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Akimbo is a Toronto-based company that promotes contemporary visual art, video, new media and film locally, nationally and internationally via the internet. Established in November, 1999, Akimbo has built a readership of more than 6,800 Canadian and international media and visual arts professionals and a client base of some of the country's most important galleries, museums, art institutions and film and video festivals.

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  • 12/02/14--05:21: Mark Neufeld at Gallery 1C03
  • “What is the appeal of an image of a fort?” Twice a performer in Mark Neufeld’s Re-Enactments asks the question; both times it goes unanswered. I mean really, who cares? Questions of “caring” – who cares, how, why, and to what end – turn out to be central concerns in Neufeld’s meandering, occasionally claustrophobic, and ultimately rewarding exhibition at University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03.

    Mark Neufeld, Re-enactments

    Neufeld scavenges institutional art collections, junk shops, and the Internet for artifacts of the colonial past, bits of Roman mythology, and the trappings of modern-day curatorship, arranging found objects and borrowed artworks in artfully haphazard installations. Those same objects reappear in paintings and collage works, which he handles with a similarly mannered nonchalance, and they serve as props in periodic scripted performances.

    Re-enactments paraphrases and expands on Performance with Two Sculptures, a 2013 exhibition in Lethbridge in which Neufeld’s curated cacophony orbited a pair of bronze broncobusters by Frederic Remington. Alongside canvases showing the sculptures being felt up by white-gloved hands, two Remingtons from the University of Manitoba’s collection anchor the current show. These serve as a point of departure for an extended meditation on local “frontier” depictions, focusing on views of Upper Fort Garry, the now-ruined HBC trading post at the heart of Winnipeg’s contemporary downtown.

    At the entrance to the gallery, a giant oil-on-canvas reproduction of a catalogue for Dreams of Fort Garry, a 1999 HBC-sponsored historical show at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, faces a monochrome mirror image of itself. Neufeld transmutes the battered, sage-coloured cover into solid chroma-key green, the “image of a fort” replaced by a literal (if speculative) site of projection. The large paintings bookend a scattering of borrowed works on paper, some featured on the back of the catalogue (the original is draped over an improvised display case housing one of the Remingtons).

    Mark Neufeld, Re-enactments

    In the performances, two female actors slip between the roles of a wide-eyed, Whitmanesque sex worker, the distraught wife of a British colonial officer, a curator, and a performance artist. The script interweaves the first two women’s wildly differing accounts with the story of Cura, the Roman goddess whose name gave us several words for “caring.” While the role of gender in received notions of “care” and Neufeld’s particular treatment of it here could bear more scrutiny, the script’s unlikely mythological turn does go partway toward explaining “the appeal of an image of a fort.”

    Having sculpted it from dirt, Cura was given the first human “to have and hold it as long as it lives” – both a gift and a burden. For better or worse, these antiquated and even disagreeable colonial artifacts – fort pictures and cowboy sculptures alike – are ours to reckon with until they, like us, return to dust. Rather than “who cares?” the real question is whether our caring, which seems inevitable or at least proscribed, elevates us or drags us down.

    Gallery 1C03:
    Mark Neufeld: Re-enactments continues until February 14

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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    If there were an award for most disheartening movie of 2014, Wendy Coburn’s short experimental documentary Slut Nation: Anatomy of a Protest, now screening at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, would be at the top of my list. Which is not to say it’s not worth seeing. Far from it. This film should be required viewing for everyone in Toronto and anyone in the world who is concerned about the role of the police and whose interests they serve (which, in the wake of Ferguson, should be just about everyone in the world). With only two weeks left before the exhibition closes, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more media attention to Coburn’s revelations, particularly since media manipulation is what she, in part, documents. Our leading news sources got punked, but I’m only hearing about it through word of mouth, running into curators in the galleries or filmmakers at dinner parties, everyone saying this is a film to be seen.

    Wendy Coburn, Anatomy of a Protest

    The backstory is familiar. The protest being anatomized is the first Slutwalk in 2011. The now-international phenomenon was sparked by a comment made by a police officer at a York University safety and security panel. His suggestion that women could avoid sexual assault by not dressing like sluts was the catalyst for a public demonstration against victim-blaming. In videotaping the event, Coburn discovered a counter-narrative at work in a disturbing bit of theatre perpetrated by certain participants in the march. She later found that much of the media coverage focused on these clownish and exuberant figures whose messaging seemed convoluted or, at least, distracting compared to the majority of the marchers. Now, sad as it may seem, it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that there would be undercover cops amongst the crowd at any political gathering. However, by following the strangers in her play (and later following up with research on social media and footage from previous protests like the G20 demos in 2010), Coburn discovered that they were in fact members of the Toronto Police Service who were not only recording the event and its participants, but were actively skewing the message and, in fact, ridiculing it, not simply to the crowd but to the world at large through their prominence in the news. Given that one of their own was, in a sense, the target of this protest, could this be their retaliation? If so, who organized it? And, in light of the violence that ensued at the G20, could the police be instigating their own “performance events” by setting up situations and perhaps even playing them out to justify their own presence? The part of the movie focused on the conveniently abandoned police cars that were inevitably torched could be called “Manufacturing a Riot.” The lesson is, and again it’s depressingly unsurprising in light of the past couple weeks, that the police protect their own. We the people are in the end abandoned as well.

    Carolee Schneemann, Fuses, 1965, 16mm film

    A different kind of documentary exhibition is on display at G Gallery in Dear Carolee: Carolee Schneemann in Letters. The ground breaking performance artist, filmmaker, visual artist, etc. is presented through a couple examples of her work (some films are shown on monitors), but is largely seen through her correspondence with collaborators (like the composer James Tenney) and colleagues. For artists of the present, this kind of ephemera is now in the hands of Mark Zuckerberg, but back then it was scurried away into forgotten drawers or stuffed in filing cabinets gathering dust in basements by correspondents clever or prescient or egotistical enough to think they’d be important one day. And just by coincidence they are, but I'm not sure what value these letters detailing the lives and passings of cats, struggles with affording film gear, and the neverending story of downsized art departments (including a rejection letter from OCA to Stan Brakhage!) has other than to remind us that things today aren’t much different.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Wendy Coburn: Anatomy of a Protest continues until December 19.

    G Gallery:
    Dear Carolee: Carolee Schneemann in Letters continues until January 10.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    With a high profile Cezanne show also on at the Art Gallery of Hamilton, Painting Hamilton could have easily been sidelined. Instead, the ten local painters dominate a larger share of space and shine brightly, in part because of the refreshingly understated presentation of the Frenchman’s The World is An Apple, which is generously spaced and uninterrupted by excessive didactics.

    Christina Sealey, Anna

    Painting Hamilton encourages slow, unmediated viewing, particularly for David Hucal’s aloof abstractions whose rich mark making defies discernment. Daniel Hutchinson demands similar scrutiny, but delights instead in washing his black canvases with altered fluorescent tubes. This painterly concern with light suffuses Matthew Schofield’s vast array of oils imitating the scale and accidents of 20th Century amateur snapshots: the rusty corona of a misplaced thumb, red-eyed pets, the stark eroticism of a camera flash on white flesh.

    The show’s gems come in all sizes: Catherine Gibbons’ epic friezes of flame-filled industrial smoke induce a visceral chill and anchor the unexpected qualities in Christina Sealey’s newest paintings at either side. The rare glimpse of a study for Untitled (Hollie) is shockingly monumental, and made subtler in a final version that showcases Sealey’s deft eye for detail while perching its figure at an eerie black precipice, illuminated by a cold light that, unlike Hutchinson’s fluorescent tubes, is without a clear origin.

    While both artists and works could yield easy associations, curator Melissa Bennett wisely resists reductive comparisons in favour of an installation that lets each be seen for their own merits. She trusts the viewer to recognize how abstractions like Beth Stuart’s Doppelbanger paintings relate to the touch of Lorne Toews’ brush. While classically figurative, Toews embraces moments where paint supersedes realism; where flawlessly executed form yields to raw light and reveals the slippages that keep the medium so compellingly eternal.

    Art Gallery of Hamilton:
    Painting Hamilton continues to February 8.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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    One of the many narrators who is and is not Vera Frenkel in the retrospective of her works now on display at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art says at one point (in this case in the video The Secret Life of Cornelia Lumsden: A Remarkable Story, Part 2 “…And Now The Truth” (A Parenthesis)), “We resort to narrative.” This pat phrase could be the title of her exhibition or a concise response to the question of what she does as an artist. The allusiveness of the answer is appropriate for someone who has spent the past four decades eluding easy identification in the pursuit of an art that enacts even more than it reflects the flux of modern life.

    Vera Frenkel, The Secret Life of Cornelia Lumsden, 1979/1986

    The predominant conduit for the last century of flux has been technology of two sorts: communication and transportation. Frenkel tackles the former by embracing a catholic array of media from collage and video to teleconferencing and computer graphics. Her work takes on many forms, blending elements of text, voiceover, visuals, and supporting documentation (which can be deceiving due to the institutional discourse she often inhabits), but it culminates here in an environment slash video salon slash relational installation avant la lettre titled …from the Transit Bar. The theme of human transport is thus also in evidence in this temporary rest stop for the nomads whose peregrinations through history, across boarders, and around cities populate her stories. If there is one thing that holds steady throughout, it’s the artist’s voice – though often in the guise of officious administrators whose typically elliptical discourse envelope and camouflage the author. In the end, those words are her medium, which makes sense since she was a poet in a previous life. Whatever form they take, the stories she and we resort to hold our history and our selves together – though they also happen to be the medium where we drift apart.

    Note: Be sure to fully embrace the Frenkel experience by visiting the gallery in the evenings when the Transit Bar is in operation: drinks are served and a piano man is tickling the ivories. It’s the perfect respite from the holidays’ consumer frenzy. See the MOCCA website for times.

    Althea Thauberger, Preuzmimo Benčić (Take Back Benčić), 2014, film

    Althea Thauberger, who is currently exhibiting her hour-long video Preuzmimo Benčić and supporting research material at Susan Hobbs Gallery, mines a similar territory to Frenkel with work that emerges from the nexus of globalization and recent historical shifts. She is concerned with narratives and a polyphony of voices, but instead of taking the role of speaker and acting them out herself, she steps back and defers authority to the players. In this case they are a group of Croatian children who have collaborated with the artist on the site of a former sugar and tobacco factory to dramatize a series of scenarios split amongst former workers and an assembly of mayors to consider the past and future of the site. Threaded throughout the assorted performances are stories that range from the personal and anecdotal to historical and ideological. Apart from some wonderfully theatrical costumes that seem more in service of imagination than literal representation (unless the port city of Rijeka actually had a goth-punk mayor at some point), the children use mime, dance, and improv to consider their concerns. The end result is, like the heated debate that is the movie’s climax, unresolved and frustrating. That is, presumably, the artist’s intention: from the significance of child actors to the twist that the factory is in real life slated to be converted into an art centre, there are no easy answers to find here.

    Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art:
    Vera Frenkel: Ways of Telling continues until December 28.

    Susan Hobbs Gallery:
    Althea Thauberger: Preuzmimo Benčić continues until January 10.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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  • 12/16/14--19:43: 2014 Critic's Picks
  • Among many Hamilton exhibitions worth revisiting at year’s end, Tyler Tekatch’s Terrors of the Breakfast Table at the Art Gallery of Hamilton casts the deepest echo back to mind. His interactive video installation resonates through the visceral experience of literally breathing oxygen into melancholy scenes of death and rebirth, and is equally significant for the opportunity offered to a local artist in the early stages of his career. Both this exhibition and the recent riches of Painting Hamilton set a promising pattern for the inclusion of local artists in the AGH beyond this centenary year.

    Thea Haines, Blanket Fort

    Even more emerging artists will benefit from Dr. Robert Fitzhenry’s $3 million gift to McMaster University’s Studio Art program in memory of his late wife Andrée. This unprecedented contribution allowed McMaster to break ground this summer on a long overdue renovation of Mac’s studios and presentation spaces that will also lend much needed visibility for this small yet formidable undergraduate program. I was lucky enough to attend a design charette for the new studios and atrium in February as a graduate of this program, and am still downright giddy at the prospect of inviting so much daylight into that rabbit’s warren of disjointed rooms.

    While not without its flaws, I also keep thinking fondly back upon Winterlore, perhaps due to the sheer audacity of mounting an outdoor waterfront installation in the cold heart of one of the most unforgiving winters in recent memory. Curated by Tara Bursey as part of the City of Hamilton’s once staid Winterfest, this two-day exhibition restored some of the wonderment of winter by bravely exposing art to the elements. Accidental magic like the gilding of ice over Thea Haines’ embroidered tent is well worth remembering as we sink into another season of snow.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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  • 12/16/14--19:53: 2014 Critic's Picks
  • As luck would have it, two of this year’s more electrifying exhibitions ran concurrently at Plug In ICA, and, furthermore, they’ll both be up into January. In Ruth Cuthand’s deft, defiant thirty-year retrospective Back Talk, the Saskatchewan artist strikes out on a range subjects with piercing wit and disarming candor. Across painting, video, a series of deceptively beautiful beaded works, and several remarkable suites of sui generis graphite drawings, she impertinently and commandingly “talks back” to events in her own childhood, the condescending, conditional support of white liberals, the deadly inequality of “cultural exchange,” and the unstable frameworks of language and belonging. Cuthand’s bluntness (echoed in humane, plainspoken exhibition texts) found a perfect foil in Andrea Carlson’s formally and conceptually prismatic Eat-All, with each exhibition magnifying the other’s considerable strengths. While Cuthand’s graphite smears have the violent certainty of gunpowder residue, Carlson’s own drawings are flickering and fragmentary, cinematic in their logic and scope. Panoramic debris fields of meticulously rendered artifacts clipped from museum catalogues and b-movie posters jostle one another in a messy, mutable landscape of cultural representation and colonial exploitation.

    Jessica Evans, Booty is a Weakness , 2014

    A year distinguished by significant touring exhibitions and impressive solo projects by Indigenous artists (though surprisingly few of these originated locally) reached a certain crescendo on the WAG’s mezzanine last month when 2013 Sobey Award winner Duane Linklater (representing Ontario) presented Nadia Myre (representing Quebec) with this year’s prize. The assembled crowd looked up from the lobby, elbow-to-elbow beneath (BC-born) Brian Jungen’s hanging deck-chair whale skeleton Vienna (on short-term loan from Ottawa).

    This year also saw the opening of Actual Gallery, a commercial space significant as both a new venue for the city and a vote of confidence for its roster of nationally recognized local artists. Unfortunately, with the sudden exit of its founder-director after just a few months, it seems things got real weird, real quick. In that light, my third “pick” goes to one of the least “professional” – and most satisfying – things I saw all year. This past August, Jessica Evans and Patrick Klassen mounted Piss Performance just down the block from Actual, in C Space’s unfinished loading dock. While Klassen engagingly performed the role of a secretly brilliant idiot-manchild (a Winnipeg archetype if ever there was one), stringing wonky marionettes of pro athletes in front of minimally worked raw canvas backdrops, it was Evans’s rather less likeable paintings that stayed with me – and stayed in place. Using purple craft acrylic, she scrawled decontextualized, marginally sensible snatches of text from Internet comments – “booty is a weakness,” “body is a hell,” “suck my dick with your boob” – on pre-fab canvases still in their cellophane wrappings. She nailed them to exposed studs (through the plastic, through the paint film), and, as far as I know, they’re still hanging there (they were a few weeks ago when last I checked). Absurd and abject, perfect and wrong, long may they hang.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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  • 12/16/14--20:35: 2014 Critic's Picks
  • First on my yearend list for 2014 is Forest City Gallery’s November series of events All That Glitters: A Month of Queer Art, Film and Music. Screenings included Chelsea McMullan’s My Prairie Home (featuring Rae Spoon) with a lecture by London artist Jamie Q, Sally Potter’s Orlando from 1992 (triggering my own nostalgic teenage intro to the glorious androgyny of Tilda Swinton) explored by Western Professor of Women’s Studies Wendy Pearson, Lawrence Brose’s De Profundis presented by Scott Miller Berry, and a collection of works by Allyson Mitchell and Deirdre Logue accompanied by talks by the artists. The events ended with Queer Hear Here, a night of music curated by GENERAL POPULATION (Gen Pop), and an intimate gathering and conversation with Mitchell and Logue on radical politics and alternative space, hosted by London Ontario Media Arts Association (LOMAA) on a drizzling and grey Saturday afternoon. In addition to (re)introducing the work and research of queer artists Jamie Q, Allyson Mitchell, and Deirdre Logue, the month-long event brought together London’s community of artists, students, teachers, musicians, activists, and radical queers to talk about and share queer perspectives and experiences.

    Liza Eurich with Juliane Foronda

    At this same time last year I mentioned London’s newest gallery DNA Artspace and its pre-inaugural group show No Boys With Frogs, which featured site-specific work directly responding to the gallery’s then-unfinished two floors of multiple rooms, corridors, and otherwise peripheral zones of interest. From August to September, Tegan Moore and Barbara Hobot exhibited their graduate thesis work from Western’s MFA program, engaging DNA’s newly renovated space with subtle and inventive architectural mimicry. Currently on view is a large (and growing) collection of postcards produced by artists in collaboration. Particular favorites include Jason McLean with Etienne Zack, Liza Eurich with Juliane Foronda, Sky Glabush with David Merritt, and Hilary Bowman with Luke Maddaford.

    Another highlight from this year includes Border Cultures: Part Two (work, labour) curated by Srimoyee Mitra at the Art Gallery of Windsor. After attending an in-gallery conversation with participating artists Shaina Anand and Ashok Sukumaran from C.A.M.P and Phillip Hoffman, I spent most of my visit with C.A.M.P.’s 79-minute film From Gulf To Gulf To Gulf, part of their ongoing project The Boat Modes, which includes exchanged video footage between the artists and sailors traveling from India to Sharjah (UAE), Iran, and Somalia. Anand and Sukumaran’s words combine in my memory with the film, layering “monstrous forms passing through a more fluid landscape” with found video and music clips amidst the mundane rituals and alarming plights of sailboats in constantly shifting weather.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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  • 12/16/14--20:47: 2014 Critic's Picks
  • Space – or a lack of it – has been a recurring concern for the art community of Halifax. Many former sites of affordable studio space have been torn down or re-developed. The Roy Building, once home to many artists’ studios and a street-level exhibition space organized by Scott Saunders (a Critic’s Pick of 2013) has been demolished. The Khyber, formerly the most stable of the local artist-run centre spaces, has been evicted by the city. Eyelevel Gallery has committed to a spaceless exhibition model both as a curatorial challenge and in response to the rapidly rising cost of rent in Halifax’s North End. Looking on the bright side, real estate for artists has always been in a perpetual state of flux and this sort of disruption creates the opportunity for projects that look beyond the status quo.

    Artifact Institute, Exploration 1, 2014

    This past summer, the Artifact Institute– Adam Kelly and Tim Dallett – presented the final stage of Exploration 1. Renting out an empty storefront within a warehouse building, they processed the remainder of the electronics discarded by arts organizations in the Halifax Regional Municipality between 2004 and 2009. The length of the project, long open hours, and many public events during its three-month run made it widely accessible, thus activating an under-utilized commercial/industrial part of town.

    As part of Eyelevel Gallery’s programming, this year’s Reshelving Initiative 6 took to the road and brought the gallery outside of its local community and across the Atlantic provinces. The travelling exhibition – packed in the trunk of a rental car – epitomized the potential of an artist-run centre to think beyond the white cube. The real success of the exhibition was in the DIY make-it-happen spirit it brought (back) to life: shedding the institutional conservatism that so easily creeps into publicly funded programming.

    Open as of December 13 (aka a couple days ago), the Halifax Central Library is a big step forward for the city. Featuring permanent installations by Cliff Eyland, a million-dollar theatre, Pavia Gallery Espresso Bar & Café, and cozy spaces within spaces, the library has the potential for a wide range of exhibitions and projects. I have never seen so many Halifax residents in one place: given the social momentum of the library and its past commitments to artist projects, it seems like a great opportunity to engage with a vibrant new space in the downtown.

    Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News and is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @highamdaniel.

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  • 12/15/14--21:20: 2014 Critic's Picks
  • As the Toronto art scene gets ever more decentred (though there seems to be an enclave establishing itself at Bloor and Lansdowne), I keep hopping in my car and heading farther afield to find some of the most intriguing exhibitions in the city on the outskirts. This year the Art Gallery of Mississauga, tucked away in the shadow of the suburban city’s sexiest apartment towers, kept me coming back for more with essential exhibitions like the retrospective of South Asian artist-activists The Sahmat Collective. Even when I’m not physically there, I’m inspired by the relentlessly enthusiastic Twitter feed of Director Stuart Keeler and Communications Officer Jaclyn Qua-Hiansen.

    Charles Stankievech, Counterintelligence, 2014, installation view (photo: Toni Hafkenscheid)

    When I called Ahmet Ögüt's semi-self-explanatory This area is under 23 hour video and audio surveillance at the Blackwood Gallery way back in January one of my favourite works of the year, little did I know how the pieces would fall into place. A couple weeks later I worked my way through Charles Stankievech’s encyclopedic Counterintelligence exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke and thought everything that needed to be said about the web woven between 20th Century art movements and the international spy network had been said. But then Wendy Coburn’s Slut Nation: Anatomy of a Protest closed off the year at the Barnicke (once again!) and brought the police state home (hot on the heels of protests pushed into riots in the wake of dropped indictments in the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner). And Ögüt's work reappeared as the titular inspiration for a group exhibition that continues until June 30 of 2015 at the Jackman Humanities Institute, which is part of the University of Toronto, and produced by – yup, you guessed it – the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery. For an extra dose of surveillance culture in the age of advanced militarization, you could have also made your way over to the Ryerson Image Centre for a historical survey of war photos displayed along with the late Harun Farocki’s meditation on video games and combat training, and Public Studio’s Drone Wedding. And then there was the drone-mounted sound work by Nadav Assor in the Koffler Gallery’s PARDES exhibition. Conspiracy, serendipity, or zeitgeist? I say all three.

    In a parallel narrative of my gallery-going travails, I began the year kicking myself for missing Tricia Middleton’s 2012 exhibition at Oakville Galleries as I wandered in wonder through her immersive installation at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art’s “go big or go home” exhibition Misled by Nature (which, truth be told, was a co-pro from the National Gallery and the Art Gallery of Alberta). By the time she had her fall solo show at Jessica Bradley Gallery, I was there the first weekend, initially miffed that she hadn’t lined the walls with her signature slabs of wax, but then more than delighted with the singular works scattered throughout the space like remnants of a fairy tale gone awry. The sickly sweetness of her confections are physical in both the embodied sense and their emphatic materiality, but they invite endless contemplation as to the stories they tell. Their promise, like the promise of all good works, keeps me searching for more.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    After digesting Peter Schjeldahl’s recent review in The New Yorker of the current contemporary painting survey exhibition at the MoMA (the first since 1958, if you can believe it), I was once again inspired by his ongoing and, it seems, reinvigorated faith in the power of paint on canvas to do best what art aspires to – even if it means failing most successfully at that Sisyphean task. He spoke with the same fervour last year when he visited OCADU and I suspect one source of that loyalty is his age. Having only been around the block slightly more than half his years, I can’t pretend to have the same wealth of knowledge derived from hours spent in front of the last half century of visual art history, but, as I accept that I’m officially past my own halfway mark (well beyond it, given the lifespan of men in my family), I too have developed an impatience with novelty and fashion along with an increased appreciation of mastery and substance as I prowl the caverns of creation each week in pursuit of something absent of bullshit.

    Carol Wainio, Les Cailloux Blancs, 2014, acrylic on canvas

    As we peered into the depths of her paintings last Saturday, Paul Petro said Carol Wainio is an artist whose current work (now on view at his gallery) is evidence of her maturity and mastery. I had to agree. Inspired in part by writing and storytelling, this crop of canvases reads like a great big novel by a literary heavyweight. Amidst the technical filigree with which the artist fills her space – so much so that they can be mistaken for all-over abstractions – there are details upon details that open doors into the history of representation and take up a complex but unified narrative involving images of childhood, nature, and the changing seasons to provoke curiosity and reflection. In the same way as one reads through the layers of James Joyce, shifting through the depths of language and then story and then allegory and then meta-text and then inter-text and then personal response, one can step back to wonder at Wainio’s overall composition but only begin to map it through a journey of discovery that zooms in on brushstrokes and the gradual recognition of how much is actually there. One simple example is the muddy, marshy greens and greys that seem to dominate her palette (and always make me hesitate before embracing the work), from which a far wider array of colours emerge as time passes and the eye acclimatizes to what is being demanded of it. Time well spent generated this art and time is needed to appreciate it.

    Gábor Kerekes, Chemical Instrument, 1991, toned gelatin silver print

    The Hungarian photographer Gábor Kerekes opens a passage to the past with each of his images on view at Stephen Bulger Gallery. Despite having worked professionally as a photojournalist, these pictures aren’t traditional documentary photos depicting historical events. They focus on an area of knowledge that is too often mistaken as atemporal: the world of science. Here, the material of experiments and research are seen in dusky, close-cropped, sepia-toned prints of not that long ago when laboratory work overlapped with magic, mysticism and mystery, and elicited the same sort of wonder that art, particularly of a spiritual bent, owned. While some of his pictures are as straightforwardly representative as the pinhole camera he often uses, others dip into the realm of artifice – an area of slippage not limited to the arts – in order to crank up the ambiguity and free both the work and the viewer from objectivity. In our present era of inescapable technology and maximum data, it is helpful to be reminded of the importance of not knowing for certain.

    Paul Petro Contemporary Art:
    Carol Wainio: Dropped From the Calendar continues until January 10.

    Stephen Bulger Gallery:
    Gábor Kerekes: Stars and Science continues until January 17.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    Even at the beginning, we knew we couldn’t stay forever. It was early, and I had just finished building a cabin when a polar bear landed on the island. It could have been worse, but I lost half of my resources – including all of my food. The others on the island, they were safe. They jeered at me. Serves him right for hoarding, they said. Over time, the island became more and more colonized. Paths wove their way first along the coast, then throughout the interior. Tents and cabins seemed to grow out of the rocks.

    Michael Flaherty

    I asked Michael how he came to end up on Grey Islands. He said he read a book about the islands, of the same name, about its history. It inspired him, in a way. The place wasn’t really what he expected.

    One time a neighbour demanded we give up all of our clay, because goddammit a) she had a shotgun, and b) she wanted to build something. You can’t really say no in that sort of situation, so we gave in. I don’t know if she ever actually built anything in the end. The islands were like that sometimes.

    By now I had recovered from the polar bear’s theft. Gathered enough food. Lots of berries. I traded with a neighbour for some wood, and built another cabin. It felt like we were getting somewhere, like things where shaping up. But we knew even then that time was running out. That didn’t really stop us. Keep on keepin’ on, I guess. And so when they told us we had to leave the island, we sort of just accepted it. Time to move on.

    Settlers of Grey Islands is a board game by Michael Flaherty, shown at the opening reception of The Grey Islands at the Mary E. Black Gallery. Based on Settlers of Catan, the game loosely represents a fictionalized history of the Grey Islands, Newfoundland. The exhibition also features ceramic works, pho-tos, and video from Flaherty’s three-month solo exploration of the islands.

    Mary E. Black Gallery:
    Michael Flaherty: The Grey Islands continues until February 22.

    Daniel Higham works in a butcher shop where he’ll talk to you about art, food, and life. Daniel writes for Visual Arts News and is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent. He can be followed on Twitter @HighamDaniel.

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    Perhaps it is only right that an exhibition so obsessed with notions of enlightenment should offer nothing of actual clarity, purpose, or calm. Before meditating upon this endeavour and hunting down those words that will properly delineate the truer purpose of Lindsay Sorell’s show at AVALANCHE!, let me speak about its discrete components. Buddha, Why Am I Alone? comprises the following: Lucky Buddha beers (“The Enlightened Beer”) are served at the gallery’s bar. A jazz drummer sets up a kit in the middle of the space and plays for the entirety of the vernissage. A selection of MIDI-composed sheet music is hung on the walls. Two maps of Calgary are presented with all bodies of water removed. Two photos of the artist are taken, one prior to reading Plato’s Dialogues, and one immediately after. And a small zine.

    Lindsay Sorell, Buddha, Why Am I Alone? (The Enlightened Beer)

    First, the gallery is fucking crowded. No one wants to stand too near the jazz drummer, surrounded by his glittery cymbals and mysterious knob-ridden gear. Initially, his expression is kind of nervous, frantic, until I realize it’s just that he is wholly unconcerned with his appearance or the social environment. His internal energies are directed elsewhere. Nirvana. Second, it’s freezing out. Everyone is feeling the kind of burn that happens when one re-immerses themselves in a too-hot, too-humid room after a frigid cigarette. The sensation of the temperature shock is absurd, somewhere between painful and unceasingly pleasant. Third, we’re drunk. Every conversation I have has that intoxicated edge of epiphany. No one can wait their turn to speak for all the words on the tips of our tongues. Enlightenment feels real.

    The sheet music (Music for Flute) is unreadable. My elementary school music lessons entirely forgotten, I am only capable of reading the titles of Sorell’s compositions. This alone makes them worthwhile. “My Ex-Boyfriend Was a Satanist” stands out, as does “I Have Never Read Trainspotting Which Makes Me Feel Like a Loser.” Others are less funny: “Remember When We Were Seventeen and Your Dad Took His Life and We Sat in the Park Drinking Smirnoff Ice and the Sprinklers Came On.”

    The small zine that accompanies the show consists of quotations from modernist thinkers like Albert Einstein, Umberto Eco, and Christopher Nolan. (The publication’s title, Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night and Other Bastardizations, riffs on some of the heavier-handed references in Nolan’s Interstellar.) Detritus from the Age of Enlightenment casually coalesces with Western appropriations of spiritual transcendentalism; the combination honours the former and condemns the latter. I want to use the word “intelligentsia” because the pretentious sound it makes in your mouth is enough to accurately describe the artist’s playful take on the subject matters.

    Leaving, I feel curious about what would happen if one attempted to reproduce Sorell’s double-self portrait (title: In Hopes of Enlightenment) – taking one photo before viewing the show and one immediately after. I imagined we wouldn’t look dissimilar to her after her struggle with Plato’s opus. Tired, frustrated, and still.

    I wonder about the artist’s attempts to meditate, to silence demons and find inner peace. Elsewhere in her practice, she is obsessed with the vernacular of self-improvement. I decide that I liked her show – a lot, really – but I don’t know if the conclusions I am playing with now were catalyzed by her work or something else. In between bouts of writing this review and nursing my hangover, I am browsing Twitter. #JeSuisNonCharlie, #Ferguson, and #NAACP are trending in my feed. Someone posts, “I do not trust dispassionate people in a world on fire.” I think I agree, inasmuch as the ails of this world will not be overcome with silence and introspection. Enlightenment is not crossed legs and yoga mats. It is upright, engaged, and violent as taken-for-granted worldviews are overturned. I don’t know where these new age connotations of solitude came from. It is, more than anything, about the relationships we build between each other over and above ones relationship with oneself.

    AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art:
    Lindsay Sorell: Buddha, Why Am I Alone? continues until February 7.

    Steven Cottingham is another artist. Based in Calgary, he studied in New York and has recently exhibited in Havana, Glasgow, Fredericton, and Vancouver. Currently he is writing, as so many have done before, a book about love and art. He can be followed on Twitter @artcriticsm.

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    In a case of do as I say, not as I do, you should really give yourself more leeway than the rush before closing time to let the carefully selected collection of work in Somebody Everybody Nobody at Scrap Metal Gallery sink in to the appropriate depth. Conveniently, the exhibition, curated by SMG major-domo Rui Amaral, is on display until March, but be warned, these months-long seasons have a habit of slipping away from you. It’s almost as if you are lulled into a false sense of security, thinking the exhibition will be around for a while and then, before you know it, it’s gone.

    Miroslav Balka, 186 x 10 x 10 (detail), 2000, soap and stainless steel

    The sculptures here also lull you with their uncomplicated appearance – a string of lights, a marble bench – before triggering unexpected associations. Felix Gonzalez-Torres’s lights are paired with a rope of used soap bars by Miroslav Balka. Both evoke mortality and the passing of time/days/lives, but the latter has a mischievous bent with its irregular arrangement of variously coloured and shaped discs, each one an inadvertent sculpture by an unidentified artist. Shannon Bool’s bench replicates the graffiti carved by similarly unidentified artists into equivalent benches in Florence’s Piazzale Michelangelo and highlights another of the exhibition’s many thematic vectors – in this case, the relationship between surface and identity. The many bodies of the exhibition title are represented in a variety of surfaces, be they Hadley + Maxwell’s Cinefoil figures or Iris Häussler’s fragmented body casts. The largest, most famous and, ironically, hardest to recognize body is Danh Vō’s abstract sheet of curved metal, which on further investigation is identified as one of over two hundred parts comprising a life-sized equivalent – matching the assembled parts exactly – of the Statue of Liberty. That Vo's lady is scattered to the ends of the earth makes it an even more evocative tribute to freedom than architect Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s original.

    The other works in the exhibition, including two by Lois Andison and a stunning salt beard by Jason de Haan, add their own unique spin to the thematic ping-pong balls careening through the space. The collected works manage the tricky balancing act of standing alone while also generating more than the sum of their parts through the friction and glue of rubbing up against each other. You'd do well not to wait until March to see what I mean.

    Kristine Moran, Séance (detail), 2014, Flashe and oil on canvas

    I like to look at stuff and I like to read. Kristine Moran's paintings, which just came off the walls of Daniel Faria Gallery, offer plenty of opportunities to do both. They are judiciously crammed with a variety of painterly effects that repeat from work to work (including some smaller studies), thus generating a vocabulary that mashes decorative elements with abstractions of the human form and, if you ask me, hints of transcendentalism and the otherworldly.

    I’m not big on flat, but I like depth, and the bottom – or the back – drops out of Moran’s paintings like a trap door to another world as you approach them. The skitter of sworls and seemingly expressive gestures resolve themselves into symmetrical arrangements that end up being far more figurative than on first impression. The reliance on pink, black, and greys suggests a fleshy yet reverential attitude that is, on the whole, uplifting. I am not afraid to say I want to be edified and I certainly felt better about the world after having seen these paintings.

    Scrap Metal Gallery:
    Somebody Everybody Nobody continues to March 28.

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    After a week reading about mass killings, hostage takings and fire bombing in the news, I decided to seek refuge in The Disorderliness of Things, a group exhibition at Galerie de l’UQAM that promised to examine positive aspects of disobedience in the face of authority and convention. Curated by Marie-Ève Charron and Thérèse St-Gelais, the exhibition features a range of artists spanning generations, genders, and levels of recognition – from local emerging artists to internationally renowned practitioners.

    Melanie Smith & Rafael Ortega, Bulto, 2011, video still (courtesy: Galerie Peter Kilchmann)

    The curatorial premise of the exhibition is ambitious and potentially invigorating and insightful. The works represented all explore challenging social norms and structures (school, office-work, hospitals, public space, art-making, motherhood, etc.). I very much appreciated some of the individual works – notably Rosemarie Trockel’s Continental Divide, a new series of photographs by Emmanuelle Léonard, and Catherine Opie’s iconic Self-Portrait/Nursing– but I couldn’t help feeling slightly underwhelmed by the exhibition as a whole. I would have liked the show to either have a tighter focus or be a bigger survey. As it exists now it feels a bit like a small grab bag of sub-themes that don’t always work together visually in the space (for example, placing a rather garish painting of a pig by Christine Major next to the tender and personal works of Opie and Maria Marshall was a mistake). Also, while I’m aware the works are dealing with dissidence in the quotidian – and so by extension might explore small transgressive gestures rather than large revolutionary actions – there is a kind of safety or “softly, softly” quality to many of the works and situations represented. I would have liked to see a bit more risk and complication. In this regard I also question the curators’ statement that the works in the exhibition “defy artistic traditions and imagery.” To my mind they all use well-established contemporary art strategies (not that anything is wrong with that). The Disorderliness of Things took a chance in bringing together works of uneven quality and tone around something as well trodden as subverting the everyday, but the execution fails to go beyond the sum of its parts.

    Galerie de l’UQAM:
    The Disorderliness of Things continues until February 21.

    Susannah Wesley is an artist and curator living in Montreal. She has been a member of the collaborative duo Leisure since 2004 and from 1997-2000 was part of the notorious British art collective the Leeds13. Formerly Director at Battat Contemporary in Montreal, she holds an MFA from the Glasgow School of Art and an MA in Art History from Concordia University. She is Akimblog's Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    Now on view at the MacLaren Art Centre in Barrie, Walks by Rhonda Weppler and Trevor Mahovsky is a series of photographs that document “stuff” they either bought or just picked up during walks they took in cities around the world from Tokyo to Albuquerque. It’s a programmatic, rules-driven piece; the stuff they collect – which ranges from snack-type things that are in some ways dependent on wherever they are at the time, to cigarette packages, to pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – is arranged for the image in the order in which the things were acquired. And it’s the shape of a ring of detritus they’ve chosen to work with as the defining form of the series, a shape, of course, which has no beginning or end. Fitting.

    Rhonda Weppler & Trevor Mahovsky, Hong Kong – Sheung Wang (Wellington St, Graham St, Hollywood Rd, Aberdeen St), November 18, 2011, 2011, lightjet print

    The rings of debris are photographed from directly above. Hints of context intrude along the edges: a bit of curtain denotes the presence of a window, power cords extend away from wall outlets and out of the image. Even the backing surface for each detritus ring is of interest. In Paris, it’s a carpet with an ornate floral pattern to it, in Hong Kong it’s a recursive design of irregular spirals rooted in a deep blue carpet, and in Minneapolis a ring of stuff that includes a pine cone and a Daniel Boone hat complete with fur tail is arranged atop a carpet with blocks of colour creating illusionistic depth.

    is the kind of work that is superficially uninteresting and even rather dull (I mean, who really cares about the fact that you picked up a plastic skull mask and a crucifix when you visited Venice?) until you engage the big picture, thinking of it as an aesthetic whole, rather than merely the sum of its many rubbishy parts.

    MacLaren Art Centre:
    Rhonda Weppler & Trevor Mahovsky: Walks continues until February 16.

    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.

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    Soliloquy, a video/sound installation by Iranian-born artist Shirin Neshat at the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, is entered via a doorway situated between two video projections. Peering in amongst other waffling visitors, the disorienting simultaneity of the two videos’ visual and sound-based narratives hits like a wave. On the right – a woman (Neshat) in traditional Muslim clothing peers from a window overlooking the ancient town of Mardin in southern Turkey. She retreats down a stairwell, walks the streets and corridors of the town, and finds an ancient palace where crowds of men and women chant in prayer and move together, escalating in Neshat’s escape from the palace and out towards a bright field of ruins. On the left – Neshat experiences a similar journey set in New York. Still in traditional dress, Neshat enters the city’s traffic and crowds, finds a Christian church, and listens to a group of men and women in white robes singing, wherein she leaves the church and walks aside its monolithic length into the distance.

    Shirin Neshat, Soliloquy, 1999, two-channel video/sound installation

    The two videos face each other across the length of the gallery in an act of mirroring, although only if mirroring can be said to be a mutual, rather than identical, watchfulness from different points and of varying intervals. The two videos exchange a space of pause, as Neshat in Turkey stops in a doorway, calmly watching her hectic paths through crowded New York. Neshat in New York in turn sits silently in a church pew, watching herself join the prayers in Turkey. These moments allow viewers to catch up to each video while scrambling to divide their attention between the two. Neshat’s turning towards the opposite video is also a turning towards viewers; this act of viewer implication emphasizes Neshat’s distance.

    Having to constantly split attention between the two projections involves an anxious darting back and forth, creating little rifts in each narrative. As I turn to see Neshat pause at a window from the left, I glimpse her disappear through a door on the right, losing information and gaining ground in the same moment. The videos play with these rifts by using sound, either pulling attention away from each other or emphasizing their coexistence with a thunderous rhythm. Losing sight of one video because of the events of the other creates a rude pattern of (self-)interruption, deliberately complicating any expectations of safe and passive viewing. This sense of pulling away as one tries to follow the simultaneity of the two worlds speaks of the way the East and West move in and out of the center of Neshat’s experience of self and place.

    The artist’s paths through Mardin and New York are mainly experienced in solitude. Whether drawing back to pause in the midst of the bright, open spaces of a Turkish cathedral square or lost in the grand shapes of a Western modernist building, her solitary position is in sharp contrast to the towering presence of the surrounding architecture. While the direction of her gaze in moments of pause suggests longing, Neshat’s face hides an inscrutable, internal space viewers can’t access. Throughout the videos, sound is a constant presence, a force that pulls every moment into a kind of thick pulse. In the face of this overpowering presence, Neshat’s moments of stillness and pause suggest a moving inward and a claiming of self with calm and determination.

    Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery:
    Shirin Neshat: Soliloquy continues until March 15.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta and at Susan Hobbs Gallery in Toronto. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, Forest City Gallery, and Evans Contemporary Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    Printmaking is, in many ways, an obvious fit for “classic” (O.G., capital-C) Conceptual Art’s concerns and sensibilities. By necessity, its processes are ordered and repeatable, its aesthetics commensurately tidy. Printmaking shares “documentary” qualities of immediacy and indexicality with other works on paper (drawing and photography, respectively), and fine art prints are close cousins of institutional and commercial forms of paperwork.

    Kristiina Lahde

    In Criss-Cross, which opened Friday at Martha Street Studio, Toronto’s Kristiina Lahde makes much of this natural affinity, laying out what seem, after the fact, like self-evident links between analogue printmaking and historical conceptualism. The trails left by ink-covered dice record chance operations, echoing a century of Conceptual and proto-Conceptual gestures. Mute impressions of carefully-arranged drafting triangles and tangled measuring tapes evidence a preoccupation with visualizing measurement straight out of a late-sixties Mel Bochner installation.

    If Criss-Cross doesn’t aspire to break new ground, Lahde seems to relish the faint air of outmodedness that attends both her material processes and artistic precedents (even her drafting implements are slight anachronisms at this point). With a light touch, she wrings pathos out of otherwise pristine, procedural gestures, and takes evident pleasure in traditional printmaking’s tactile properties.

    Several of the dice images are paired with hand-drawn mirror images, Lahde’s fastidious pencil recapturing each incidental swipe and splatter. Pointedly redundant, the graphite reflections painstakingly replay and “reverse” a literal (and perhaps overly literal) stroke of fortune. They’re also the only “reproductions” in an entire show of print work.

    Stacked imprints of special right triangles create vibratory fields and the illusion of overlapping planes, hovering somewhere between abstraction and representation, Sol Lewitt’s proscriptive geometry and Louise Nevelson’s own exuberantly-patterned embossed paper works. Doubling and redoubling on themselves under the weight of the press, Lahde’s tape measures yield patterns of satisfying depth and complexity, her treatment of the everyday objects a gentle nod in the direction of Gerald Ferguson and NSCAD Conceptualism.

    Nothing about Criss-Cross comes as a surprise, exactly, but the work is well reasoned and uniformly lovely.

    An opening reception will be held Friday, February 6, with an artist talk by Lahde taking place the following afternoon.

    Martha Street Studio:
    Kristiina Lahde: Criss-Cross continues until February 20.

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

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    Back in his punk rock days playing with the Birthday Party, Nick Cave sang, “Junk sculpture turning back to junk” as a lament to and/or celebration of entropy. However, another way to think of it is as an earlier, and less refined, version of Martin Creed’s Work No. 232, the whole world + the work = the whole world, which is to say, art appears in the world just as it disappears from it, not by being created sui generis, but by being assembled from what’s already there. This recycling, whether in the form of junk sculpture, readymade, assemblage, or your standard painting/photo/bust, forgoes transcendence for a temporarily discrete immanence that, sooner or later, falls back into the indiscernible chaos and/or cosmos.

    Noel Middleton, Trade II, 2014, steel, setting compounds

    The upcycled remains of Narwhal Contemporary’s previous inhabitants serve as material and inspiration for Noel Middleton’s current occupation of that space. Plaster-cast debris, electrical piping, and assorted remnants from the demolition that carved out a white space to be filled with art have been completely blanched in knowing reference to the clichéd (and somewhat inaccurate) remains of classical civilization, but updated through a surreal aesthetic (triggered any time I see a disembodied nose) and the aforesaid junk sculptors who draw poetry out of the mundane and overlooked. There’s an added layer of logic here with a trio of busts representing the contractor’s holy trinity – plasterer, plumber, and electrician – ensconced amid piecemeal columns that might have been minimalist had they not been so abject. In our ruins, just as in our junk, we are witness to our discarded dreams and failed ideals. What remains is a wonderful, though unresolved, flux (see Middleton’s indiscriminate pile of casting fragments) and moments of beautiful serendipity (see the moulds of fruit-packing trays that absorb a tinge of purple fibre).

    Michael Dumontier, Untitled (clock 02), 2014, wood, linen, acrylic, clock movement

    Whereas Middleton is a renovator, Michael Dumontier is a carpenter, and a specialised one at that, honing in on edges and trim. He sticks to the vertical for all his works currently on view at MKG127, and, when seen from a distance or only as jpegs, they can resemble carefully graphed wall drawings. However, a thin strip of shadow pushes them out into the world to give them the barest whiff of a third dimension and send them into an entirely different aesthetic category altogether. Some, like his nail silhouettes or the keyhole floating free of any visible door lock, are visual gags that risk being belittled due to their modest size and even more modest temperament. Others, like the false doorway illusion in painted steel and string (with carefully placed knot) or the triangulated chairs balanced against each other with a pleasing symmetry, play with perception like a radically reduced M.C. Escher. It’s only when the slight of hand softens to include a tinge of romance – as in Dumontier’s deceptively simple faint painting of a moon that reveals itself to move through its rotation in a ghostly fashion just underneath the translucent linen that serves as the surface but also the screen for the work. In this instance, instead of rising off the wall, the art completes the far more conventional trick of punching a hole through it to give the illusion of a window to another place. This representational space travel takes seemingly flat work a smidgen into the third dimension. When it comes out into the gallery, it’s curious. When it goes in to the netherworld, it’s mysterious. You choose which one you prefer.

    Narhwal Contemporary:
    Noel Middleton: Order of Operations continues until February 7.

    Michael Dumontier: Shape Notes continues until February 7.

    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. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.

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    When Deanna Bowen recites the lives and marriages that lead to her birth in her video work, sum of the parts: what can be named, she demonstrates the most meaningful act found in This is Me, This is Also Me at the McMaster Museum of Art. More than mere portraiture, the selections of co-curators and McMaster professors Dr. Sarah Brophy and Dr. Janice Hladki reveal the visual tactics that construct identities through the contrivances of art.

    Deanna Bowen, sum of the parts: what can be named, 2010, video still

    Brown’s precise tracery of the traumatic migrations of slavery reclaims historical record as raw material from which she can shape her own self, and reflects this show’s reverence for artistic predecessors. Small works by the likes of Edvard Munch and László Moholy-Nagy are dropped like understated milestones along the road towards more visually arresting contemporary works. Joyce Wieland’s 1950s drawing of a woman admiring herself in a vanity mirror is wonderfully prescient of narcissistic practices to come, while Andy Warhol's self-portraits in drag pave the way for the gloriously hyperbolic dance party that is Kent Monkman’s Dance to Miss Chief.

    Cathy Daley, Untitled, 1999

    Monkman’s flamboyant seductions into the literal marriage bed of an equally camp performance of native identity are echoed in Grace Ndiritu’s more elegant The Nightingale. Her acts of wrapping and unveiling her face with a pointedly patterned head-scarf dance between coy and confrontational, and tangle in turn with the powerful image of Rebecca Belmore’s White Threads. Whether bodies are subsumed by the wrappings they choose or those that are imposed by forces beyond the self, it’s a refreshing relief to see Cathy Daley’s drawings in which teasing legs peak out beneath the skirts of illegible scribbles smudged into raw abstractions that resist the plays and burdens that identity brings to bear upon us all.

    McMaster Museum of Art:
    This is Me, This is Also Me continues until March 21.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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    Jon Sasaki has followed the spirit of the letter in Two Roads Diverged in a Wood, the most recent of a series of exhibitions at the Ottawa Art Gallery that invites artists to make interventions in the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art. One of Sasaki’s works for the show literally interferes with items in the collection, placing, as in its title, Three Works by George Thomson 180 Degrees Out of Phase. With an ingenious set-up, Sasaki has projected a day-for-night filter onto three mid-century oil paintings by Tom Thomson’s less celebrated older brother, turning anodyne landscapes into brooding nocturnes. Sasaki’s disruptive conceit is configured to simulate daylight twelve hours out of sync with local clocks, enforcing an untimely consideration of the elder Thomson’s work.

    Jon Sasaki, Three Works by George Thomson 180 Degrees Out Of Phase, 2015, three paintings from the Firestone Collection of Canadian Art, projected day-for-night masks, daylight fixture, timer

    Thomson’s paintings are the point of departure for a new body of work by Sasaki that invites rumination on fame and fashion in art, especially from a regional perspective. One work, using light bulbs, makes an explicit comparison between the Thomson brothers’ lives and renown: One Bulb That Has Burned At Low Wattage For An Extraordinarily Long Period Of Time, And A Second Bulb That Will Burn For A Short Amount of Time. This work promises another feat of technical bravura: the bulb representing Tom (and his too early demise) will get amped up and shine more brilliantly than it should in order to burn out before the end of the exhibition, while that representing George (a live feed of the Centennial Light Bulb in Livermore, California) will continue to glow long past its expectancy.

    Jon Sasaki, Tea Table Reconfigured Into a Press To Preserve a Bouquet of Asters, Tea Table Reconfigured Into a Press To Preserve a Bouquet of Chrysanthemums, Tea Table Reconfigured Into a Press To Preserve a Bouquet of Zinnias, 2015, reproduced archival newspaper review, various tea table components, floral arrangement, clamping hardware

    In keeping with the absurdity and invention of the rest of the works, Sasaki has concocted an arrangement of tables, candelabras, vases, lace tablecloths, household silver and tea sets, in order to press three commemorative bouquets of flowers under glass. In one, the job is done by the weight of a tea trolley hung with straps upside down from the ceiling. The configurations recall details taken from Owen Sound newspaper clippings of the receptions at three George Thomson exhibitions in the ’60s, including the bouquets and tea services. Though Sasaki works hard to make the past appear strange, the impression given is that, rather than buck convention, Thomson fit very comfortably within his own time.

    The two diverging roads in the title of the exhibition could once again be used to refer to the parallel fortunes of the Thomson brothers, but they could be equally applied to the marked difference in approach between Sasaki and his quarry. Instead of making the same painting over and over again, as George Thomson appears to have done, Sasaki takes the road less travelled, inventing new approaches with each undertaking to test the limits of representation.

    Ottawa Art Gallery:
    Jon Sasaki: Two Roads Diverged in a Wood continues until May 24.

    Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator who lives in Ottawa, Ontario. His writing on art and culture has appeared in Border Crossings, BlackFlash, and C Magazine, among other publications. He is Akimblog’s Ottawa correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @MichaelDavidge.

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