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Terence Dick
TERENCE DICK in Toronto 11/08/11
November 08, 2011

This week’s report will be out of the ordinary in two ways. First: most of the exhibitions I’ll be covering were short affairs that are now long over, so if you missed them, you’re out of luck. We here at Akimblog like to have our reviews tied to still-standing shows for the sake of you the gallery-goer, but until we get our Twitter-army up and running (oh, and it’s coming, just you wait!), weekend-long events and one-night screenings must sometimes take up space in the columns. Second: there will be a touch of nepotism in evidence. Given the insular nature of the Canadian art scene, it’s hard enough to avoid some connection with the folks you’re reviewing (and I do my best to be as anti-social as possible just so I can retain my objectivity [the things I do for journalistic integrity!]), but this week was something special, what with Akimbloggers repeatedly popping up in my line of sight. 

Ted Fullerton, Knuckle Dragger, 2010, cast resin, concrete

Truth be told, the first Akimbo-ite was me. Along with curators Camilla Singh and Catherine Dean, I helped select a collection of large-scale sculptures for value-added fun at this year’s Art Toronto/Toronto International Art Fair. And, if I do say so myself, we did a pretty good job! I’m particularly proud of my adamant inclusion of Ted Fullerton’s Knuckle Dragger (though I don’t remember any strong opposition to it either). The rest of the works provided a more ambitious lineup of artists than what most galleries were comfortable hanging in their booths, but if you’re going to talk ambitious then Kent Monkman’s maze-like The Art Game installation takes the cake. A series of live-action dioramas playing out the standard art world roles in non-standard performances were to be found in this extensive construction. Derek Liddington added to the fair’s fun with his own masked and roaming dancers who combined the antagonism of West Side Story with the conceptualism of Sol LeWitt. And the Art Gallery of York University threw their hat into the ring by handing over their booth to H.A.M.S. (the Holiday Arts Mail-Order School), a long-running correspondence course run by Derek McCormack and Ian Phillips. All these special projects helped to quell the pimply, anti-commercial art snob who dwells just below my surface and convert me into an enthusiastic art fair booster for the first time in a while.

Yshia Wallace

Across town in the same place and at the same time as what used to be known at the Toronto Alternative Art Fair, The Gladstone Hotel was playing host to UPART, an alternative art fair in all but name. Front and centre in the main space after you come up the stairs was a hanging sculpture/mobile by Akimbo web admin Yshia Wallace. To the left was a room featuring our Hamilton correspondent Stephanie Vegh and her swarming bee drawings. To the right was Akimbo’s social media guy (and artist!) James Fowler helping with the ArtBarrage art auction to benefit War Child. I gravitated to Svava Thordis Juliusson’s accumulative cable tie sculptures that hung like robotic insect offal on the walls of KWT Contemporary’s room, before heading upstairs to view the post-street art shenanigans of the artists collected by Britt Welter-Nolan and Show & Tell Gallery’s Simon Cole in a group show called Post-Graffiti that you can still catch as it’s up until the 20th. I’m still not feeling anything from Shepard Fairey but some of the other, more pseudonymous artists made me look twice. This exhibition is tied to the city-wide Marshall McLuhan centenary celebrations that are happening as we speak.

Donigan Cumming, Too Many Things, 2010, video

Any number of contemporary artists run with the ideas McLuhan proposed in relation to media. Montrealer Donigan Cumming is an unlikely candidate to join this gang of high theory nerds, but an argument can be made that he is actually quite deserving of the hyperlink. As he proclaimed in his Akimbo Hit List last week, his subjects are Oprah’s audience, and his use of video cameras to memorialize is nothing short of futuristic (if, as they say, the future is now). His focus on elderly, impoverished, and marginalized people, however, yanks him away from an easy game of technophilia into far more complex territory. In shorts like Petit Jésus and longer works like Too Many Things and Fountain, he deals with flesh and blood entities in a manner both compelling and ethically queasy. Pleasure Dome recently screened a selection of his work to coincide with the release of a book of essays on his films published by the Canadian Film Institute and entitled Splitting the Choir.

Jenn E Norton, Very Good Advice

Farther west at Gallery 1313, gallery director Phil Anderson has curated a program of new media artists supposedly influenced by McLuhan. As I suggested above, you’d be hard pressed not to find an artist working with electronic media who wasn’t processing the original Eminem in some way. And if he or she wasn’t, then that would be a problem. That said, tech for the sake of tech has never been my thing and so the stand-out works here are two videos by Jenn E Norton that make use of relatively lo-fi special effects to evoke the kind of modern day alienation that used to appear in synth-pop videos and films like Electric Dreams. The exhibition is still up, so you can make the trip down there to see it, or jack into the interweb and watch it directly from the artist’s website. In the future, all exhibitions will be online. And they’ll never close.

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, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog.

Toronto International Art Fair:

Pleasure Dome:

Gallery 1313:
The Message continues until November 13.



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Posted by Svava, on 2011-11-08 18:55:23
Thanks for the mention of my ´robotic insect offal´!

Posted by Taksort because, on 2011-11-08 12:38:44
Kudos to the curatorial team for including Ted Fullerton's Knuckle Dragger at the TIAF sculpture section. Though I was unfortunately unable to attend and view the festival, I believe Fullerton's visceral sculptures with one toe connected to the classical world deserve a wider audience.

Best regards,
Val Nelson