Saturday, January 17, 2009

List Gallery Opens, 401 Richmond Rocks

A couple of pieces by me in today's National Post: The first is on List Gallery, a new gallery opened by artist Svava Juliusson at 1385 Danforth Avenue. If you want to attend the official opening party, it's tomorrow from 2-5pm. The second is a gallery hop for 401 Richmond, where I found works to love at Gallery 44, A Space, and Red Head Gallery. Full text for both articles after the jump just in case.
Still from Suzanne Caines's video work from NSCAD -- Caines is a highlight at Red Head this month

Is Danforth East the new Parkdale?
Leah Sandals, National Post
Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009

The stretch of Danforth between Greenwood and Coxwell can be sparse for the culturati -- unless they're taking a break for basement beers at the Danforth Bowl, that is. But that will change a bit tomorrow, with the opening of List, the strip's first contemporary art gallery.

Sandwiched between an Ethiopian convenience store and a defunct Bulgarian social club, List Gallery's now-sunny storefront at 1385 Danforth Ave. used to offer the street-scape little more than closed blinds. But beyond those blinds lay a working artists' studio. In fact, the rest of the unit past the gallery's rear wall still serves as shared studio space for artists Janine Miedzick, Jay Wilson, Kelvin Britton and Svava Juliusson, the Monarch Park resident who opened the gallery.

"We've been renting this unit as studio space for a couple of years," says Juliusson, an East Coast transplant who met her studio mates while doing an MFA a York University in 2006. "It's a really reasonable deal for Toronto, and several of us already lived in the area." When one artist decided to move out post-new baby, Juliusson took on a second share of the rent to create List.

Though smallish at 220 square feet, List is clean, bright and well organized. Its main exhibition space is open Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday from 12 to 5 p. m.; an adjoining vitrine showcases a 24/7 piece of public art.

For the gallery's opening, Tania Ursomarzo's installation of fluorescent string radiates fascinatingly through the vitrine, refracting off the ceiling and into the studio beyond. In the main gallery, recent Art Institute of Chicago grad Gillian Collyer offers raw sculptures of vacuum cleaners, while Kristiina Lahde, already showing at west end hot spots such as MADE and Katharine Mulherin, crafts a kaleidoscope of newspaper pages.

Amanda Schoppel rounds out List's initial offerings with sensitive, map-like drawings on time and place. They're particularly relevant here given the question of whether List was wise to open on this oft-spotty stretch of the Danforth -- and during a recession, no less.

"Well, why not?" Juliusson says, smiling. "I'm going into this very low-risk. There are a few galleries on Queen East, and if List can be part of a combined effort to make the east end of town more of a destination for art, then I want to be part of that, too."

Why not, indeed. With Luc-Sculpture art school and studio just around the corner on Greenwood Avenue and Red Sable, another small studio/gallery east of Coxwell--as well as that long-standing promise of unpretentious beers 'n' bowling -- the creative draw of this Danforth stretch is definitely worth keeping a well-trained eye on.
Fun with film
Leah Sandals, National Post
Published: Saturday, January 17, 2009

With temperatures super-frigid this past week, simply getting out of the house seems a worthy accomplishment, never mind hitting the galleries. Yet, the cold actually makes it a great time to visit 401 Richmond -- that revamped factory housing dozens of art endeavours under one (well-heated) roof. Grab a hot drink at the in-house cafe, unzip that bulky parka and you've got a toasty afternoon art escape.


401 Richmond, Suite 120

At Gallery 44, you will find works that question the idea of photographic accuracy. Rising New York artist Nicholas Knight offers some standout work in this vein, taking a mathematical yet strangely fun approach. Knight treats photo prints of golden frames like origami paper, folding them until the power of photography seemingly succumbs to physical realities. His tearing of a long photo into two separate frames is also playfully effective. Buffalo artist Hans Gindlesberger's series "I'm in the Wrong Film" takes a more poetic tack, positing the artist in pitiable, lonely situations -- from dealing with spilled groceries to sticking out like a sore thumb at a children's playground. In all cases, Gindlesberger gestures toward the ways that film is constructed, and perfect fantasies can unexpectedly turn the everyday grey.


401 Richmond, Suite 110

A Space's current show, Memory and Place, gathers three powerful works on themes of home and away. Recent Art Institute of Chicago grad Jing Yuan Huang creates the most immediately striking work, a dark, triangular room with hazy, floaty paper walls. The effect is confusing, yet calm. Nearby is Huang's source imagery for those massive walls -- two small drawings from her sketchbook. Overall, this piece captures flip-flops between dry paper records and related felt experiences. In a different but still pleasing aesthetic vein, South Koreaborn, Alberta-based artist Hye-Seung Jung brings new meaning to the term "mental map." Jung's installation uses light-catching wires to connect dots from a map on a table to hand-drawn pictures on the wall. Each of the locations on the map is labelled with a childhood memory -- "My grandma's place," "scary big white tree," "tofu factory with strong smell of soya." In contrast, her drawings of related buildings and streets vary to reflect the sieve-like nature of early memory. Finally, Toronto's Marissa Largo captures the feeling of being in two places at once with Jet Lag, a lovely, contemplative video of a sleeping figure projected on to an actual pillow and mat.


401 Richmond, Suite 115

Artist Suzanne Caines is able to endure quite a bit of social awkwardness for her art, which makes her strangely endearing. Caines's art centres on interacting with strangers in slightly off ways. In one video, she politely stops strangers in Halifax (her home base) and asks them to "describe a special location." In another videos, Caines invites people to "test" hammers at a British hardware store. What's evident is that her art is more than just naive Kumbaya or ironic Punk'd theatrics. She includes numerous "failures," or refusals to interact, as well as her few "successes," where people rhapsodize about, say, an Arctic expanse. Caines also gives participants objects in exchange for taking part in her project. These objects don't always make sense -- a fragile plaster hammer, for instance -- but the gesture (and its implied curiosity about social roles, intimacy and community) is solid gold. - 401 Richmond is located at 401 Richmond St. W. For more information, visit

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