The hustle and bustle of the city is never more oppressive than in the hot and hazy days of mid-summer, so it was a delight and a relief to find an oasis of calm at one of my first stops as I made my way on foot and by bike through the local galleries this week.
I could have spent the entire afternoon in the main room at Diaz Contemporary surrounded by the alternating canvases of Pierre Dorion and Stephen Andrews, contemplating the subtle shifts in colour that each one explores. The former leans more towards the physics of light with crisper lines and cleaner surfaces, while I lean more towards the latter with his liquid evocations of cellular topography and mingling pigment. I had to tear myself away from Andrews’ grand painting of either a cool night sky or bubbles emerging from the ocean’s depths.
Arnaud Maggs, Downwind Photograph, 1981-83
Up the street at Susan Hobbs, an entirely other kind of exhibition has been put together by Jen Hutton. This seems to be part of a trend of galleries experimenting in the summer months by allowing younger curators to put together group shows. The Most She Weighed/The Least She Weighed is an attempt to create a portrait of a fictional woman through works by artists such as Arnaud Maggs, Liz Magor, Sandra Meigs, and Brian Groombridge that either address the body or memory as fragments of a unidentified whole. The puzzle continues with a selection of essays that Hutton has brought together and made available in the gallery and on Hobbs’ website.
John Massier, Dirt Hill Sled, 2011, mounted colour photograph
A couple doors down, Birch Libralato has a bunch of large photographs by John Massier on view. These snapshot documents of the absurdity of modern life are good for a laugh and recall similar work by the likes of Gabriel Orozco, among others, but in the age of flickr and any number of other websites dedicated to the endless uploading and sharing of every odd sight anyone in the world has captured in their iPhone, it’s hard to see what makes these worthy of being blown up so big and hung in the gallery.
Keith Cole, Three Bad Words, 2011, colour photographs
Over on Queen West, Andrew Harwood and Keith Cole make a jarring pair at Paul Petro. On the main floor, ex-Torontonian, now Winnipegger Harwood works the camp angle on an assortment of Canadian kitsch objects. From the surprisingly effective found abstraction in his chipboard panels (which he gives the title Winnipeg Stained Glass) to the Favor Ware ceramic molds than make up Mushroom Pyramid (for Will Munro), Harwood’s Prairy Style makes the case for a rural queer aesthetic.
The fun and games take a darker turn when you head upstairs to see Keith Cole’s Three Bad Words, an installation that appears to be the remains of extensive investigative activity addressing the media response to the crimes of Colonel Russell Williams. Cole’s critique centres on the exceptional status given to Williams because he was considered too “normal” to be engaging in such deviant activities. This is presented through grim snapshots of the artist in women’s underwear (much like the killer photographed himself), dozens of cartoon penises, notes, samples, and scrapbooks that suggest an obsessive pursuit of some inaccessible truth.
Thea Jones, Knox Pilgrimage
Another group show, this time of emerging new media artists, is on display at InterAccess. Thea Jones’ stuttering video greets you as you enter the darkened space. I found myself emulating that staggering gait as I made my way from work to work, grasping then double-taking the subsequent creative inversions of technology. Mani Manzinani keeps it relatively simple with a kinetic light sculpture of multiple parts, while Tamara Platisa and Sasa Rajsic ratchet up the tension with repeated overdubs of their increasingly cacophonous calls to each other.
Dan Rees, Titanium White, 2011, Acrylic on Canvas & Acrylic on Gallery wall (in two parts)
MKG127 was given over to young artist-curator Hugh Scott-Douglas for the month of July to present and re-present his tribute to remixing in Chopped & Screwed. The works on the walls and floor were rotated in opposite directions on a regular basis, leading to variations in their spatial relationships with each visit. This ever-changing nature was most evident in Dan Rees’ paired paintings, one of which was the only immovable object in the space. Georgia Dickie’s wheeled plinth added an extra variable by changing itself over the course of the month.
Jeremy Bailey & Geoffrey Pugen, What Goes Around Comes Around, 2011
There must be something in the air that’s unsettling gallerists, because a similarly mutating exhibition is also on display nearby at Xpace. Here a series of artists play exquisite corpse with the large main space. I dropped in at the midpoint after Jeremy Bailey and Geoffrey Pugen had taken over from performance collective Life of a Craphead. The current interior architecture is a cross between Vito Acconci’s Seedbed and Romper Room, but the piece de resistance is Bailey’s cloying instructional/contextual video that links this project to MOCCA’s tribute to the local artists of the eighties while making some wicked digs at them at the same time.
Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. He is currently working on an interview with artist Kai Chan, a profile of artist Micah Lexier’s apartment, and a book review of YYZ’s Byproduct. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog.
Diaz Contemporary: http://www.diazcontemporary.ca/
With the Void continues until August 27.
Susan Hobbs Gallery: http://www.susanhobbs.com/
The Most She Weighed, The Least She Weighted continues until August 13.
Birch Libralato: http://birchlibralato.com/
John Massier: KINGDOM - Selections from the Early 21st Century continues until August 27.
Paul Petro Contemporary Art: http://www.paulpetro.com/ppca/current
Andrew Harwood: Prairy Style continues until August 13.
Keith Cole: Three Bad Words continues until August 13.
Digital Alterities continues until August 13.
See website for current exhibition.
What Goes Around Comes Around continues until August 19.
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