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Toronto
Terence Dick
TERENCE DICK in Toronto 03/13/12
March 13, 2012

Given that we are a good decade-plus past the end of the 20th Century, the question, “Is it art?” is one I tend not to wrestle with at the far reaches of the territory we inhabit. So much frontier work has happened in the ninety-five (!) years since Fountain that you really can’t get hung up on anything too out there. We’ve spent so much time out there, you just shrug your shoulders and say, “Sure, it’s art, now let’s get down to business.” However, the same question in the other direction can often pin me to the mat. When the work has all the elements of art and is kind enough to appear in a gallery, the same question might just be a sly way of asking, “Is it good art?” Or, taking the line of inquiry in a subtly different direction, the question could also be, “Is it art or just entertainment?”



Tasman Richardson

Borrowing from cinema for his visuals and amusement parks for his architecture, Tasman Richardson seriously risks a descent, not into the land of the dead – as the title of his exhibition, Necropolis, now on at the MOCCA, would suggest – but to the level of a funhouse. The pitch black maze you have to navigate to get from video to video and then on to freedom is so immersive and disorienting, it ends up being more effective than the art itself (at least according to Murray Whyte in his review of the show). One wonders how much of this is the artist’s design and how much is contributed by curator Rhonda Corvese. As for the works themselves, they are either elegies (for technology, for saints) or psychedelic, and fall prey to an uncommon problem in the realm of video installation: they aren’t boring enough, which is another way to say they are over-stimulating. That's presumably the point, but unless such total-cinema leaves room for contemplation (cf. David Hoffos' similarly cinematic but very more subdued black box maze at the MOCCA in 2010), the exhibition merely replicates the entertaining spectacle of movies in a different form.

(For more architecture, a little bit of entertainment, a lot of elegy, and assorted detritus – all well lit in the foyer of the gallery - one can also take a shorter stroll up into Daisuke Takeya’s GOD Loves Japan.)



Stephen Andrews

Down the street at Paul Petro, questions of artistry fade as one stands in the presence of Stephen Andrews’ looming canvases; they are replaced by questions of representation, questions that are far more evocative and engaging, as one dances before the abstracted scenes taken from (found?) photographs that are almost lost in the distortion of light struggling against darkness. What they depict is postponed to consider how they are made, which is postponed to delight in the glistening surfaces and seemingly random irruptions, which is postponed as one tries again to make the images cohere. The drawings upstairs are equally entrancing, but there is a lot to see this week and so I must rush to my next stop.



Daniel Hutchison

Daniel Hutchison is also non-problematically a painter and his canvases at Angell Gallery are quick to introduce themselves, but hard to get to know. They are all basically black (with another tone occasionally coming through from below) and rely on the play of light across the texture of the brush-strokes in order to capture movement and patterns that evoke (even without the aid of titles) water in various states of agitation. It is undoubtedly a limited palette, but when it works, there’s something sublime in the darkness.




Linda Duvall

Back to the world of video at Gallery TPW and Linda Duvall’s The Toss: a double-sided document of her self-defense training with a half dozen instructors and the flipping of said instructors in scenes where self-defense might be needed. While I get the whole performative/collaborative/therapeutic background to the piece and am somewhat intrigued by the idea of the artist exorcising the police toss that inspired/haunted her, the execution is so visually crummy that I can’t stop wondering why the shooting and editing are so amateur. It works against the content and ruins what could have been an effective meditation on teaching/power/reversals/repetition/any number of things.



Paulette Phillips

A similarly tricky piece of specialized training plus role-playing plus collaboration plus documentation turned into an exhibition can be found in Paulette PhillipsThe Directed Lie at Diaz Contemporary. After learning how to conduct lie detector tests, the artist interviewed dozens of art world denizens in a variety of cities, asking them all the same questions – some of which would be quite incriminating if confessed to in a video that would likely be shown extensively in those same parts of the world the subjects lived and worked. The test results are displayed under glass and, except for a couple, rolled up and unreadable (I wonder if you can purchase specific people?). The results are unreliable anyway, lie detection being an inexact science, much like portraiture, which is what this ends up being and being about (portraits and about portraiture, that is). The visuals are dry - the rolls, some text pieces, jagged wall-mounted sculptures representing lines on the graph, and the video itself, a searchable database of person after person strapped in and responding “yes” or “no” as the machine draws its squiggly picture – but the idea sticks in my head and keeps me asking where the art is.



Arnaud Maggs

The art is not hard to find in Arnaud Maggs’ sly self-portraits at Susan Hobbs. For such a senior artist, it’s a delight to see a mischievous side to him as he dresses in costume playing tribute to both photographer (Nadar) and clown (Pierrot) while playing up his own past through references to his previous work. It’s revelation of self through deferral while also being a history lesson that teaches us the construction of identity goes way back.


 
Jesse Harris

Jesse Harris also borrows from the past but his roots are more recent. Most of his work now on display at Georgian Scherman Projects links to punk rock visuals, riffing on the iconography of that aesthetic while latching onto assorted bits of art and cultural history. The danger with this sort of appropriation is that a generation on from the Pictures Generation, it’s not enough just to reproduce something. Some of the works are guilty of not doing enough, but Harris might be headed in the right direction with his etched vinyl images. This is the kind of show that makes me look forward to the artist’s next one (if you know what I mean).



Laura Kikauka

Lastly, I don’t usually review shows that are no longer up, but I caught Laura Kikauka’s floor to ceiling mash-up of kitsch and pop music on its last day at MKG127 and I’m kicking myself for not seeing it sooner because now I can’t tell everyone to go and spend a good hour searching through the dozens of garage-sale-art finds that the artist refashioned with aesthetically appropriate lyrics from classic pop songs to lift both from the realm of the everyday into some weird visual poetry. A selection can be found on the gallery website. If anything, they render the whole art/not art/entertainment question moot.


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.


Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art: http://www.mocca.ca/
Exhibitions continue until April 1.

Paul Petro: http://www.paulpetro.com/
Stephen Andrews: X continues until March 31.

Angell Gallery: http://www.angellgallery.com/
Daniel Hutchison: Half-Light Over the Baltic Sea continues until March 24.

Gallery TPW: http://gallerytpw.ca/
Linda Duvall: The Toss continues until March 31.

Diaz Contemporary: http://www.diazcontemporary.ca/
Paulette Phillips: The Directed Lie continues until March 17.

Susan Hobbs: http://www.susanhobbs.com/
Arnaud Maggs: After Nadar continues until April 14.

Georgia Scherman Projects: http://georgiascherman.com/
Jesse Harris: Language Sex Violence continues until April 14.

MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/
See website for current exhibition.

 

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Posted by christopher hayes, on 2012-03-25 00:00:29
 
At the Hang Man Gallery in Torono this week is the AGO emplyoee's show and low and behold there is a painting of a smart phone bar code just like Douglas Coupland high lighted in your last posting. How many of these type of paintings will pop up in galleries in North America in the forth coming years?