Artist Emily Davidson wheat-pasted wallpaper designs, paying homage to the great women agitators of the late 19th and early 20th Century, onto each 16.5-foot wall of the Khyber’s second floor. The result? An exhibition that’s beautiful, thought provoking, and functional. Referencing historic events where women workers were at the forefront, such as the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike, Davidson’s work may be aesthetically pleasing, but packs a punch. “The struggles of working women at that time were far from beautiful; these five vignettes also depict violence and hardship,” she explains.
The wallpaper designs, which Davidson printed using an antique printing press and photopolymer plates, serve as a clever response to the anti-industrial design aesthetic of the Arts and Crafts movement; the artist both involves and depicts the industrial worker in decorative form. Deeply rooted in historical reality, Davidson also considered the Khyber’s contemporary everyday realities as an artist-run centre hosting live music and events in the main gallery space: “By installing this decorative work directly onto the walls, I was able to create a work that dramatically changed the space but still allowed the full functionality of these rooms to remain.”
Wandering into the Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery, I was initially taken aback by the unusual placement and scale of the artwork. Playing with perspective, Jeannie Thib couples flat works stacked atop one another on the floor—their reproduction referencing an industrial, mechanical precision—with stencil-like wall mountings. Exploring relationships between architecture and ornament, originals and copies, Thib’s flat sculptural installations toy with viewer expectations of design and materials. Thib repurposes decorative historical designs, applying them to a wide variety of contemporary materials, ranging from neoprene rubber to aluminum to wool felt.
In Expanded Field, Thib screenprints a black and white floral pattern onto a plywood board covered with black plywood cut-outs of organic shapes. Situated on the floor, the work both confounds and attracts viewers, bearing a slight resemblance to a board game with no evident rules or logic. In Projection, a beautiful powder-coated aluminum wall mounting, the transfixing movement of light and shadow on the wall adds an additional element to the work. It’s hard not to reach out and touch each of Thib’s works. Though they may bear resemblance to one another in design, Thib’s works are each endowed with a unique material texture, creating unprecedented individual experiences.
Troy Lovegates, Last Angry Man
I couldn’t get my fill of DOWNRIVER , an exhibition at the new ( ( ( parentheses ) ) ) gallery and art projects, showcasing the highly detailed, imaginative work of graffiti artist Troy Lovegates (aka Other). Though perhaps best known for his large-scale urban murals on train cars and buildings, in DOWNRIVER Lovegates transforms discarded materials—found wood, old book jackets, bits of scrap metal, dresser drawers—into colourful works embedded with complex narratives, symbols, and secrets. His Halifax show also highlights his detailed and controlled linocuts, many of which he hand-presses with a wooden spoon.
In Searching, Lovegates emblazons a piece of deteriorating scrap wood with the image of a man scouring the trash for treasures in a pair of broken red high heels. Lovegates’ surreal character has two heads, one of which is affixed to a bottle containing a small boat whose passenger has released his oars and appears to be filling the bottle with his own tears. The works draw viewers in, as there are stories lurking within each story—never ending wormholes leading through the bizarre, fantastic world of Lovegates’ unconscious. It’s an alluring realm with no fixed location or destination, where unusual characters traipse irreverently across borders, time zones, and identities.
Jim Peters and Kathline Carr, Subcutaneous Reckoning, 2011
I hope you got a chance to see Dalhousie University Art Gallery’s Unbound: An exhibition in three chapters before it came down May 6. Featuring a wide assortment of unique artist books, books as visual objects, and a shredded mountain of archival materials, each work in the dense exhibition served as a mini-exhibition itself, each page a new canvas.
Gallery goers got the opportunity to slip on white gloves and handle one-of-a-kind artist books, featuring the works of over forty artists. Subcutaneous Reckoning, an intensely personal, collaborative publication by Jim Peters and Kathline Carr, added a degree of romance and intimacy to the digital graphics, matching haunting poetry to black and white photos of a woman with black birds painted across her naked body. The exhibition also featured Susan Mills’ Interaction of Tantra: an unusual coupling of her ideas and those of Joseph Albers. Mills literally stitches their ideas together, tacking cutout images and texts from Albers’ Interaction of Color—his famous 1963 exploration of colour theory—onto Japanese mitsumotta chiri paper. And John’ Murchie’s see what you think challenged perceptions of appropriate gallery behavior and identity pertaining to form through its paper shredder that emitted a mechanical whirring while devouring the gallery’s archives.
Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent.
The Khyber Institute of Contemporary Arts: http://www.khyber.ca/
Emily Davidson: Agitate Educate Organise continues until May 30.
Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery: http://www.smu.ca/administration/externalaffairs/artgallery/
Jeannie Thib: Hyperflat continues until May 13.
( ( ( parentheses ) ) ) gallery and art projects: http://parentheseshfx.tumblr.com/
Other aka Troy Lovegates: DOWNRIVER continues until May 30.
Dalhousie Art Gallery: http://artgallery.dal.ca/exhibitions/index.html
See website for current exhibitions.
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