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Sue Carter Flinn
Halifax
January 10, 2008

I love that the Khyber Institute of Contemporary Arts scheduled Immony Men’s Taking Care of Business for January, when all I can see outside my work window is a pile of dirty, grey mush and unearthed garbage. Men’s individually photoprinted Post-it notes, when placed meticulously in a grid on the gallery walls, become typical office scenes with water coolers, clocks, characterless furniture, doors and plants. Each installation takes at least 10,000 Post-its, which Men systematically lines up during the exhibition in nine-to-five shifts. Ironically (or not), he told me that he’s been working lots of overtime.

 
Immony Men, Taking Care of Business, 2007, installation detail

At the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, Pictured: Image and Object in Canadian Sculpture demonstrates the tension between two and three dimensional forms by displaying works in both by twelve artists. The result is a wonderful distillation of ideas and artistic intent. Colleen Wolstenholme moves from her trademark gigantic pharmaceuticals to another controversial contemporary icon in Shrouded Figure. The gaze of this chest-tall concrete woman wearing a burka is obstructed from our view as she faces into three oil paintings of camouflage patterns (America, Finland and Great Britain) that when blown up look like parasitic cells under a microscope.

 
Colleen Wolstenholme, Camouflesh, Great Britain I, 2005, oil on board


Thierry Delva, David and Goliath (uncut), 2007, mixed media

Like a fleeting snapshot of pop culture, Thierry Delva’s Drawings From the Heart II: People's ‘The 2007 Hot List’ is made up of fifteen framed echocardiograms from celebrity hotties like Matt Damon and Johnny Depp. If you look closely at the patients’ names on the charts, however, these are all Delva’s heart beats. Beside them, there’s another celebrity in three dimensions: her David and Goliath (uncut) has a silhouette of Michelangelo's David - as innocuous an art subject as they come - carved into the door of an empty refrigerator. The interior light is on, there’s a glow around David like a postcard messiah and down below, near the vegetable keeper, a video of a pregnancy ultrasound that is in direct contrast with the static representation of the human body above.

David R. Harper, Guild, 2007, installation view

If you don’t know his name already, expect to hear a lot about David R. Harper in the future. The youngest artist represented in Pictured, Harper has turned taxidermy into a sculptural artform, mixing natural and human-made materials to investigate how we tame landscapes within our interiors (for example, moose heads, bearskin rugs, or ceramic birds). For this show, Harper embroidered classic sailor and biker tattoos on animal hides which were then framed in a row. Delicate thread and strong leather - and macho images of women - create an interesting tension. In his piece Guild, eight yellow polyurethane beavers sit in a circle on the floor, their tails embroidered with pretty flowers and birds, like samplers in granny’s living room.

 
Douglas Kirkland, One Night with Marilyn, Horizontal Classic, 1961, print

Not surprisingly, upstairs at the AGNS, Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend is still pulling in crowds anxious to get close to the infamous beauty. A traveling exhibition from Artoma in Hamburg, the large show is a mix of classic fashion and photos from Richard Avedon, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others, plus blond-inspired, iconic works by artists like Andy Warhol, Christo, and Peter Beard (no female artists are represented; none have shown any interest in Monroe as a subject, I suppose). I saw this exhibition right after Britney Spears’ paramedics had to push through a frenzy of paparazzi to get to her ambulance, which made it impossible for me think of it as merely a celebration of an icon (it was reported last year that Spears was to sing a virtual duet with Monroe in a fashion similar to Natalie Cole’s pairing with her late father). Instead, the crowds gathered for the guided tour became the most interesting part of the experience. Unfortunately, our own preoccupation with celebrity deserves a more critical examination than this show delivers.

 
Sue Carter Flinn is a Halifax-based writer, editor and artist. Currently, she is Arts Editor at The Coast, Halifax's alternative newspaper, and editor of Visual Arts News, the only publication dedicated to visual arts in Atlantic Canada.

 
Khyber Institute of Contemporary Art: http://www.khyberarts.ns.ca
Immony Men: Taking Care of Business continues until February 16.

Art Gallery of Nova Scotia: http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/en/home/default.aspx
Pictured: Image and Object in Canadian Sculpture continues until March 2.
Marilyn Monroe: Life as a Legend continues until February 17.

 

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