seen these in person for full evaluation, but I like them so far in reproduction. Could very well be the case because I, like the artist, do like to watch this program on occasion... I'll admit it! : - )

As you can tell, though, I do tire of the artworld canon at times, or what I think of as same. That's likely where my response was coming from.