Category:reviews

Dreamland: a fitting farewell to summer

And… we’re back!

It’s officially September, and perhaps you’ve spent the last week getting back to business in a most eager and industrious way, relishing the smooth efficiency and predictability that the end of summer brings after months of working around everyone’s crazy vacations (lucky you). Or, perhaps the transition has been a bit (ahem) bumpier, and you find yourself trading productivity for daydreams, reliving your experiences getting off the grid, in the air to somewhere, or conversely, back to the land.

Either way, the Textile Museum’s current exhibition, Dreamland, is a worthwhile diversion and touchstone for your early Fall art viewing, a good way to ground yourself at summer’s end, so to speak. On view through September 30th, the show ranges widely in it’s interdisciplinary approach to textiles and the Canadian landscape. Featuring both fine and folk artworks that share an expressive and intimate relationship to a particular time and place, Dreamland’s curators juxtapose the traditional and historical (hooked rugs, handkerchiefs) with the contemporary and high-tech (video, installation), challenging the viewer to make connections between them.

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The air up there: Kimmirut Weather and Constructed Land

Summer travels always put us in mind of the weather and its extremes. Between sunny skies, stifling heat, and sudden storms, we become exquisitely aware of the weather, and how it may impact our precious few days of vacation. We check the five-day forecast, we debate packing the rainwear, and once we’ve left, we keep tabs on the weather back home, glad to be free from the heat of the city, or sad that we are missing out on some of the best metropolitan weather in weeks.

Perhaps with this in mind, Interaccess opened their summer season with an exhibition based in the documentation of weather from the far northern territory of Nunavut. We were lucky enough to have seen Constructed Land earlier in the month and had planned to write a review of it before leaving; that didn’t happen. Now we’re back, the exhibition is closed, and we’re offering up a brief après-view instead.

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Paintings with Names: Michael Voss at Birch Libralato

The eight works in Michael Voss’ well-edited exhibition, Paintings with Names, appear small, unassuming, even – dare we say it? – sweet. But their playful informality and seeming modesty of ambition belie a singular engagement with the very essence and act of both painting and naming. Since 2000, well before Raphael Rubenstein proposed the term “provisional” to describe a recent wave of abstraction with a “casual, dashed-off, tentative, unfinished, or self-canceling” quality (Art in America, 2009), Voss has pursued an intuitive, exploratory, even arbitrary approach which is tempered by his slow, questioning, and contemplative habit of working on several paintings at once. The result is a family of abstract images which relate compellingly to each other, even as they claim real and imagined territories all their own.

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Philippe Chancel, Jon Rafman, and Michael Wolf at MOCCA: Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces

Last weekend was your last chance to see the fascinating Collective Identity | Occupied Spaces show at MOCCA, and for those who were on the fence, we wrote a quick capsule review. Today’s update of our review features additional images, links, edits, and credits for those who couldn’t make the show.

Philippe Chancel’s 2006 series of photographs documenting North Korea’s national games ceremonies was worth seeing alone. Although it is possible to get a sense of the massive scale, brilliant colours, and sheer spectacle of the annual event from online images, one must see them in person for full effect, if only to realize that behind each of those changing background images are thousands of North Koreans holding up coloured cards in sequence (human pixels!). As bizarre and excessive as the images may seem to our more or less Western, democratic eyes, all manner of interesting visual associations may be made, from the overtly political (propaganda posters, social realism) to the crassly commercial (graphics worthy of an Asian candy package), to the kitschily pop-cultural (both Esther Williams’ synchronized swimming extravaganzas from the 1940s and a strangely silly ritual from the dystopian 1970s science fiction film, Logan’s Run, come to mind); and this is a good thing in our eyes.

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Water, Fire, Earth and Air: Isabelle Hayeur, Pascal Grandmaison, and Martin Bordeau at Arsenal Toronto



Intrigued by news of a yet another exhibition space opening near Bloor and Lansdowne, we headed up to Arsenal Toronto, a massive new gallery located on a dusty dead-end street across from an industrial strength scrapyard. The building, a nondescript metal box, bears no sign of what’s inside, except for a casually taped “45” on one door, accompanied by a helpful arrow and the words “Division Gallery” (not, as one might expect, the words “Arsenal” or “Toronto”). Galerie Division and René Blouin, partners in the much larger Arsenal Montreal space for which the Toronto branch is an outpost, are commercial dealers representing the likes of national and international artists including Allison Schulnik (Los Angeles) and Michael Dumontier and Neil Farber (Winnepeg), as well as established Montreal-based artists such as Pascal Grandmaison and Manon De Pauw. (As noted in the Toronto.com article on Arsenal Toronto, the latter two artists are also locally represented by Diaz Contemporary and Jessica Bradley Projects, respectively; it would be interesting to know what the communication has been between the dealers regarding potential future sales.)

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44 from the virtual floor of VIP Paper

John Baldessari, 2623 Third Street, Santa Monica, 2000, suite of four color lithographs with screenprint, overall dimensions 54 x 54 inches, edition of 61, Brooke Alexander Gallery


As the world’s first online only art fair, VIP has experienced major growing pains since it’s launch in 2011, with many collectors frustrated by tech glitches and dealers reporting low traffic and sales as a result. While the site’s capacity and interface issues are well known and improving, the question of whether the term “online art fair” is an oxymoron continues to be raised. To our minds, this is largely a semantic issue; regardless of what one wants to call it, VIP simply represents yet another web-based opportunity for those who have the art to show it to those who don’t (see our previous post on other online art-buying venues such as Paddle8 and Phillips de Pury, linked below), and the success or failure of any online platform will most likely depend on practical concerns such as whether the art is shown to best effect (sharp, high-resolution, colour-correct images, intuitive and glitch-free scalability, easy and consistent bookmarking for collecting, comparing, and return visits), whether the artwork information is complete, correct, and actually informative, and whether dealers are ready and willing to operate in a more transparent, service-oriented manner (responding to inquiries in a timely fashion, making pricing and availability information accessible, and instituting reasonable return policies where possible, since art sometimes has a way of not actually looking like it does onscreen) which is appropriate to dealing with the wider, more diverse audience that an online platform presumably draws. Improvements in any of these areas would be a welcome development.

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Object Lessons at Proteus Gowanus

While we’re on the topic of emulation-worthy organizations (see previous post on Nudashank), we would be remiss if we didn’t profile one of the most intriguing and exciting exhibition spaces we’ve seen in a while. Proteus Gowanus, tucked into a turn-of-the-century former box factory just off its namesake canal in Brooklyn, is a fascinating mash-up of art gallery, cabinet of curiosity, history museum, natural science lab, artist’s studio, and bookstore/library. Their stated mission is to “create an alternative, culturally rich environment…where the boundaries between the artist and non-artist fade, where images and ideas from disparate disciplines are juxtaposed to create new meanings.” This delights us, as with our own focus on curatorial experimentation and wide-ranging interest in all aspects of visual culture, TYPOLOGY aspires to become a similarly hybrid space from which to stimulate dialogue and ideas between artists, art forms, images, objects, and audiences. Like a smaller, Canadian Proteus Gowanus, we’ll seek interdisciplinary collaborations to create a spirited and engaging space for exploration and discovery.

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Valley of the dolls: Susan Low-Beer’s uncanny portraits



Recently we saw Susan Low-Beer’s newest work in an exhibition titled About Face at David Kaye gallery. Twenty-six heads mounted to cylindrical bases or spools and displayed on shelves lining three of the gallery’s walls were the central focus of the show. All of the heads were created using the same mold, into which Low-Beer pressed an array of texturally varied clay pieces in order to produce the range of dispositions on display. The artist called them emotional portraits.

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Ashes to dust: Swept Away at the Museum of Arts and Design



While in New York, we stopped off at the Museum of Arts and Design to see Swept Away: Dust, Ashes and Dirt in Contemporary Art and Design. Part of a series of exhibitions that “explore the intersection of traditional or unusual materials and techniques as viewed through the lens of contemporary art and design,” Swept Away features painting, drawing, sculpture, photography, video, performances, and installations which confront “the ephemeral nature of art and life, the quality and content of memory, issues of loss and disintegration, and the detritus of human existence” through the incorporation of fugitive and often discarded materials.

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CollisionExhibition: accrochage at Miguel Abreu



Intrigued by a recent Blake Gopnik post (the one led off by his irresistible tweet: “Pieter Schoolwerth slices and dices Caravaggio”), we took a closer look at the group show in which Schoolwerth’s fascinating painting, Portrait of ‘The Supper At Emmaus’ (after Caravaggio) is featured. Titled accrochage, a French word with multiple meanings encompassing small collisions, encounters, or hangings of the exhibition sort, the show is positioned simply as “an installation of recent works by gallery artists and others.”

Although no explicit thematic connection is made between the works of the eleven artists in the show, the exhibition is remarkably satisfying and coherent on both visual and conceptual levels. The disparate artworks, running the materials gamut between oils and acrylics, ink and chalk, synthetic felt, steel, 6-cartridge ink dispersion on powder coated vinyl, chromogenic prints, and unadorned postage stamps stuck directly to a wall, contrast markedly with regard to process and scale, but are unified by a decisive aesthetic sensibility which is restrained yet committed in its approach to colour and composition; spare yet sumptuous in its materiality and visual effects.

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