Thursday, December 17, 2009

Recommended: Will Kwan @ the Barnicke and more

In today's NOW, I was glad to see my colleague David Jager's review of the Will Kwan show at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery.

I personally really liked this show—more than I think David did in the end, actually. What came across to David as alienating was more uncompromisingly hardassed in my own experience.

Does this mean I'm plenty alienated already? That I'm happy to revel in Kwan's (equally) bleak view of the world, aka the capitalist economy and its worldwide impacts? Perhaps.

In any case, the show closes this weekend, and I recommend catching it — sometimes it's just Kwan's lifting of capitalism's existing ephemera to the surface that's so effective. This is most apparent in an array of photographs of bank-branded money-gifting envelopes--a traditional Chinese ritual object mashed up with acronym-happy financiers. Methinks it rocks. The neon sign spelling "weapons of mass destruction" in military shorthand actually leaves me a bit colder, but yes, overall, good. If you can't make it, try Kwan's website -- of if you're in Dublin, check him out at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, where he's artist in residence this winter.

Also worth catching if you can is the more exploratory and enigmatic pairing currently on at Loop. I'm not quite sure about it but it sort of delighted me and stuck in the mind a bit. The show matches scrappy sculptures from Audrea DiJulio with large round paintings by Suzanne Nacha. I think it's the sculptures that kind of delight with their resourcefulness, and the paintings that add a touch of weirdness--they conjure eyeballs and mine shafts. I guess I also like that both artists come from a scientific as well as an artistic place—Nacha is involved in geology, while DiJulio has some experience in civil engineering. Both artists are going to chat with Pete Smith on Sunday the 20th at 2pm, the last day of the show.

Just up the street from Loop is a show that's been pretty roundly praised and that I've enjoyed a lot. It's Ben Reeves at Jessica Bradley and it closes December 20. I'm not a huge painting gal, but part of what I love about Reeves' project here is the way he plays painting of photography. He makes his really nice lumpy, blobby paintings as usual, then he decides on one part of that painting to "zoom in" on and "enlarge". This enlargement--usually just one massive blob that originally represented, like a head in a crowd or something--is even rendered on a "larger grain" canvas. It's kind of absurd, like a totally unhelpful CSI-episode technique or something, but it's also really fun. As I may have indicated here before, I find some of the maxi-painting/painting as sculpture practitioners kind of of aggressive or grotesque in mood; Reeves takes it to a much more fun and accessible zone.

Finally, I feel duty bound to note one show that I do not really recommend--though its heart is often in the right place, "Fashion Forward" at the OCAD Professional Gallery is disappointing. The best/most promising parts address different ways that Toronto designers try to use their skills to the benefit of special needs or populations. In fact a show solely on this theme likely would have succeeded better. Where it falls apart a bit is the mishmash of general-fashion stuff it includes. On that general fashion end it's unclear, for example, why Comrags, however awesome, is present and new stars like Jeremy Laing or Greta Constantine are not. Maybe I just missed something in the curatorial premise, but it seems like there's two good small shows potentially here (one on special-function fashion and one on mainstream Toronto fashion design's history and present) or one huge one (on both, or more angles). But none of these really reach fruition.

Image of Will Kwan's art from Now Toronto

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