Saturday, November 20, 2010

Out today: Reviews of Shows around Queen's Park

Today in the National Post, I review some of the shows happening in the Queen's Park area - all of which are among the strongest of the year. Here's an excerpt:

Breaking Boundaries at the Gardiner Museum
111 Queen’s Park Circ., to Jan. 30
This striking exhibition highlights four youngish Canucks who use ceramics to address manga, mayhem, monsters and other Nickelodeon-friendly themes. As a result, the show seems specially designed to attract “kids” — both toddlers or twentysomethings. But in reality, Breaking Boundaries is a terrific exhibition for all ages and stages: Its pop themes tempt the masses while its new works impress art stalwarts. B.C.’s Brendan Tang, known for mashing up sci-fi gadgetry and Ming-period vases, appears in video as an Indiana Jones-style swashbuckler. Ontario’s Shary Boyle surprises with ceramics that are bigger and rawer than ever before; these don’t just tolerate cracks, but highlight them in gold. Saskatchewan’s Marc Courtemanche offers a massive installation that looks like a woodshop but is largely crafted out of clay; it combines blue-collar workbenches and highfalutin’ art studios to pleasing effect. Finally, Quebec’s Carmela Laganse contributes fantastical vampire furnishings — regally upholstered objects that’d be right at home in True Blood’s vampire-king-of-Mississippi mansion. Check the show’s comment book, too; it traces viewer debates and demonstrates that when museums set out to engage “kids,” they might just engage the kid at heart in all of us.

I'm serious about the comment book--it's confusingly labelled "Be a Curator" and is somewhat edited by staff, but really it is Best Comment Book of the Year. The first Shary Boyle-related comment, printed in shaky pencil script from "ANONYMOUS" listing their age as "OLD" and occupation as "--" is along the lines of "I love Shary Boyle's porcelain lace but I can't stand her mutilated women. What's wrong with her?" (I'm away from my notes right now, hence the paraphrasing.) The responses that follow that comment continue to show the diverse ways individuals can react to artwork.

In the rest of the column, I also review shows at the University of Toronto and the ROM. You can read on here. (Regarding the last review, I can see I've been hard on our big instos lately with placement issues--also did it with an AGO review a couple weeks back--and I do wonder, what's up with that? Why are placement issues bothering me so much of late? I guess I blame (a) my persnickityness and (b) my geographical training. For now. And maybe what seems like Toronto's perpetual space crunch.)

(Image of Marc Courtemanche's The Studio--an example of his work that is largely crafted out of clay but, interestingly, shaped using woodworking techniques--via the National Post)

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