A first peek at Contact

Sterling enjoyed her first press conference this week. Missing the remarks, I’d venture to say that her personal highlight of the Contact Media Preview was playing tag with MOCCA head of operations Brett Despotovich. She was also particularly entranced by Tundrunning, a looping video by Canadian artist Dominique Rey, which features the artist running through the snow and falling, clad in an absurd fluorescent green costume typical of those created for the series.

Dominique Rey

The figures in the works are all covered in layers of stuffed nylon stockings, sometimes hanging testicularly with filled water balloons or mounds of plush white cellulite. Similar in some ways to Cindy Sherman’s explorations of feminine persona, all of the photos document Rey in various uninhibited attempts to uncover “the other within.” In a short conversation, Rey described how analysis of her previous works unearthed a preoccupation with women on the outskirts of society. Rey has photographed the entire virgin/whore gamut- pretty literally- from documenting a disappearing order of nuns to living with exotic dancers.

Through the pieces on show this May at MOCCA, Rey embarked on the “futile” attempt to uncover the other within herself. Armed with a tickle-trunk of props, the artist travels to remote locations- mostly in her native Manitoba- and frees herself in bizarre posture play.

I was also lucky enough to have a chat with the gentle and engaging young Meryl McMaster. (You can also see some of her work on permanent display in Liberty Village in the foyer of the Mildred’s Temple Kitchen/Goodlife Fitness building) Her photos also feature herself in a variety of identities. The works were inspired by the “solo” portions of two Outward Bound trips she took in her mid-teens. During these adventures, participants are given the knowledge and tools to survive by themselves for three days in the wilderness. Half First-Nations herself, McMaster easily drew the connections between these sometimes boring, sometimes terrifying and ultimately expansive moments to the vision quests routinely embarked upon by native youth.

Wind Play, Meryl McMaster, 2012, courtesy of Katzman Contemporary

Wind Play, Meryl McMaster, 2012, courtesy of Katzman Contemporary

Each of the works in her series are inspired by a diverse interplay of a remembering of personal emotions and the attempt to delve into her cultural history. In Wind Play, McMaster conjures the excited youthful expansiveness of her Outward Bound vision quest into an enchanted personification of a playful beast that easily evokes sasquatches’ own first ecstasy trip. The artist created the costume by sewing together 5000 long balloons (the kind used for making balloon animals).

Contact officially kicks off tonight with an opening party at MOCCA. Tomorrow, join Material Self photographers Namsa Leuba, Dominique Rey and David Favrod for a talk at the gallery at 11:30am. Also, come to the gallery for a tour by curators Bonnie Rubenstein and David Liss on Wednesday, May 14 at 6pm.

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Namsa Leuba, Statuette Ndoki, Saleou Guinea, from the series Ya Kala Ben, 2011 courtesy of the artist

 

Header Image: Dominique Rey, After the Shower, 2011

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Looks good on Papier

I may have been just as excited for Sterling’s first train ride as I was for my first visit to Papier 14 this weekend. We arrived late Saturday afternoon, around the same time as the rain. Our late arrival caused me to miss Bill Clarke’s talk at the fair on Friday, and Leah Sandal’s talk on Saturday, though I’ve been catching up with some of their exploits on Facebook… The show was smaller than I had initially envisioned, but I have to give credit to Montreal for it’s wonderful support of the event. The red carpet, mushy and frothing with rain invigorated soap, was well worn by the constant stream of visitors piling into the pay-what-you-can exhibition.

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Wren Noble, At the Dance I, DC3 Gallery

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Wren Noble, Pigeons 2011, DC3 at Papier 14

 

Having a toddler in tow inspired us to trade Papier’s ubiquitous glass of wine for one of the biggest and mentionably divine chocolate chip cookies from the café inside the tent. As Le Gallery’s owner and director, Wil Kucey mentioned, the show is an interesting and refreshing cross-section of Canadian art. The work is diverse, and like every fair, there is much to serve varying degrees of taste. While some galleries challenge the definition of “paper based art,” by showcasing novelties, others simply bring out their best in the offerings of drawing, printmaking and photography.

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Andre Dubois, sombre crepuscule- read my mind 2014, Galerie BAC

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Ted Barker, untitled 2009, Graphite on Paper, Galerie Laroche/Joncas

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Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, Art Mur

 

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

Erika Dueck, Untitled- the ephemeral mind series 2014, detail, Art Mur

While there were a few pieces that struck me from galleries farther afield, one of the most exciting parts of the show was previewing some of the impressive summer offerings coming to town to a few of my favourite galleries here in Toronto. At PM gallery, Amanda Clyne’s deconstructions (Excavating Artiface, on now) was hung beside Wil Murray’s series of renovated photographs. Using photographs taken from a book of early travel photos he purchased while living in Berlin (Die Welt in Farben), Murray uses various techniques (collage, painting) to manipulate the photographs and then creates a negative so that he can reprint the photos. They are then hand-coloured and remounted onto their original pages from the book. Powell MacDougall, owner of the gallery, was excited about the recent purchase of three of these unique works into the RBC collection.

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Wil Murray’s work at PM Gallery, Papier 14

At Le Gallery, a massive example of one of Tristram Lansdowne’s surreal landscapes was unmissable. Two smaller works by the young artist, who was recently accepted to do his Master’s program at RISD, show eager experimentation into less narrative work. (Unfortunately I doubt his path will cross with his talented friend and Le colleague, Amanda Nedham who will likely be finished her current studies at the institution). Also of note were the grotesque Asian scroll works by artist Howie Tsui.

Finally, Balint Zsako’s mix and match drawings, displayed on a thin shelf running across the centre of Mulherin’s booth, created a minimalist space that drew instant attention in its contrast with the other galleries at the show. Each of the small framed watercolours, which are sold exclusively in pairs or larger denominations, is created to fit together seamlessly with any of the other works from the series. Apparently, the artist came to Katherine Mulherin with the concept days after the gallerist was approached about coming to the fair for her first time. Zsako, who was in attendance at the fair, will return home to complete the series which will exhibit all summer.

Balint Zsako's work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

Balint Zsako’s work on display at Katherine Mulherin, Papier 14

Don’t be Afraid to Ask

I joined Nicole Milkovich of the Love Art Fair, Alison Milne, and Anthea Baxter, director of Alison Milne Gallery at the Spoke Club this week for an informal presentation on starting an art collection. The overarching message of the talk was to get over any fears you might have of the “art world” and trust your own instincts about judging the merit of art. The trio related a series of common sense strategies on the topic of starting an art collection. As they stressed the fact that commercial galleries are retail spaces, their tips came down to sensible shopping advice. Here are a few:

  • Shop around- go to many galleries, art shows and fairs, openings, read magazines and blogs, get on gallery mailing lists- with the purpose of defining your personal taste in art.
  • Educate yourself- ask gallerists for price lists, read about different mediums so that you understand what your are buying.
  • Trust yourself- don’t be afraid to look stupid, acknowledge that different people have different tastes in art and that your preference is valid.
Aqueous-ii, Crystal Wagner, 2013, PM Gallery, $2100. This paper relief sculpture (framed in a shadow box) was featured during the talk as an example of work that may be found at the fair.

Aqueous-ii, Crystal Wagner, 2013, PM Gallery, $2100. This paper relief sculpture (framed in a shadow box) was featured during the talk as an example of work that may be found at the fair.

Milne relayed her own story of entering the art world.  Working as an interior designer, she decided she needed art on the walls of her showroom. She decided to ask an artist friend, Harvey Valentine, if she use his art. At the end of a relaxed evening and $24,000 later, Valentine had sold his entire show and Milne had decided on a new career venture.

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During the closing question and answer period the topic of art as an investment was broached. After comparisons to the stock market and playing your numbers were mentioned, Milkovich related an anecdote about a person who began collecting by buying a piece of work from an artist friend who needed money. The anecdotal starving-artist was Mark Rothko, which led to Milkovich’s advice “buy for love and if it’s a good investment you can be smug about your purchase later.”

Tonya Corkey, drier lint pulled through canvas,  2013, Alison Milne Gallery. The work was featured as an example of what to expect at Love Art Fair.

Tonya Corkey, drier lint pulled through canvas, 2013, Alison Milne Gallery. The work was featured as an example of what to expect at Love Art Fair.

The Love Art Fair runs May 8-11, 2014. For more about the show read my earlier post.

Header image: Ric Santon, a history over large and small accidents, 2007
acrylic on wood, 60″ X 54″, Parts Gallery. Santon’s work was showcased during the talk as an example of art that may be found at Love Art Fair.

Contact is coming!

The website for the ScotiaBank Contact Photography Festival is up and running, so check it out if you haven’t already picked up one of the glossy manuals that are circulate the city at this time of year. The festival, which is the largest of it’s kind in the world, turns Toronto into a hub of the photographed image bringing the works of world-class photographers to the galleries and streets of our evermore cosmopolitan city.

I’m looking forward to hopefully chatting with Canada’s preeminent photographer Stan Douglas (fingers crossed) as well as emerging artist and new mother Elaine Chan-Dow.

Stan Douglas, MacLeod

Stan Douglas at Ryerson Image Centre

The festival kicks off on May 2, 2014 at MOCCA. Take a look at the website for full details of artist talks and exhibition details and peruse some of the photos below for some exhibitions that are not to be missed. Also keep your eyes peeled for billboards along Dundas Street West, Spadina and Front street NE corner, Queens Park Subway Station, Metro Hall, and Pearson Intl. Airport, among other public locations.

Michael Awad, The Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, 2014

Michael Awad, The Entire City Project, ROM

Rob Hornstra, Mikhail Karabelnikov, Sochi, Russia, 2009

Rob Hornstra at Contact Gallery

Fausta Facciponte, The Opening, 2013

Fausta Facciponte at The Art Gallery of Mississauga

 

Varial Cédric Houin, Marbet, 2011

Varial Cedric Houin at Arsenal Toronto

Gordon Parks, Department Store, Mobile, Alabama, 1956

Gordon Parks at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

Header Image: Max Dean at Harbourfront Centre

FAC Off

On Saturday, I dropped off my husband and daughter at the AGO for some family fun time and stopped in on the Feminist Art Conference at OCADU. Only in its second year, the conference has enjoyed two fully sold-out events (with 350 attenders this year) and was endorsed by participants such as acclaimed photo artist Suzy Lake, and artist/activist d’bi young anitafrika.

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Suzy Lake

Talking to conference founder Ilene Sova, the story of the development of FAC is one that makes it hard to disbelieve in synchronicity.  Due to the highly charged nature of her Missing Women Project, then set to be shown at the Creative Blueprint Gallery last year, She sent out a call for submissions to set up a kind of discussion forum around the work. After a somewhat surprising and sometimes international response to a call for submissions, She decided to plan an entire conference, which was held at the Foundry for its inaugural year. FAC moved spaces after an OCADU student suggested it might be a better venue. Upon speaking with the student union, it turned out that OCADU’s students had expressed strong interest in feminist courses becoming a part of the OCADU curriculum. By the youthful gloss on the faces of most attendees, it seems we are no longer in any sort of “feminist backlash.”

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Performance artist Adriana Disman

The conference took place on the weekend of International Women’s day this year, March 7th and 8th and consisted of a show of visual art work at OCADU’s Beaver hall, artist and community panel discussions, and performances in dance, performance art and spoken word.

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Joan Lilian Wilson

The show at Beaver hall underlined a core philosophy behind the conference with art by newly emerging artists was shown alongside works by more established artists.  The artists were then invited to speak about their work as it related to a series of topics such as: well-being and patriarchy; body politics and language; division of labour; and others. She is quite passionate that the show and panel discussions being an opportunity for some of the younger artists to have a chance to participate in the kind of event that would normally be reserved for much more established artists.

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The vein of feminism supported by this conference seems to be a healthy one.  There are strong underlying values of mentorship, community, and health behind the larger idea of promoting and guiding various feminist art forms.  This overall theme was nicely summarized in the keynote address by d’bi. Unignorably passionate, it seemed at first to be an all-too-familiar rant designed to stir up a bit of frenzy, until she challenged the audience to commit their lives to their own self-care rather than “fighting a revolution” at the expense of themselves. It was a refreshingly realistic and achievable overall message that cuts into the core of challenges faced by many average women.

In my opinion it is this kind of wise simplicity, devoid of Mary Richardson style anger, that will make this conference productive and accessible to all.

Header image by Nikki White

C2-MTL: Toujours Plus Haut!

Have you ever been sitting at home watching TED talks on Netflix and started secretly fantasizing about how cool it would be to actually be there?  Or are you just thinking, “Wow Trish, it’s time for you to get out of the house!”  Conveniently, I have a response to both of these possible courses of thought. Last Wednesday I was privileged to attend a C2-MTL pop-up conference held at Toronto’s home to ambitious creative socialites- The Spoke Club. The pop-up is one in a series of events hosted by the club to celebrate their decade anniversary.

I commenced my evening off the couch by mingling with the Spoke’s creative types. It evolved into my more introverted fantasy of listening to a selection of innovative speakers. The talks happened live on the third floor of the club, and were projected onto screens on the fourth floor for those who decided to remain closer to the risotto samplings. C2-MTL is the brainchild of the internationally renowned creative team, Sid Lee.

If you’re not familiar with them, Sid Lee is a multi-disciplinary creative team which defines their strategy of developing products and brands as “Commercial Creativity,” hence the “ C2” in this Montreal based 3 day conference. Like TED talks, the conference brings influential and esteemed speakers to regale and inspire its attendees. It also hosts a series of workshops and networking sessions to promote the organization’s mantra of creative collaboration. The collective spirit is furthered by multiple social media driven opportunities for participation in the evolution of conference themes and installations.

The creative stimulation of the talks was easily the highlight of the evening. Mouna Andraos, one of the founders of Montreal’s Daily Tous Les Joursdiscussed some of her organization’s various projects geared at changing spaces and bringing people together. Daily Tous Les Jours’ website describes the company as leading “multi-disciplinary projects at the intersection of participation, design and technology.” One intriguing intervention was their 21 Balancoires (21 swings) project, in which a series of 21 musical swings were installed into existing unused structures to create community convergence in a relatively idle area within Montreal’s city centre. When used, each swing would create a series of sounds along an octave in response to how high and fast the participant swings.

Mouna Andraos speaking at the Spoke Club

Mouna Andraos speaking at the Spoke Club

In another project by DTLJ, Giant Sing Along, originally commissioned for the Minnesota State Fair, participants are invited into a field of microphones to sing along to a juke-box-like selection of pre-requested songs. By encouraging random public participation, the team’s projects turn potentially mundane settings into environments of creative engagement and community interaction.  Likely considered the realm of urban design, many of the projects could arguably be deemed conceptual art pieces.

Karen Ward spoke next, with her playful chat on curiosity- enticingly labeled “Curiosity is to Creativity as Sex is to Procreation.”  Though maybe not the speaker I would have initially envisioned to address this provocatively monikered topic, Ward’s vaguely flirtatious style of delivery combined with her research infused content left me truly wishing I was signed up to attend the conference scheduled for  the end of May.  Particularly compelling was Ward’s ability to simultaneously highlight the relevance of her talk to multiple audiences- and also to the multiple facets of each individual within an audience.

Karen Ward speaking at the Spoke Club

Karen Ward speaking at the Spoke Club

Were you aware that curiosity is an arousal response? In a lab, rats that fail to demonstrate novelty seeking behavior are considered mentally or physically ill. This provocative introduction to her discussion on our society’s disturbing devaluation of the trait led listeners past examples of our acceptable disregard of curiosity into solutions for fostering it in daily life and business. Some of her more instantly gratifiying tips on fostering this sexy skill included: allowing the mind to wander on Pinterest; using Evernote to record daily inspirations; stepping outside of your media consumption comfort zone; and making a “curiosity date”a part of shaking up your regular routine, such as traveling or even just going on a walk in an unfamiliar neighbourhood- an idea inspired by Julia Cameron’s classic text on creative inspiration. Try visiting her company’s website http://www.curiosityinc.com in a few weeks for more inquisitiveness encouragement.

As engaging as much of the content and delivery of this event is, the somewhat dizzying $3,600 price tag is sure to scare off most orthodox members of the creative class. If you’re desperate to attend but don’t think you can pony up the cash, consider applying to volunteer for the event- applications for various opportunities are due March 21 of this year.

Header image: Daily Tous Les Jours’ Giant Sing Along

The Artist Project

After penning my last article on Love Art: Contemporary Art Fair, it seemed like a good opportunity to visit The Artist Project to offer a review and some of my personal highlights. Unlike Art Toronto and Love Art, but like its sister project- The One of a Kind ShowThe Artist Project offers potential patrons a chance to meet the artists themselves, who are generally present in their booths.

The pamphlet for the show boasts work from over “250 top contemporary artists,” which can be a bit of an overwhelming undertaking for the viewer- especially if one is contemplating making a purchase. I’d argue slightly with the semantics of the pamphlet’s proclamation. There is a fantastic selection of contemporary work, and always an interesting selection of curated concept works dotting the periphery of the artist booths. That said, much of the work exhibited is contemporary only in the fact that it is being produced at this time, rather than being contemporary in aesthetic. Not really a bad thing, as it offers viewers a wide range of offerings that must appeal to many different consumer palates.

I’d argue with this aforementioned statement on another level as well- and that is describing the participants as the “top” artists. I wish I had been present for Leah Sandal’s panel discussion with various artists in their discussion of “Success as an Artist,” which was one of the five chats offered over the course of the show.  This capacious topic can only be touched upon after defining the kind of success the artist is seeking to obtain. At this show, the viewer will find many career-artists who have refined their skills in a particular medium and particular style. While their work is definitely worth the prices they are charging in terms of skill and effort, they are not all the kind of “top” artists that one would purchase if the piece is going to be considered an investment rather than an item procured for the purposes of loving and beholding. The show is a fantastic way to see a cross-section of practicing artists, and possibly to discover either an emerging artist who may be the art-world’s “next big thing” or an artist whose work you will feel honoured to support and have in your home.

Here are a few of my favourites from this year’s show.

In the emerging section, Bryan Belanger’s high-resolution photo collages feature endangered animals that have been created with images of ornate filigree jewellery and other precious material- think Arcimboldo but more precious and high-tech. The work is quite stunning as it is meticulously produced. The artist is unapologetic about the simplicity of  his work’s metaphor and donates 25% of his proceeds to the WWF.

Alex Curci

Alex Curci

 

Also in the emerging section was the work of Alex Curci. Apparently arising from extensive sketching, these automatic-looking acrylic works come from a process of building-up and removing to create a webby gauze of paint describing the artist’s musings on the hidden back end avenues of technological infrastructure.

Laird Kay

Laird Kay, Lego City photograph shown with sample of original model

Laird Kay is a photographer who was particularly interested in architectural spaces until the ever evolving lego work created by his partner’s nervous hands seduced him into a playful documentation. The full-scale photograph of the “lego-city,” which spans the length of their basement, is shot on a completely flat white background giving the entire piece the illusion of being a print rather than a photograph. Detail shots highlight the intense candy colours of the toys or seek to create further illusion by being shot from with a wet lens. I’d love this artist to visit the AGO and peruse the work of Kim Adams, and then the rest of us can sit back and home for further conceptual developments in these chronicles.

Dana Filibert- sculpture painted to reflect the tone of a 1970's era Pinto

Dana Filibert- sculpture painted to reflect the tone of a 1970’s era Pinto

Dana Filibert in her booth

Dana Filibert in her booth

I will make an admission here: I have a terrible fear of horses. My grandfather was a cow-boy (literally, he rode saddle-bronc in the Calgary Stampede). Growing up in the city, I was exposed to horses with the heavy doses of caution that comes from those familiar with them- but not given any exposure to their supposed finer qualities. For years I feared if I rode them they would bite me, and of course when I finally did, I ended up with a huge blue-purple welt to offer as temporary proof for my fears. But I digress. I mention this because I find it hard to walk by “horse-art” without making note, and I must be very careful not to applaud it all. All that said, I believe the work of American Dana Filibert stands out.  In a light-hearted critique of the American auto-industry’s obsession with horse-power, she has created a series of 3D collages fashioned from steel hemispheres, found objects, high-density foam and a 2 part epoxy she learned to use while restoring dinosaur fossils. The pieces are then sprayed in thick layers of auto paint.

Samuel | 20 x 24

Samuel, by Richard Ahnert

If you’ve done the art/craft-show circuit, you’ve likely seen the work of Richard Ahnert. His oil paintings generally feature archetypal human figures anthropomorphized with animal heads. Part of me wants to criticize the work as a bit too hip or predictable, but the unarguable skill of Ahnert’s painting style combined with his actual choices of human/animal combinations makes me hesitant to do so. Also, the frames on this work are beautiful and often in keeping with the theme of the particular painting. It’s very easy to see how his work sells as well as it does.

Jesse Bromm is currently completing a residency at the Harbourfront Centre in their glass studio. His work is a fine example of what the show has to offer in the area of contemporary material art. Working extensively with well-placed railway figurines, his work addresses “what’s under the surface” of society- in terms of dirt, death, and taboo.

Claudia Cote with mountain-inspired sculpture

Claudia Cote with mountain-inspired sculpture

The body of work at the show presented by Quebec “sculpteure” Claudia Cote was largely completed on a residency to the Banff Arts Centre provided to her by the Quebec council for the arts. Cote uses wood and traditional wood-working techniques to create highly untraditional and often geometric (mountain-inspired)  forms examining native traditions and identity. During this residency Cote made some of her own plywood which she then filed away to play with the colours she found so inspiring in the mountains.

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I want to describe Elaine Chan-Dow’s large format interiors crosses between Robert Polidori’s opulent Versaille’s work and Andreas Gursky’s architectural abstractions. Her documentaries of literary spaces were a featured exhibition in last year’s International Festival of Authors, and is also a featured exhibition at this year’s Contact Festival at IX Gallery from April 25-May 30 this year. I’m super excited (yes, I just said super excited) about the caliber of her work. She’s an example of the kind of up-and-comer you might discover at this show. Let’s hope she’ll grant me an interview so we can hear more about her in the spring.

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Stewart Jones

I met Stewart Jones and Rob Croxford while preparing for a Canadian Art Gallery hop tour I was leading down Ossington a few years ago. Jones’ Toronto landscapes are heavily based in his street-level meditations of light, shadow, and patterns created through the detritus of lines floating in our urban sky. Keep up with his regular shows done with in participation with the landscape painting collectives he is a part of: CityFieldNorthShore and CanadianArtCollective, and check out this earlier post about his work.

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Don’t step on Rob Croxford’s shoes!

I want you to pay attention to Croxford’s shoes in this photo. The sole is a vibrant turquoise and for this reason they are of special mention. Croxford has perfected a light-hearted and funny retro aesthetic once confined to toys and video-games, which now includes darkly faded urban landscapes and birch forests. Don’t be afraid to talk to this highly personable artist at one of his regular shows, for more information check out this earlier post about his work.

Nature, It's cheaper than Therapy, by Rob Croxford

Nature, It’s cheaper than Therapy, by Rob Croxford

Header image: I’m only Human (Entrance Installation), by Labspace Studio (John Loerchner & Laura Mendes)