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Terence Dick
Toronto
November 12, 2009

For the third report in a row, I’m going to start off with an anecdote about being an art critic. Something seems to be in the air as I was invited to give a talk about the thing that I do to the friendly folks at the Badminton and Racquet Club of Toronto. The main focus of the evening was an exhibition of work from Bau-xi Gallery.


Val Nelson, Tussle 2, 2009, graphite and china marker on drafting film

One of the artists that is currently exhibiting at their Dundas Street space also spoke. Val Nelson is her name and she crafts the kind of post-photographic painting that does its best to make an eye dulled by electronic media vibrate anew. I am happy to say she is largely successful.



Lois Andison, the floor’s the limit, 2009, 3-channel DVD

I had prepared my go at the lectern with the notion that the audience would be more inclined to the traditional modes of representational painting or gentle abstraction. I lean more to the conceptual side of the boat, but I’m always willing to give the canvas some attention, relaxing my critical/theoretical side in favour of a more poetic openness. I can talk colour, shape, and brushstrokes with the best of them and that seemed to be about the speed these club members were at.

Imagine my surprise then when my tablemate starts raving about Lois Andison’s concrete poetry machine at Olga Korper Gallery! Huh? I later found out that she was an exception, but based on her description I made an extra effort to head right over there last weekend (just as the exhibition closed) and catch a glimpse of the magical mechanics of Andison’s art. The machine in question generates a series of ninety-one words from the single word “heartbreaking”. The evocation of loves lost is lost and found in the seemingly random and surprisingly meaningful conjunction of certain words. This piece was matched with the wordless the floor’s the limit wherein the artist videotaped three separate female rollerskaters as they repeatedly circumnavigate Korper’s gallery space. One circles like an animal trapped in a zoo, another glides blissfully through the emptiness, each is a unique character in a solo dance that I like more the less I let myself think about it (which is what I tend to do with dance anyway).


 
Christy Langer, Reprise (detail), 2009, resin, fibreglass and oil paint

Over at Christopher Cutts, Matias Sanchez has hung some gigantic, childlike paintings of colourful figures on colourful fields that mean to be fun but feel like they’re trying too hard to be what they are… which is never fun. I consider bringing my daughter back for a visit (though she can draw better than this) until I head into the second space and see Christy Langer’s demonic albino animals strung up with string, stained with stigmata, or locked in gestures of rage. They are deeply unsettling and I’d worry about whoever bought them to hang in their home.



Mike Piergrossi, American Diet, 2008, acrylic, marker, fabric, collage on canvas.

Wandering west from the Morrow Street enclave, I notice that Switch Contemporary has closed or moved. I’d bet the former. Down Roncesvalles, in a tiny space at the base of a loftaminium, Tinku Gallery is finally showing something that made me want to go in (the space is so small, it’s easy enough to see everything from the window). The Art of Travel is a group show that has a couple nifty small-format works including Mike Piergrossi’s awkward-ugly seaside holiday collages. They look like postcards designed by Robert Rauschenberg.



Gillian Frise, Mystery at Redtop Hill: Thanksgiving, 2009, pen, marker, watercolour, pencil crayon on a drawing from a book

In an even smaller space (Paul Petro’s satellite site and the old home of Zsa Zsa), a large group of artists (including Amy Bowles, Gillian Frise, and Scott and Clint Griffin) associated with the Cuckoo Collection opened a group show last Friday. For the first time in a long time, I went to the opening and tried to peruse the wares over shoulders, in the midst of conversations, and squished alongside the art. It’s a hodgepodge of bedroom art that has something for everyone (unless you are someone who values authoritative demonstrations of technique and/or high theory).


Candice Breitz, Him, 1968-2008, seven-channel installation

I also managed to make my way down to The Power Plant to catch Candice Breitz’s various video projects. It was worth it just to witness the virtuoso display of editing that went into Him, her tribute to Jack Nicholson. At first I thought it was merely clever in it’s appropriation of however many dozen of Nicholson’s films, but as his dialogue with himself developed, it became apparent that this was just not about being Jack, but in fact about the existential crisis of the actor and an inquiry into the nature of subjectivity itself. Whoa.

The female version with Meryl Streep doesn’t have a similar level of iconoclastic fervor (probably because she plays characters while he is always just variations on Jack), but is still worth your time. Breitz’s other exchanges with pop culture didn’t win me over however and it was only with her double video portraits of twins that I was compelled to watch again. She lucked out with some great storytellers and, while it doesn’t self-criticize in the manner of a Gillian Wearing project, is rewarding of time spent under the headphones.


Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog.


Bau-Xi: http://www.bau-xi.com/
Val Nelson continues until November 19.

Olga Korper Gallery: http://www.olgakorpergallery.com/index.html
See website for current exhibitions.

Christopher Cutts Gallery: http://www.cuttsgallery.com/
Christy Langer & Matias Sanchez continue until November 14.

Tinku Gallery: http://www.tinkugallery.com/
The Art of Travel continues until November 30.

Cuckoo Collection: http://www.cuckoocollection.com/
Let’s Exist Like It’s Not Pretend continues until November 15.

The Power Plant: http://www.thepowerplant.org/
Candice Breitz: Same Same continues until November 15.
 

 

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