Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Ann Temkin Abstract Expressionist Q&A in National Post Today

As many now well know, this past weekend saw the opening of the only international stop for MoMA's "Abstract Expressionist New York" at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto. The show is scaled down from the original—about 75% the size of the central MoMA outing "The Big Picture," I was told, and also lacking the collary exhibitions "Rock Paper Scissors" and "Ideas Not Theories" (though some materials from these latter two shows were integrated into the AGO display).

Last Wednesday as the exhibition was previewing to the press, I got to speak with Ann Temkin, MoMA's chief curator of painting and sculpture, about the show. The resulting condensed Q&A is out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q Are Abstract Expressionists really all that special? Abstraction has existed for centuries in indigenous and Islamic art, and expressiveness is something we look for in most art.

A One of the things you're bringing out is that Eurocentric attitudes are what dictate us thinking of this movement as unique. There are links the artists would've very much acknowledged to non-Western or ancient art that had this same kind of ambition to express the soul. So you could say one of the things that's important about this movement is, in fact, its non-uniqueness in a global sense. What these artists were aiming for was something that, for what would've been thought of as "primitive" peoples at that time, would've gone without saying—that art expressed their deepest, profoundest beliefs, fears and wishes. What these artists were doing was marrying that to a European artistic tradition, which was something on canvas that got stretched and put on a wall.

Q So is a better term needed than "Abstract Expressionist"? The direct translation ain't helpful.

A These artists struggled quite a bit with that question and they all had their various, equally inadequate suggestions. Our acoustiguide in New York opened with clips of artists saying things along these lines—"Well, I'm not an Abstract Expressionist!" "My paintings aren't Abstract Expressionist." "What is Abstract Expressionist? It means nothing to me."—just to set the stage that it's not a very useful term.

Later on we discuss Rothko's fear of fame, how to look at an Ab Ex painting and more. To read the rest, I encourage seeking out a print copy of the Post, as there's a reproduction of a really nice Joan Mitchell painting in the spread. For a text-only version today, you can also check out this link over at the Post.

(Image of Joan Mitchell's Ladybug 1957 from the AGO and MoMA)

Read More......

Monday, May 30, 2011

About Time: Toronto Graffiti Summit Tomorrow Night @ Drake Hotel

Last month in my OpenFile article on the development of Toronto's new culture plan, I made reference to members of the public who questioned how Toronto can be taking art, and particularly public art or youth arts, seriously when its mayor himself has taken to the streets to eradicate graffiti.

After all—in my view, at least—graffiti can range from wonderful public art to nuisance vandalism. It's not always helpful to blackball it outright. Or it would at least be helpful to set some more useful terms of reference than "anything made on a publicly viewable wall with a spraypaint can."

So it's with some interest that I see the upcoming Toronto Graffiti Summit that's happening tomorrow night at the Drake Hotel. The summit will bring together representatives from the city (like Councillor Michael Thompson, who headed the culture plan push, and Councillor Cesar Palacio, who's taking the lead on the graffiti file), members of the graffiti community and administrators for youth arts mural programs to discuss the issue. NOTE: There will also be a webcast for those who can't attend in person. Here's the rundown from an event site:

Graffiti 'vandalism' is a problem. Unwanted graffiti has a detrimental impact on neighbourhoods. The cost to businesses to clean-up unwanted graffiti can range from $100 up to $10,000 for a heritage building. What is the best strategy to stop this vandalism? How do we get all the stakeholders on board? Successful community approaches have been employed with such programs as Vancouver's "Restart" and Philadelphia's award winning "Anti-Graffiti Network" both of which engages youth to create murals. Hear from a range of perspectives from your community that include a community services; the arts community; a graffiti artist, business people; and city officials.

The Town Hall will be divided into two segments:

Speakers: 7:05pm - 7:45pm
Panel Discussion: 7:55pm - 8:55pm
Location: The Drake Hotel, 1150 Queen St., Toronto, ON, M6J 1J3 www.thedrakehotel.ca

Registration: 6:00pm - 7:00pm - 'First-come, First-Served'. Registration is 'free' of charge.

Welcome: 7:00pm - 7:05pm - with Councillor Cesar Palacio, City Council lead on new graffiti strategy.

Speakers: The following speakers will make '5' minute presentations:

Syrus Ware, Program Coordinator of Youth Programs, Art Gallery of Ontario

Syrus will provide credence to the art form & its importance to modern art.
Paula 'La Bomba' Gonzalez-Ossa, Graffiti Artist & Youth Programming Coordinator

She will provide a street artist perspective and how marginalized youth can find positive outlets.
Terrence Rodriguez, Program Coordinator, Pro Tech Media Centre

The media centre is a successful example of a skills building alternative outlet for high-risk youth.
Djanka Gajdel, Property & Gallery Owner

She will put forward a personal testament to the hardship caused by graffiti vandalism.
Jim Hart, Executive Director, Municpal Licensing & Standards Division

Jim will speak to the topic of enforcement and what it means in the City of Toronto.
Devon Ostrom, Founder & Coordinator, Beautifulcity.ca

Devon will present possible solutions to fund and provide for alternative outlets.
Claire McWatt, Representative, Toronto Youth Cabinet

This will be a summarization of the outreach work of this city group.
Karin Eaton, Executive Director, Mural Routes

Karin will speak to the successful engagement of street artists to beautify the city.

Panel Discussion: 7:55pm - 8:55pm - Audience can ask questions of the panel.

Host & Producer:

Stefan Lialias, Executive Producer, Direct Engagement Inc.

Shawn 'Zion' Jones, Owner & Graffiti Artist, The Bomb Shelter
Jeff Melanson, Special Advisor on the Arts for Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
Robert Sysak, Executive Director, West Queen West Business Improvement Area
Michael Thompson, Councillor Ward 37 Scarborough, City of Toronto
Media Interviewers:

Natalie Alcoba, Toronto City Hall Reporter, National Post
Julie King, Publisher & Managing Editor, CanadaOne.
Sean Stanleigh, Editor of Your Business, The Globe & Mail

As with any of these sorts of all-in panels, I have some skepticism about them getting through all these speakers and topics in the time allotted. Still it's great to see some collaborative discussion on this issue rather than a divisive taking-of-sides.

(Image from Toronto's famed Graffiti Alley--introduced to me as a tourist attraction when I first came to the city--from Spacing Toronto)

Read More......

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

James Nizam Q&A in today's National Post

For the past number of years, Vancouver artist James Nizam has generated a unique body of work in abandoned homes and buildings. For his Anteroom series, he made rooms in these homes into camera obscuras. For his Dwellings Series, he lit these spaces with flashlights. And for his Memorandoms series, currently showing at Birch Libralato in Toronto as part of the Contact Festival, he created sculptures out of architectural and furnishing elements that remained at social housing project Little Mountain prior to its demolition in 2009.

At the beginning of the month, Nizam was generous in speaking with me as his show was being installed in Toronto. The resulting condensed Q&A is out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q You built these sculptures in Vancouver's Little Mountain housing complex just before it was demolished in 2009. How did you proceed?

A I didn't have a design governing what I was doing. I was just taking materials and working almost like a kid with Jenga. My basic restrictions were stacking, leaning, assembling and letting materials dictate the form. I think the most successful ones came out really quickly; they kind of border on collapsing themselves. Thinking about the structure that they're actually built in—this social housing block that's sitting there, towering and about to be knocked down—I kind of like that there's a mirroring between the form and something that's about to unbuild itself.

Later in the exchange, Nizam talks about the current state of Little Mountain—an empty lot. Though he most definitely sees his work as open ended and relatively neutral—ie. intentionally *not* taking a pro or anti stance when it comes to the demolition—I'd have to agree with him that this particular zero status of the housing project is sad, given that hundreds of people were relocated to make some new ostensible development happen.

In any case, it's worth keeping an eye on Nizam to see what he does in future. Besides one future project mentioned in the Q&A, he's also looking at carving up a house on stilts in a Vancouver-area harbour. When we spoke, the house was for sale for $1, provided the buyer was willing to move it to make way for a new development. Since that scenario seems unlikely, he hopes to work with the developer to make slits in the house frame to create a kind of "reverse sundial" and photograph the light that streams through the resulting space before the house is demolished.

More information about Nizam is also available through his Vancouver dealer, Gallery Jones.

I should also do a hat tip to Canadian Art managing editor Bryne McLaughlin, who brought Nizam's Little Mountain work to my attention.

(Image of James Nizam's Helix of Shelves from the Memorandoms series via Canadianart.ca)

Read More......

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Fred Herzog Q&A out in today's National Post

For 50 years, German immigrant Fred Herzog snapped pictures of his adopted home, Vancouver, without finding much recognition. Since 2007's survey of his work at the Vancouver Art Gallery, however, all that has changed. He's now well known as a great portraitist of Vancity, and has lots to prove it: a recent show and book release in Berlin; a current show at Toronto's MOCCA; and an exhibition opening in June at the National Gallery of Canada.

Earlier this month, I got to chat on the phone with Herzog about his work. The condensed Q&A that resulted is out in today's National Post. An excerpt:

Q What does it feel like to be in such demand after having worked for 50 years in relative obscurity?

A It's been astonishing. I always thought, "What I'm doing has to be to the standards of the best art." But I hadn't been successful showing it in galleries. Part of the problem was I never had the money to make big prints in addition to having a family. It hits me now that if I'd had this much success earlier in life I wouldn't have had as nice a life. The reason for that is life does not thrive on attention -it thrives on experience.

The web link for the Herzog isn't working at the moment, so I urge you to seek out a copy of the paper for more.

(Image of Herzog's Man with Bandage from his dealer Equinox Gallery)

Read More......

Friday, May 20, 2011

Long Weekend Reviews: Joanne Tod, Max Streicher & Alex McLeod @ Harbourfront

Starting on Victoria Day weekend, let's face it: nature usually beats out culture around these parts. Torontonians head in masses to the water and the wilderness (pseudo or otherwise) be it at the Hanlan's Point clothing-optional beach or Huntsville-area cottage country. My personal goal for the summer is to get outdoors more often, for sure.

Luckily, some culture can still be squeezed in along the way to the shore at Harbourfront, where the free York Quay exhibitions always make for an easy drop by. Today, I review three at Posted Toronto; they'll also be found in print in tomorrow's National Post Toronto section. Here's an excerpt:

Joanne Tod at York Quay Centre
235 Queens Quay W,. to June 12
The first Toronto showing of Joanne Tod’s Oh Canada — A Lament reads a bit differently now from when it opened in April. Featuring 154 painted portraits of Canadian soldiers killed in Afghanistan, it’s hard to look at this now and not have Osama bin Laden’s death, or its military-strategy implications, come to mind. Still, the power of Tod’s portraits reaches beyond recent events. Most fascinating are the personalities that come through in each of the artist’s five-by-six-inch panels. These faces (and Tod’s skill at rendering them) suggest many temperaments: goofy, shy, stern, wistful, confident, churlish, wary, friendly, self-satisfied, romantic, alert and more. Interspersed with these faces are painted fragments of the Canadian flag, a gesture that’s heavy-handed, but that underlines centuries-old questions: How do individuals decide to trade their lives for a country? Is this trade a fair one, and by which measures? How do we honour these individuals when they don’t return? Tod explains in a wall text that her uncle, a private in Princess Patricia’s Light Infantry and an aspiring artist, was killed in Sicily two months before the end of the Second World War; his photographs and letters, inherited recently, are what prompted her to start this ongoing project three years ago. Though Tod’s not the first Canadian artist to attempt a memorial project for our soldiers, she is one of the most accomplished ones to do so, and her interest in the loss of individuals — like the uncle she never met — makes her project stand out. Chillingly, room left at the project’s edges reminds us there are more losses likely still to come.

For reviews of Max Streicher and Alex McLeod's shows at York Quay, read on at Posted Toronto.

(Detail of Joanne Tod's Oh Canada A Lament installation from Harbourfront Centre)

Read More......

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Do Not Adjust Your Monitor! Jen Stark Video & Font Fix Experimentation

"Believer" by Jen Stark / Music by Dan Deacon from Jen Stark on Vimeo.

I had some fun this weekend looking at the op-arty stuffs of Miami's Jen Stark at Show & Tell. Though Stark's part of the show (the other half features Maya Hayuk) is dominated by drawings and paper sculptures, I thought the above animation was the best thing there. It's almost even better without the music—if you're a visual person like I am, that is. Just dial that volume all the way down. Interestingly, Stark started out in animation before seguing into object-based art. I think it shows, for sure.

On a related optical note, I recently realized that the font I've been using here on the blog can actually be larger. So I may be experimenting with that a bit. Just wanted to let you know it's not your eyeballs or your 'puter playing tricks on you.

Oh, but if you are interested in your eyeballs playing more tricks on you, I recommend dropping by Alvaro Illizarbe's installation at Narwhal. Lots of concentrically-drawn shapes pressed up against each other, wallpapered all over the floor and the walls. There's some related wall works hung in this crazy context. You can also buy a similarly printed T-shirt if you want to go all camouflage-style. Here's an example:

(Jen Stark video embedded from her Vimeo page; image of Narwhal's Alvaro Illizarbe installation from their website)

Read More......

Monday, May 16, 2011

On Cultivating the Art Habit

From what people on the other side of the fence tell me, attendance is more unpredictable than ever before at museums and galleries. Though many factors are likely responsible for this, I want to encourage institutions to keep considering the potential impacts of:

(a) my dead-horse-I-like-to-keep-flogging, high admission fees;

(b) the demise of arts education for children in both the public-school realm and the civic-service realm (this demise is exacerbated, I would argue, by those high admission fees, and by the lack of interest institutions seem to take in any government policies other than institutional-funding ones).

Along the latter lines, I came across some interesting insights on developing the "art habit" this weekend. These insights came purely by happenstance; my husband teaches music to young children, and he had borrowed some books on the topic from the library. (Thanks library!) One of these, At the Beginning: Teaching Piano to the Very Young Child by Rhoda Rabin, had this to say in the chapter "Art and the Art Habit":

What is the "art habit"? It is the love for and practice of art, the incorporating of formal expressions of beauty into the life of an individual, in our case, the young child. Our objective with early piano lessons is to develop the art habit in children, and to make the piano as natural a part of life as the telephone or the bicycle.

The cornerstone of teaching music to the young child is the absolute belief that young children can be accomplished artists: accomplished not in terms of the size or complexity of their repertoire, but in terms of their ability to produce beautiful sounds and respond to beauty, in learned as well as instinctive ways. Is it naive or overly romantic, this idea of the child as artist? Experience shows that it is not. Whether or not a child is precocious in other areas of his or her life, he or she can make music and experience the extraordinary dimension this power lends to a young life.

Young students are as deserving of the finest artistic instruction as conservatory students are. From the first moment the child touches the keys, we are teaching art—not "art readiness."

In quoting Rabin, I don't mean to imply that arts education is the be all and end all.

But I do think that arts institutions like museums and public galleries would be wise to pay serious (and not just nominal) attention to it, especially given that the National Endowment of the Arts has stated that "Arts education in childhood is the most significant predictor of both arts attendance and personal arts creation throughout the rest of a person's life."

Wondering how Ontario is doing on this front? Better than in the Harris era, but still not great, according to People for Education's 2010 Annual Report:

Less than half of Ontario's elementary schools have specialist music teachers on staff. A further 28% have itinerant music teachers who may be in the school a few times a week for programs such as band or strings, or acting as the music teacher. Only a very small proportion of music teachers are full-time, and generally in very large schools.

There are even fewer schools with specialists in the other arts. In schools with grades 7 and 8, only 18% report having a visual arts teacher, and 8% have a drama teacher.

Students' access to rich arts programs often depends on the abilityof their parents to fundraise, or, in secondary school, the flexibility of students' schedules and their capacity to pay fees.

Most schools rely heavily on parent fundraising to support the arts. This year, over 40% of elementary and secondary schools reported raising funds for the arts. Last year, 23% of secondary schools charged fees for music classes and 54% charged fees for art classes. Students who attend schools in more affluent areas, where fundraising amounts tend to be higher, are thus more likely to have access to arts enrichment.

I really think that if museums and galleries are worried about attendance in the long term, they need to focus on arts education for youth and adults, and reconsider their admission fees and programs in light of developing the "art habit" as well.

(Image from The Great Musician blog)

Read More......

Friday, May 13, 2011

Jamasie Pitesolak preview at Canadianart.ca

I had never heard of Cape Dorset artist Jamasie Pitseolak until recently, but when I saw images of sculptures related to his just-opened solo show at Marion Scott Gallery in Vancouver, my interest was definitely piqued: An Easy Rider–worthy serpentinite motorcycle that flaunts the head of an Inuit sea goddess. A stone-carved Fender guitar whose ivory inlays include an ice-floe evoking polar bear. A portrait of a Nunavut artist comprised of an inukshuk-decorated chair and a caribou-antler camera.

Fun stuff! So I chatted with him on the phone a bit this week and wrote up a previewy thing that went up at Canadianart.ca yesterday. An excerpt:

“When I started carving, I was doing traditional pieces,” says Pitseolak over the phone from his home in Cape Dorset. “I felt at that time I wasn’t really connecting with my inner soul, if you will. So I started doing electric guitars, and from there it kind of snowballed. I guess I wasn’t seeing myself excelling doing those traditional pieces because everyone is doing it, you know?”

Of course, there are other Cape Dorset artists doing "nontraditional" work that has been picked up on the "down south" contemporary-art radar: Annie Pootoogook, whose revealing domestic-scene drawings made her winner of the 2006 Sobey Award; Shuvinai Ashoona, whose fantastical montages were recently shown in the Canadian Biennial; and Samonie Toonoo, whose dark sculptures were the toast of Toronto last summer. And the current survey Inuit Modern at the AGO traces the diversity of this genre.

Still, Pitseolak's work does stand out from "traditional" Inuit carving. There's also a couple of quite sombre works in the show, which is a suprise given his usually humorous and lighthearted take. I found these prints very raw and painful to look at, and also very important. To learn about those, read on at Canadianart.ca.

Only a few images were in the article, so I'm posting more below:

Jamasie Pitseolak's Peter Pitseolak's Chair

Jamasie Pitseolak's Dad's Guitar (he says this is a couple of feet long, not full-size; he doesn't play guitar, but his dad does)

Jamasie Pitseolak's Lace Me Up

Jamasie Pitseolak's Two Barrel Shotgun

Jamasie Pitseolak's My Second Grader

More images are viewable at Marion Scott Gallery and Spirit Wrestler Gallery.

(Lead image of Jamasie Pitseolak's Sedna Chopper via Canadianart.ca; all images courtesy of the artist and Marion Scott Gallery)

Read More......

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Maslen & Mehra Q&A out in Today's National Post

Contemporary art often has a reflective quality, but this tendency comes right to the fore in Mirrored, a photo series by British duo Maslen & Mehra. For this series, the team (otherwise known as Tim Maslen & Jennifer Mehra) places human-shaped mirrored sculptures in spectacular landscapes before snapping a picture. Last week, just before their first-ever Canadian solo show was about to open as part of Toronto's Contact Photography Festival, the artists chatted with me about their practice. A condensed version of this Q&A is out in today's National Post. Some excerpts:

Q How did your Mirrored series begin?

Jennifer Mehra: We did a residency at the Eden Project in Cornwall, where giant biomes inform people about how we're related to nature. We wanted to play with little interventions in the biomes, but not actually leave anything permanently in there. So we were making mirrored sculptures and photographing them and taking them away. Then we thought, well, we're going to this location next, let's take these sculptures with us.

Q What are the sculptures based on?

Jennifer Mehra: A lot are based on anonymous pictures that we've taken of people in cities. But others are appropriated. The one in Hot Stream, Waimangu, New Zealand, is from an Issey Miyake catwalk....

Q Both of you spent a lot of time in Australia. Is there anything particularly Australian about your art?

Tim Maslen: I would say an awareness of landscape. I grew up in Australia and I always felt even though you're in the city, you hop in the car and drive for two hours and you're literally in the middle of nowhere: vast space, vast sky, vast landscapes. To then take that experience of growing up and be living in a metropolis like London or Berlin or New York ... personally I have this yearning to be back in nature but I don't like camping! Ha! So there's always this dichotomy that's going on. That's interesting and I think a lot of people feel that in the lives they lead.

It's also worth noting that as part of Contact's new cross-Canada programming, Maslen & Mehra also have a billboard at the Halifax Ferry Terminal to June 4. Their exhibition at Toronto's General Hardware Contemporary also runs until that same date.

Interestingly, the duo told me their next foray will be more into sculpture and museological conventions—reproducing or riffing on displays of busts from the Victoria and Albert Museum.

(Image: Maslen & Mehra's Hell's Gate Death Valley 2005 Courtesy the artists and General Hardware Contemporary)

Read More......

Monday, May 9, 2011

Recommended: Elaine Gurian's A Case for Eliminating Admission Charges at Museums

As ya'll likely know, one of my pet peeves/issues/dead horses I like to flog relates to the severely unaffordable museum admission fees we see in Toronto, and, increasingly, in the rest of Canada. My concerns around this issue have been exacerbated by the fact that many of the access measures that used to offset high admission fees in Canadian museums, like free evening hours or free access to permanent collections, are disappearing.

The reasons this decreasing access concerns me are manifold: first, the mission statements and policies of many public museums promise to maximize or at least prioritize public access; second, the charitable status of these institutions in part rests on meeting such an access mission; third, these barriers to access effectively, in my view, decrease public support (and eventually, taxation supports) for museums and the arts over the long term; fourth, the public actually owns many of the permanent collections that they are being charged through the nose to view; fifth, I believe the arts can play a crucial role in the health of some individuals and communities, and I want to encourage the wellness of our general population. I could go on, but won't.

Given my passion for these issues, I'm surprised that I haven't come across the writings of museum consultant Elaine Gurian sooner. In 2005, Gurian published an eloquent essay in the American Association of Museums' Museum News on the issue. It's called "Free at Last: A Case for Eliminating Admission Charges in Museums." I certainly recommend it for a read over at the AAM site. Here's a few excerpts:

If they remain oriented toward their paying customers, museums will never become the town square that we are so fond of talking about. Drop the charges.

I have reluctantly but unequivocally come to the conclusion that general admission charges are the single greatest impediment to making our museums truly and fully accessible....

To be clear, I am not calling for the removal of all charges to all activities. Quite to the contrary, I believe that to maintain fiscal solvency, museums will have to look for additional fee-for-service opportunities to increase their “per capita” income. I am, however, suggesting that there be free admission to the core functions of the museum, including permanent installations, and perhaps access to ancillary services such as reference centers, libraries, and study storage....

The reasons for a thorough reorganization of museum finances are not primarily monetary but philosophical. I am convinced that charging admissions fundamentally alters the nature of museums and categorically changes their functions and orientation.

Museums cannot argue that they hold the patrimony of all if only some can afford to see it. They cannot argue that they are the meeting ground, town square, forum, and safe civic space if only some citizens—those who pay—can take part. And they cannot argue that they are a resource for those eager to learn if the learner must first determine if she can afford to learn. There is a fundamental disconnect between the mission statements we write and the act of imposing an entry fee.

The operational arguments for establishing free admission are many:

-The admission process as the first experience is off-putting and adds to resistance by non-users.

-The ways that individuals make use of free venues is entirely different from the ways they visit places that charge. Imposing a charge makes the museum experience a special and occasional one rather than an easily repeatable one. It is the ease of entry and potential of repeated use, I contend, that converts institutions from “nice to have” to “essential” on the civic scale.

-Some have complained that the charges imposed by many museums are now exorbitant. The aggregate cost for a young family of four is sufficiently daunting that even traditional museum goers with modest incomes—some of our most motivated visitors—cannot come as often as they might wish.

-A need to offer reduced admission costs is recognized by museums that promote various free or reduced admission schemes. However, taking advantage of this requires forethought and planning and so tends to be used primarily by more experienced and organized visitors.

-The argument is offered by some cognoscenti that charges help keep attendance down, which they prefer. This is antithetical to our professed desire to allow all who wish to attend to do so.

Again, you can read the rest over at the AAM site. Gurian has also posted updates to her view on her own website, which are also worth a read.

As an aside, the last point listed re: the "cognoscenti" resounds with something I heard Swiss artist Pippilotti Rist says in The Colour of Your Socks, a recent documentary on her work. To paraphrase: Art can be like a fetish to some people; the more the majority of people don't understand it or don't like it--the more exclusive it is--the more this first group comes to love it. Movies are different; they speak to a wide range of people. Everybody "gets it." I'm trying to do something in the middle.

I guess my point is that our museums really need to do more "in the middle" too.

(Image of Canuck cash from CanadianFreeStuff.com)

Read More......

Friday, May 6, 2011

A Contact Crawl: Guy Tillim, Lynne Cohen, Ed Burtynsky & Abel Boulineau

A few CONTACT reviews and recommendations of mine are now up at Posted Toronto and will be out in print in tomorrow's National Post Toronto section. An excerpt:

Guy Tillim at the Design Exchange, 234 Bay St.
This show is a stealth heavy-hitter — quiet to start but it builds into a knockout to the gut. South African photojournalist Tillim begins with photographs of once-grand, now rotted buildings in Ghana, Benin, DR Congo, Angola, Mozambique and Madagascar, images that initially evoke oft-repeated themes of Modernism and its miscarriages. But as Tillim’s big ger picture grows with photos of discarded monuments, dilapidated government offices and done-in courtyards, one begins to feel the heavy weight of history borne by Africa and its people — a weight so logically obvious as to seem ridiculous mentioning, but one that, unmentioned, often seems insensible in the West. Redeeming and redoubling this heaviness are civic workers who peer out of Tillim’s photographs, people who soldier on, tenuously refashioning the frames of past occupiers into something hopefully honourable and new. One image in particular is a heartbreaker: a room in Lubumbashi’s City Hall where a tiny handwritten sign on morals — what to have, what to hate, what to fight for — stands as a small mark of resistance in a massive colonizer-built room. Highly recommended.
Also in the neighbourhood: Alain Paiement at Allen Lambert Galleria (181 Bay St.); Robert Longo at Metro Hall (55 John St.)

For capsule reviews of Lynne Cohen @ Olga Korper, Ed Burtynsky @ the ROM, and Abel Boulineau @ the AGO, and more picks, read on at Posted Toronto. And on a non-CONTACT related note: The revolving door for the north entrance at Metro Hall has been transformed into a music box by Janis Demkiw, Corwyn Lund & Duncan MacDonald. Very fun and totally worth a whirl while you're checking out the Robert Longos. Up until May 22.

(Image of Guy Tillim's City Hall, Lubumbashi, DR Congo 2007 from 21st Century Blog)

Read More......

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Elizabeth Milton Gets Ready for her Auditions this Week

Vancouver artist Elizabeth Milton is getting ready to do a talk-show-centric residency at Western Front this week. I talked to her about it for a brief Canadianart.ca item out today. An excerpt:

Vancouver artist Elizabeth Milton will kick off her own version of Inside the Actors Studio this week as she transforms Western Front’s Grand Luxe concert hall into an ersatz audition space. During the course of this May 9 to June 25 residency at Western Front, Milton and a team of amateur and professional actors (one of which is her mother) will play out scenarios inspired by a variety of phenomena: theatre protocols, job interviews, psychotherapy sessions, celebrity confessionals, reality television, prime-time talk shows and more. Related sets will be constructed too, and these, along with a resulting video, will go on public display at Access Gallery from June 25 to July 31.

“I’ve always been interested in the constructs of theatre and theatricality drawn from pop culture in my work,” says Milton over the phone from Vancouver. Her recent video collaboration with Vancouver actor Tara Travis, The Actor Cries, shows Travis performing different flavours of crying—crying as a soap opera character, as a comedy character, and so on. And her video triptych St. Theresa’s Basement, created with fellow artist Sheila Poznikoff, features amateur actors preparing for their church group’s annual Christmas pageant.

The Actor Cries was shown at Platform's Cabin Fever show in Winnipeg last fall, and St. Theresa's Basement in the group show This is Uncomfortable at Gallery TPW last summer. More info over at Canadianart.ca.

(Project sketch of Elizabeth Milton's Auditions from Canadianart.ca)

Read More......

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Toronto Culture Plan now Available to Public in Advance of May 4 City Hall Meeting

The City of Toronto's new culture plan is now available to the public in advance of its May 4 presentation to the City's Economic Development Committee. You can download a copy at the Live with Culture site. Here are the major recommendations of the report:

ensure a supply of affordable, sustainable cultural space.

ensure access and opportunity for cultural participation to
all citizens regardless of age, ethnicity, ability, sexual orientation,
geography, or socioeconomic status.

support the development of creative clusters and emerging cultural
scenes to capitalize on their potential as generators of jobs and
economic growth.

promote its cultural institutions, festivals and other assets to
enhance its position as a Creative City regionally, nationally, and

Keep pace with international competitors by making a firm
commitment to sustain Toronto’s cultural sector and position
Toronto as a leading, globally competitive Creative Capital.

More detailed subgoals for each of these recommendations is listed in the report. For example, one recommendation on access is to have a rotating cultural "hotspot" in city neighbourhoods. As far as I can tell it would be kind of like the "creative capital" program that operates nationally, designating the celebration of culture of a certain region for a year or two at a time.

I haven't had a chance to look at the report indepth, and probably won't until Friday, but I encourage everyone to check it out as it is basically a major document on the City of Toronto's arts planning policy, and the basic argument for Mayor Ford that the arts should have its funding sustained while everything in the municipal budget goes under review for the chopping block.

(Image of the cover of the new culture plan from Live with Culture)

Read More......

Monday, May 2, 2011

A Worthy Question at Artinfo: What Does "Emerging" Mean, Anyway?

There's much important news to discuss today: Osama Bin Laden's death, the Canadian election, etc. I'll assume that readers of this blog have voted or are planning to vote (though if you haven't, please do! Also, you may want to use this Michael Maranda–recommended matrix of where the parties stand on arts as a reference point), so it's time to turn to the *really* big question of the day: What does "Emerging" Mean in the Art World, Anyway?

I had been thinking about this off and on since a gallery owner took exception a few months back to me referencing one of their artists as "emerging" and questioning, in that context, what might happen when the artist "matures".

Lucky for me, some helpful research by Julia Halperin at Artinfo has saved me from actually doing my own post on this point. I was referred to the feature through always-also-helpful Art Fag City. Here's an excerpt of some of the definitions Halperin received:

"Between unknown and overexposed?" - Roger White, artist and co-founder of the journal Paper Monument

"Any artist who has a gallery but is not yet fully supporting themselves with their work." - Becket Bowes, artist

"An artist you may not have heard of or an artist you may have heard of. An artist under 35 years old, unless s/he has been in the biennial, unless that was basically his/her first major show, unless the work is at a price point above $50,000? No auction record? A young artist; an old artist who never had a solo show; or an old artist who has shown a lot, but in venues you don't recognize." - Sara Greenberger Rafferty, artist

Halperin also speaks to auction house representatives and academics. Their responses are worth reading over at Artinfo.

Overall, I look forward to what other commentary this new AI column on terminology brings up. Especially "contemporary"!

(Image of dictionary from Kingdom of Style)

Read More......