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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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    Just as Jack Gladney, the protagonist in Don DeLillo’s White Noise, hides a troublesome professional secret (despite having established the academic discourse of Hitler studies, he can’t read or write in German), I maintain a career of sorts as an art critic in the absence of the usual credentials for the gig. I never went to art school and only attended a smidgen of an art history course in my university days. I get by on being an autodidact (half a decade sitting in a public gallery helped out) and my Philosophy/Cultural Studies degrees. The latter are more than enough to guide me through the post-ocular, après-Duchamp art of the last fifty years, and as a rule I’m much more at home in the realm of the conceptual than I am in the visual (and yes, I know that sounds bad given what I write about each week); however, my critical muscles get their best workout (no pain, no gain) when grappling with the challenge of turning art that predominantly addresses the eyes into words that go directly to the brain. And yes, I’m talking about painting here.

    Denyse Thomasos, Burial at Gorée, 1993, oil on canvas

    The Inside exhibition at Blackwood Gallery is right up this alley with each of the participating artists – a bunch of who have some association with the Fine Arts program at the University of Toronto's Mississauga campus where the gallery is found – providing their own idiosyncratic methodological twist to the activity of painting and, in particular, the tradition of the interior wall work. This means I can finally see the systematic way in which Dorian Fitzgerald creates his Herculean paint-by-numbers masterpieces care of a piece in progress (though, in contrast to all the other works, this one is by necessity found on the floor). Marc Bell also contributes a work seemingly mid-creation with a floor-to-ceiling replica of the perspective lines from the campus’s Deerfield Hall. Sara Hartland-Rowe’s wallwork scatters a crowd of illustrated portraits across the expanse of the main gallery’s biggest wall, while Maria Hupfield intrudes on the third dimension by including colour-coded objects à la Jessica Stockholder. Denise Thomasos's giant abstraction is wall-esque in scale though really just a conventionally mounted canvas, but who cares in the end when it draws your attention like a tractor beam, and the dense black and white criss-cross brushstokes (more like slashes than strokes) vibrate in front of your eyes. Her work is proof that, despite the novelty of your mode of presentation, it all comes back to how effectively you can wield some pigment and make it sing. When faced with such a challenge as responding to lines, colours, shapes, etc., I revert to the same gauge I used to use when listening to free jazz and just trust my gut. In the end, it generally works better than my brain.

    Anders Oinonen, Phiz, 2015, oil on canvas

    I can't do that when looking at Anders Oinonen's paintings at Cooper Cole because they play a different game entirely – one that makes my instincts go, “Eugh, I shouldn’t like this.” His cartoony faces emerging from wide swaths of gaudy colour that hover between abstraction and kitsch feel like they belong in another era – probably the seventies and some swinger’s apartment lounge in California. Many fingers point to a trippy, eye-popping stylishness that isn’t serious, isn’t hard, isn’t demanding. In fact – and this is where I change my tune while my eyes debate my intellect and my gut does an about-face – there are plenty of things to like here, plenty of things to enjoy, plenty of pleasure to be found in the ice cream sherbet colours and the playful wobbling between representation and gesture. It might all be some hipster’s trick to mine the formative aesthetic experiences of my childhood (seeing Modern Art in the background of The Rockford Files) and my initial resistance may be a kneejerk uptightness that hates to have fun. I end up carrying these pictures around in my head, glancing at them with my mind’s eye in order to test myself. Do I feel what I feel? Do I think what I think? I haven’t answered those questions yet, but it seems that the most visual of the art this week is also the most intellectually demanding. Fancy that.

    Blackwood Gallery:
    Inside continues until March 1.

    Cooper Cole Gallery:
    Anders Oinonen continues until February 14.

    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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    One lady said, “They are witches, you know.” And her friend said, “Oh, that’s so funny.” And the first said, “No, they’re really witches.” Then they tried to puzzle out what that really meant, while I wandered off and thought that it was the best conversation I’d heard all day in a gallery and that it made me like the exhibition more, even though I didn’t like it entirely. But after visiting a relational aesthetics experiment that sounded better on paper than it worked in the world and checking out three rooms full of high gloss paintings that should have been finished before they were finished (get it?), I was ready for some art that did something more than hang on a wall or occupy a space. And I found it here.


    Here was Paul Petro Contemporary Art on Queen West and the witches were, of course, Fastwürms, who can be relied on to, at the very least, never be boring. Word was that the exhibition opening was a crowded affair with the Sasquatch-garbed artists taking turns go-go dancing atop the speaker stacks that remain as monoliths marked with runes and linked by extension cords. Behind them stands an altar mash-up that combines Styrofoam, neon arrows, a five pointed star, and rulers to sanctify a church of recombinant faiths. The same potential for multiple readings dominates the walls with a series of triple acrostics spelled out on pegboards that link acronyms with text-speak, wordplay, and secret codes. And then the floor was covered in canvas that added a further grid of letters and traced them out through the space.

    The joyous thing about the exhibition was not so much the viability of the individual pieces (though a black curling broom with an embedded glass cat’s eye is going to make a striking addition to someone’s collection and I have to admit I’m jealous) as the overall sense of commitment and transformation. This was not just playing at art (or being witches); this was real magic.

    Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline

    A similar reward, though in an entirely conventional form, pulled me into Katharine Mulherin’s main gallery after I walked by it twice. The large abstract paintings inside were not convincing me when viewed from the sidewalk and I was nearing the end of my afternoon jaunt, so I was tempted to let it go. (The window-pass is one step closer to a visit than the website-viewing, but neither of them merits a review.) However, something got the better of me – I’d like to think it was my carefully honed critical intuition, but it could have been that I just wanted to warm up – and I went in for a closer look.

    I was told they were some older paintings by Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline and gave myself a mental pat on the back because I’d liked his work before. Way back, almost ten years ago, his lewd cartoony abstractions tickled my funny bone and rewarded my intellect (which is the best way to get on my good side). I’d heard he’d gone to Columbia University for his MFA and these were from around that era. They’ve lost the goofiness but still retain elements of the human figure – often in repeating arrangements that echo Duchamp’s descending nude. Further references go farther back – one to the 17th Century Spanish Baroque painter Murillo – but even stuck in the present, each of the four paintings reveals more the more time is spent in front of them. What from the window had looked indiscriminate, gained depth as the constellation of the artist’s decisive choices became clear. And there was a lot to see. Depending on where you looked, the character of the painting changed. However, Kaktins-Gorsline had moved beyond his booby trap laden early work and matured into an artist of subtle contrasts. At least, that was then. I’ll just have to catch up with his current work to see what’s become of him now.

    Paul Petro Contemporary Art:
    Fastwürms: Red Rum Tut continues until February 14.

    Katharine Mulherin:
    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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    Quiet singing drifts through a narrow corridor. There is a dark room at the end of the hallway filled with the sound of waves and Eleanor King’s voice rising and falling above them. Projected on the far wall is a computer-rendered coastline, slowly moving by in a hypnotic and lulling motion. Time disappears: I can’t tell how long I’ve been here; other people have come and gone. The work repeats itself.

    Eleanor King

    Back in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia’s main space, the rest of the exhibition has a very different feel. The walls have been painted in a blue/green Dazzle camouflage pattern and the coast of the Eastern Seaboard. This work is named after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill; the names of the paint used include Free Spirit, Come Sail Away, and Home Sweet Home. A group of people are discuss-ing a series of wormhole spirograph-type drawings, and I overhear one viewer tell another that the drawings must have been made with a Blu-Ray disc – an unintentional comment on technological obsolescence. A snake-like sculpture made of audio CDs is on the back wall. In the centre of the gallery is a pair of wooden boats – central to the maritime myth of identity. The boats are worn out, overturned. The Dark Utopian soundtrack continues to bleed out into the gallery, an atmospheric lens for the work: a quiet and cynical reflection on our place here along the coast.

    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia:
    Eleanor King: Dark Utopian continues until June 14.

    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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    If you’re looking for programming that features contemporary art as well as contemporary art histories, the 2-22 building is where it’s at. In the last few years both VOX and Artexte have mined the past using a variety of strategies. The impulse to not only represent the here and now, but also reflexively examine relatively recent histories is important and engaging. This work is normally left to museums or university galleries, so it’s refreshing to see small-scale institutions take on this modus operandi in their own niche ways.

    Jason Simon

    Functioning primarily as an art library, Artexte attracts many exhibitions based on research and archives. Changeover by Jason Simon explores the historical relationship and dissemination of film and video work made within the context of contemporary art in the 1970s and 80s. His work is not necessarily easy to enter – I found, for both his shows, that it helped to have the invigilator give me some background – but once you get the gist and begin to dig-in some compelling stories are revealed.

    Upstairs at VOX, Jean-Marie Delavalle’s exhibition is one of a series of retrospectives of senior artists (including Babette Mangolte, Irene F. Whittome, and Raymond Gervais) that the gallery has produced since moving into its current location. I was, regretfully, not familiar with Delavalle’s practice prior to my visit, so it was intriguing to see his rarely viewed early conceptual work and learn about his role in the Quebec art community in the late 1960s and 70s. The work is forty years old, but looking at it through contemporary eyes, the exhibition appears fresh and connections can be made to younger artists today. At the museum level here in Montreal, we are not often treated to retrospectives of senior artists (particularly women), so I appreciate the gallery’s role taking this on in a gender balanced way.

    Jason Simon continues until February 28.

    Jean-Marie Delavalle 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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    A lifelong dedication is required in order to be a straight man. It’s not the type of role you can step out of with a wink and say, “Just kidding!” You have to live it and leave the punters always wondering whether the gag is a gag or for real. A similar sort of commitment is required of a contemporary artist, particularly one who dabbles in the realm of the post-Conceptual (though I could probably spend a good evening at the pub arguing that all art is now post-Conceptual). Or perhaps it’s the post-Minimal. With either, the reduced palette gives an appearance of simplicity that is easy to mistake as a ruse. The straight man is the comedian who appears too simple to know it’s a joke, which is what makes the joke all the funnier.

    Kristiina Lahde, String and a Box, 2015, chalk reel, nails

    Kristiina Lahde is a straight woman and her routine is built around a gag so simple it must elicit slaps to the head. She makes things out of the tools for making things. That is, her signature rulers and measuring tapes should not be the objects of your attention; they are simply just the means for mapping out a space. They are meant to disappear; they are indexes to something else. On their own, they are insignificant. However, in Ultra-Parallel, her current exhibition at the Koffler Centre, she turns them into materials for sculpting space, the edges of fabricated containers of air, and self-referential japes at their own pretensions to exactitude. A geodesic sphere made from yardsticks dominates the space, but her works come alive when they have to deal with the walls. The clumsiness of their utilitarian nature (the exhibition could be sponsored by Home Depot) is countered by the elegance of their arrangement as the triangulate an angle off the floor or mark a grid in the corner. Measuring tapes split down the middle provide a ridiculously direct demonstration of the dialectic of straight versus curved through the vertical pull of gravity. Elegance in mathematics is a measure of the simplicity of the solution; Lahde makes work both elegant and hilarious.

    The funniest part is an (unintended?) echo of her life partner Adam David Brown’s work. The blue powder collected in the corner beneath her chalk marked String and a Box is matched by the pink eraser dust beneath his wall works. He is pink; she is blue. Are they cracking a joke about identity politics across two exhibitions? I have a feeling neither will confess. That would ruin the gag.

    Michael Wolf, #33, Tokyo Compression, 2010, pigment print on archival paper

    I rode the Toronto subway on a daily basis from the age of twelve until my mid-twenties. Then after a dozen years of biking around downtown with the occasional streetcar ride, I headed back underground when I started working uptown. The two things I noticed on my return were that reading is alive and well on those longs commutes and that my faith in humanity rests upon the quiet collective unity agreed on each morning by the hundreds of strangers crammed up against each other in those tight containers. There is a lot of poetry in the purgatory of a subway ride and Stephen Bulger Gallery’s group exhibition Subway collects a variety of artists documenting the visuals. There are archival photos, movie stills, pictures of hands, windows and walls, but the images you have to see are Michael Wolf’s series of Tokyo commuters pressed up against windows waiting patiently for their torment to end. They were the highlight of a Contact exhibition at MOCCA a while back and continue to evoke religious iconography in the guise of street photography. Alone, they are worth a visit.

    Koffler Gallery:
    Kristiina Lahde: Ultra-Parallel continues until March 29.

    Stephen Bulger Gallery:
    Subway continues to March 14.

    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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    The Founders Gallery is a strange entity hidden within the labyrinthine Military Museums. I remember elementary school class trips to the latter, trying to correctly assemble a naval officer’s uniform and climbing over the staid tanks in the gallery’s courtyard. Fighting was synonymous with playing then, but now, a decided pacifist without even a stomach for Call of Duty video games, I resent almost everything the Military Museums stands for. Memorialism seems inseparable from monumentalism, and the Museums’ displays risk celebrating the bravado and patriotism that are inherent catalysts to military conflict. I want to see shame and regret, but it is not to be found here.

    Abbas Kowsari, Shade of Earth

    Burnt Generation is an exhibition of contemporary Iranian photography by artists who comprised the eponymous generation – those who lived through the Iran/Iraq war and the 1979 Revolution. Curator Fariba Farshad stated upfront in her remarks at the opening reception that simply “being Iranian did not give [her] permission to curate an Iranian exhibition.” This was a poignant statement given the nearby Oh, Canada exhibition whose curator cannot claim Canadian citizenship on her list of qualifications. As Farshad expounded upon her recent research and artistic desires, I found myself at the back of the crowd, unselfconsciously nodding along to her elucidations. Despite the exhibition’s positioning, the show does not claim to be a survey nor does it pretend to speak on anyone’s behalf. It is the sharing of individuals united solely by their nationality, birth years, and choice of medium. The work is accordingly disparate in the best of ways.

    Collaborators Ali Nadjian and Ramyar Manouchehrzadeh’s photos bear a title staggering in its simplicity: We live in a paradoxical society. Their staged images are seemingly unordinary pictures of domestic life, but we are provoked to stare, wrestling with stereotypes and expectations as the title forces one to try to distinguish Persian teapots and religious artefacts from Ikea furnishings. Gender roles are questioned and character motivations left unclear.

    Shadi Ghardirian’s Nil, Nil series creates still-lives wherein everyday life and war are enmeshed. Some of the images seem uninterrupted; the remnants of conflict are invisible amongst the trappings of banality, whereas others are so out of place as to seem obnoxious and heavy-handed. But this is Iran, the artist claims. Life does not always play nice for the poet-documentarian.

    Look by Newsha Tavakolian is quieter. Her images are voyeuristic: a high-powered camera lens captures scenes through neighbouring apartment windows. Here, the melancholy of coming home from work or killing time before a date is forced, by context, into the frustration of living in a conflicted and paradoxical society. Long wars and sudden political shifts feed the silent discomfort of her unknowing subjects.

    The mood of the exhibition is dour and necessarily reverent. A slight departure occurs in Abbas Kowsari's Shade of Earth, a photo that seems out of place by not depicting isolated or absent Iranians; instead it features a group of men and women amongst many bright red flags. The accompanying text reports that every year during the New Year (Norooz) holidays, thousands of Iranians undertake a pilgrimage to visit the fronts of the Iran/Iraq war. The trip is called Rahian-e Noor (the Caravan of Light). This image, of all the images here, draws the boldest line to the namesake of the Burnt Generation, directly documenting results of the social and political clashes that occurred during the artists’ respective childhoods. It does not re-enact or project, and this restraint emboldens the works around it, just as they inform and contextualize it.

    University of Calgary Librarian and Vice-Provost Tom Hickerson closed the evening by asking what a contemporary art gallery can do within the breast of a military museum. He spoke about his and gallery curator Lindsay Sharman’s desire to direct attention to armed conflict and its effects worldwide, expanding the scope beyond the museum’s Canada-centric memorials. They want the gallery to exist as a place of learning and empathy. With poetry, the artists of Burnt Generation undo simplistic Western perceptions of contemporary Iranian culture while celebrating individualism in the wake of such all-encompassing unrest. I left feeling both terrified and enamoured by the things we do to each other.

    The Founders Gallery:
    Burnt Generation continues until April 12.

    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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    If I just come right out and tell you that seeing Lyndal Osborne’s current exhibition was like staring at the surface of the sun, would you understand what I mean? Probably not. But since it’s the first analogy that came to mind, I should explain. Her Of Water & Tides at the Art Gallery of Burlington is made up of two installations occupying the gallery’s largest space and a small adjacent room. In the main, it’s all about the surface of things. The larger work in the larger space is based on a dualism: time spent living along Australia’s Shoalhaven River during an artist residency in 2002 and experiencing the lingering after-effects of devastating fires in the region, contrasted with time at home near Edmonton watching how the North Saskatchewan River freezes up in the winter. Shoalwan: River Through Fire, River of Ice comprises, in large part, several thousand empty clear-glass jars and bottles of various sizes assembled together on the floor in a large irregular shape. Amidst this sea of glass (or, arguably, a metaphorical river of ice) is an archipelago of islands, fecund places sporting evidence of life. A number of these are like large platters laden with small bowls containing a myriad of organic things – the shells of small scallops, for instance, the stems from some gourds, seeds, nuts – certainly denotative of the living world. Other islands seem to be comprised of nothing but wooden sticks, and one is a mountain of big, long seedpods. Another appears to be made up of dozens of small crustacean-like creatures arranged in a large spiral as if on some strange geometrical march. And then there is an island entirely made of metal, an assemblage of what seems to be old gears, springs, rotors and old bolts. Machinery. Artefacts. An island, presumably, reshaped (for good or ill) by human hands and ingenuity.

    Lyndal Osborne, Shoalwan: River Through Fire, River of Ice, 2003

    The entirety of the installation is dimly lit, small pools of light focused for the most part on each island amidst the expanse of glass vessels (which are also, it need be noted, things made by human hands and ingenuity). Finally (and here’s where my borderline metaphor comes into play) Osborne’s islands appear to my eyes as sunspots strewn across a glassy surface, small, aesthetically meaningful regions of truly magnetic intensity towards which we are irresistibly drawn.

    The sound of crashing waves intrudes upon the installation, for in a small adjacent room is Tidal Trace. It’s a work dominated by a wall-projected video of waves crashing on a beach. In front of the image Osborne has installed, well, a beach strewn with Nature’s flotsam and jetsam – weeds, sticks, shells, that sort of thing – and even colourful bits and pieces of the rubbish with which we so increasingly contaminate absolutely everything about our planet. This piece has good intentions, but is a bit too earnest and overt, a bit too on the nose. It’s Shoalwan that impacts. And that’s because there are metaphors lurking about there.

    Art Gallery of Burlington:
    Lyndal Osborne: Of Water & Tides continues until April 5.

    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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    Christopher Reid Flock’s first exhibition since winning the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery’s Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics late last year amply demonstrates this accomplishment through the visually arresting vessels in Basking at the Carnegie Gallery. From the most dramatically extended forms to clusters of tiny pots whose interiors punctuate the floor with candy-bright caverns, Flock’s chromatic playfulness is equally evident in forms long divorced from their teapot origins: strange amalgams of thick fortification and crumbling delicacy enlivened by glazes that cloak clay like velvet in some cases and spray lightly across the surfaces of others.

    Iris McDermott in the Carnegie’s TBA Artspace takes this painterly slippage in the ceramicist’s craft to its literal extremes in Something Else, her debut of recent paintings created as a departure from her long pottery career. Her array of still lifes and domestic interiors owe as much to Modernist influences as they do the potter’s formal intuition for the malleable quality of objects that stand to gain and lose dimension through the whim of the brush.

    Christina Sealey, Descending (Dundurn)

    While McDermott’s paintings are lively with the joy of early explorations, Christina Sealey’s paintings and drawings in At Night are rich with the freedom that comes from a slow journey towards material mastery. Her long line of technically accomplished paintings have often balanced precise realism with thinly defined open space, a poetic trait that culminates here in drawings that luxuriate in silver-laced puddles of black ink that hang heavy with presence and significance. This shivering darkness and the dramatic angles Sealey has flung upon her subjects feels emblematic of a distinctly Hamiltonian point-of-view: sharply toppled down stairs and over the precipice of the Niagara escarpment, diving into an abyss of possibility.

    Carnegie Gallery:
    Christina Sealey & Christopher Reid Flock continue until March 1.
    Iris McDermott continues until March 29.

    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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    A few brief visits to Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick Is a Tool) can hardly be expected to give a complete picture of Canadian artist-run publishing in the 1990s. Despite superficial resemblance to a historical survey, this isn’t quite what the exhibition aims to offer, either. Curator Kegan McFadden produces or reproduces documents, ephemera, and in some cases the entire print run of five defunct artist magazines: Vancouver-based Boo, Toronto’s Flower, CUBE from Montreal, Texts, a production of The New Gallery in Calgary, and The Harold, exhibition host Plug In ICA’s abortive “experiment in publishing.” Original, restaged, and new works by some of the magazines’ artist contributors further expand the record, but McFadden seems more concerned with creating an index than delving into specific contents, less concerned with writing an overlooked history than with creating space for new discussion.

    Framed correspondence from Plug In’s The Harold

    Laid out under glass or pinned to the walls up to ceiling height, the magazines themselves are hard enough to read that one has to suspect this isn’t the point (a stack of saddle-stitched facsimiles could have been produced just as easily). Preserved correspondence dwells on mundane budgetary issues, albeit with frequent, fascinating throwbacks to the Culture Wars.

    Understandably, the artworks represent a hodgepodge of what had been saved and what could be remade, but certain patterns do take shape. Much of the work displays an irreverent queer streak (GB Jones’s gender-swapped Tom of Finland homages, a characteristically deranged sketch by Shary Boyle), and not surprisingly some of the most effective works are text-based. Exhibition highlights include a skewered memo by Geoffrey Farmer and Annie Martin’s incomprehensible translation of Francoise Sagan’s Bonjour Tristesse into period-perfect Zapf Dingbats (the coded passage is reproduced as a street-facing window graphic).

    Annie Martin, Bonjour Madam Sagan

    McFadden frames the exhibition as a presentation of ongoing research, but in the context of an exhibition that research seems oriented more toward aesthetic production than the production of knowledge as such. The show is propelled by an affection (even a fetish) for the material properties of vernacular print and a Millennial nostalgia for nineties DIY culture, and it carries an implied critique of the current state of artist-generated publishing. The magazines become literal wallpaper and window dressing, but the frustrating experience of trying to engage with them mirrors the frustrating dearth of contemporary analogues.

    The glimpses we get in Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow make a strong argument for the magazine form’s continued relevance and utility. McFadden lays out past examples as provocative proofs of concept, then he opens up the floor. The show runs through May, allowing much-needed time for closer reading, but it will also act as a venue and forum for a raft of artist talks and lectures (both “performative” and regular), a poetry reading, and a two-day zine making workshop with Winnipeg’s Sappho Collective. Those conversations – and whatever might arise from them – will likely prove to be the main event.

    Plug In ICA:
    Yesterday Was Once Tomorrow (or, A Brick Is a Tool) continues until May 24.

    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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    Having graduated in the early nineties with a degree in Semiotics, the Five Man Electrical Band song Signs has a special place in my heart (though I must admit I first heard it sung by Tesla, which was definitely not cool). The refrain “Do this, don’t do that, can’t you read the sign?” basically sums up any ideological analysis I was exposed to in those heady days when everything was a text and every response a critique. Not surprisingly, the exhibition that borrows its title from said song and is currently on view at my alma mater’s newly united downtown galleries (the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery and the U of T Art Centre) dips into a selection of that era’s visual art as well as stretching into the past of street (sign) photography and into the present’s unanchored embrace of signs of signs as signs.

    Ken Lum, Untitled (Language Painting), 1987, oil, enamel on board

    The slippage happened just before I made it into academia and is represented here with works by Ken Lum, General Idea, Carl Beam, and Ian Carr-Harris. There is a burden of history weighing their signs down – the gravity of colonialism, globalization, AIDS, and postmodernism – that isn’t felt in younger artists like Haldey + Maxwell and Luis Jacob. Kelly Mark’s video of protestors with blank signs demanding “NOTHING!” pretty well sums up the shift to our endless present and Will Kwan’s flags of burning flags sourced through the internet makes one last ditch attempt to link signs to real things but any real world meaning is lost in the pixels. What would Ferdinand de Saussure do? Luckily, the free floating chain of images allows for parallel narratives, ones less tied to the past and the old familiar values that generated us and oppressed us. As the song goes, those signs are “breakin’ my mind” and sometimes that can be a good thing. The singer ends up making his own little sign and that’s what the artists have done here.

    Jenny Holzer, UNEX Sign No. 2 (selections from “The Survival Series”), 1983-84 (reconstructed 2010), LED display

    Jenny Holzer, patron saint of Semiotics Departments everywhere (their office doors would be incomplete without one of her oblique exhortations stuck there on a postcard) is one of three artists in the current edition of the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art’s ongoing series of National Gallery-backed mini-exhibitions. This one, titled Store/Fronts | Façades, has been tailor-made to offset the giddy embrace of consumer culture in the adjacent Douglas Coupland survey show (more on that later, once I’ve had a chance to see its other parts at the ROM and Daniel Faria Gallery). Holzer’s LED display flashes a series of bilingual (is this a requirement for our capital’s collection?) statements that are echoed by Coupland’s Slogans for the 21st Century but possess a critical edge that would be more at home in Sign, sign, everywhere a sign.

    Josephine Meckseper and Vicky Alexander maintain the shopper’s scepticism as they delve into the dystopia of mall culture. The former contributes a shaky Handicam tour of the Mall of America colour-coded beneath tints of red, white and blue that culminates in a visit to the army recruiting centre that sits amidst the clothing stores. The parallel is somewhat heavy-handed and the execution somewhat crummy, so I prefer Alexander’s photos of the West Edmonton Mall because they feel more authentic to my experience of consumer culture. They’re fragmented and lack a centre, incomplete and kind of shitty, and emphasize the kind of shittiness of a mall (which always wrestles with its own inevitable decay). The ideals being sold are refracted in so many mirrors and glass surfaces that it’s impossible to even locate the fountain (or wave pool or whatever) at the centre. You just keep circling around among the surfaces. Or maybe I read too much Baudrillard back in the day and he ruined shopping for me forever.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Sign, sign, everywhere a sign continues until March 7.

    Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art:
    Store/Fronts | Façades continues until April 19.

    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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    In The Fragile Surface, an exhibition of recent work at Gallery St. Laurent + Hill, David Kaarsemaker adds to the dialogue between painting and photography. His pictures are surely about painting, representational while verging on abstraction, the canvasses rendered diaphanous through the application of colour and thinly layered images. They are also about photography in that they construct images that appear to be accurate depictions of the visible world while being faithful to the way that lens-based analogues can be blurred and out of focus. More directly, photographs are partly the subject of the paintings. The processes by which the works are made generate their dramatic interest, and though fully on view, as in the painting Cross-Section 1, they add to their mystery by bordering on the metaphysical. Inasmuch as paintings and photographs are about memory through their commemoration of people and places, Kaarsemaker’s process engages with space and architecture not unlike the “method of loci” of the immemorial rhetoricians.

    David Kaarsemaker, Cross-Section 1, 2015, oil and charcoal on canvas

    Recalling the orators who would memorize a speech by placing its various sections in the order of the rooms of a well-remembered building, Kaarsemaker tells private stories by rendering images that superimpose places and spaces from his past and present, incorporating architectural models and personal photographs. The paintings have the voyeuristic quality of looking into the lit windows of buildings at night, and suggest the omniscient view one has of the cross section of a doll’s house with all of the dramatic tableaus it puts on display. However, even though a viewer that is aware of Kaarsemaker’s process can make out some of the details of the paintings’ construction, the many-layered images that result make their distinct stages unrecognizable. They appear as images that come from a dream the details of which vanish upon waking, and remain just on the other side of definition.

    The trick that memory plays transforms the spaces we remember over time. And just as these spaces are subject to change, so too are paintings, photographs, and people. Kaarsemaker’s biography reveals a peripatetic life, traversing the US, Burkina Faso, and many places in Canada, where the artist now makes a home in the Ottawa area. Kaarsemaker’s paintings are mobile in the manner of today’s digital technology. His paintings, such as Cross-Section 4, evoke the inner glow of networked flat screen monitors and equally ubiquitous hand-held tablets and phones. The paintings share the uprooted quality of a digital image that can be anywhere at any time, connected simultaneously to a global, dispersed social network, always at hand but ironically untouchable.

    Gallery St. Laurent + Hill:
    David Kaarsemaker: The Fragile Surface continues until February 25.

    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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    Border Cultures: Part Three (security, surveillance), the final iteration of the Art Gallery of Windsor series by curator Srimoyee Mitra, takes on a vast range of issues related to agency, violence, and the effects of surveillance on internal and external boundaries on, along, and across borders. For her, the three-part project “conceptualized as a research platform” has been a call to artists to take on broader experiences of/on borders, culminating here in a bridge from “the materiality of the border to a psychological and intimate space of despair, hope and desire.” The resulting exhibition includes many strong works that are often (and deliberately) meandering in their complexity.

    Rebecca Belmore, The Named and the Unnamed, 2002

    A large part of such meandering is in the nature of work which has a kind of bottomless sense of investigation, such as Trevor Paglen’s large-scale installation of code words based on classified military and intelligence activities in the US, or Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani’s physical and interactive archive of post-9/11 disappearances. Less overwhelming are Shelagh Keeley’s series of photographs and drawings based on her travels to Timbuktu in the 1980s, which are juxtaposed with newspaper articles on the more recent aftermath of Timbuktu after the 2012 siege of Mali. From this more personal and somewhat vague angle, Keeley’s photographs and drawings allow glimpses of exterior and interior architecture later destroyed or ransacked. Bambitchell’s Border Sounds consists of musical tracks that conceptualize personal histories of passports from Canada to Pakistan and Israel. Links can be made between restricted versus unrestricted citizen mobility to listener mobility via the length of headphone cords, although this may be lost on those more (or less) inclined to spend time listening through each track.

    More concise but no less complex is Osman Khan’s multi-part installation consisting of the two works Will you be my Palestine? and The Partition Line (Radcliffe Line). Here, the real mapped line dividing India and Pakistan – a line which “recast histories of colonialism and split a nation” – is visualized as the instruments of mapping (“the real tools of violence”) and as a long pencil line upon the wall. For Khan, the gesture of the wall drawing speaks of temporary agency and starting over. A pile of bright orange shirts sits near an issue of Newsweek depicting a crowd of men designated by the words “MUSLIM RAGE”. The immediacy of this headline is not unlike the shirts’ immediate signals to incarceration. Nearby, a barrier of grey partitions is linked to the West Bank wall or “fence of separation” between Israel and Palestine. There is much more to consider here, with further connections between a video of a tethered fly’s “borderless” state, a stack of tally marks, and the sound of Chet Baker.

    Another key work is Hito Steyerl’s video Is The Museum a Battlefield?, a lecture and video essay originally recorded at the 13th Istanbul Biennial. Using a faux-naïve and matter-of-fact voice, Steyerl builds looping conspiracy-like theories of the art world’s participation in war and violence such as the fact that the Biennial, whose sponsors are also manufacturers of military hardware, coincided with finding a shell casing which, because of its mysterious origins, must have traveled across several states of matter (via a data cloud) and circled around its target in the same style as the bullets failing to hit Angelina Jolie in Wanted. Many similar climactic points are made throughout, all with deadpan seriousness.

    In an accompanying panel discussion, a question was posed to the artists: How can the exhibition take such general positions on such jagged and violent histories? Responses included suggestions that the work offers strategies of disarmament, transmits a sense of complicated experiences, can be a catalyst to provoke change, and creates counter-actions through abstractions. Other artists responded with more questions: How do you record or visualize a moment of resistance? How do you bring one space in time into the space of another?

    Mitra spoke of a particular work as a point of departure for the exhibition, a work that speaks of “an internal border known and unknown.” Rebecca Belmore’s video installation The Named and Unnamed is based on Vigil, a performance from 2002 as a commemoration of women, mainly Aboriginal, who have been killed or are missing from Eastside Vancouver since the 1980s. My own experience of the exhibition also leads back to this video and its audible reach into and across the boundaries of other works. The pain and grief of names called and cried, the pulling of clothes away and out of the digging of nails without relief or end, the gravity of Belmore’s stillness, and the heaviness of looking become raw facts. Belmore’s performance – the series of rituals, the gesture of tribute and calling of names – was and is an absolute, mundane task that continues. The task of getting on with it. And it feels like the kind of counter-act that seems to cut through the very idea of act and counter-act by its very real ache.

    Art Gallery of Windsor:
    Border Cultures: Part Three (security, surveillance) continues until May 10.

    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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  • 02/24/15--02:44: Barbara Lounder at Hermes
  • Among the images that compose Barbara Lounder’s Daybook, currently on view at Hermes, only one has a title of its own. With T. H., to the Stone Table is one of the few observational drawings in the exhibition: a drawing of a table with benches next to a tree set against a blank paperwhite back-drop. A bush or plant of some kind juts out sideways from the edge of the table; black egg-like spheres are piled under the bench nearest the viewer. Electric-arc lines tangle amongst the tree branches before discharging out from the tree’s branches to nearby objects and then returning back into the tree, moving back and forth like a restless mind.

    Barbara Lounder

    This wandering line persists throughout the other works. Maps of Germany have been cut up to re-veal the bare lines of roads, underscoring a frantic sort of meandering network. The roads, separat-ed from their surroundings, appear like organic network structures: roots, nerves, waterways. Some drawings resemble the structure of the map but have no visible referent. A chaotic mass of red lines, intersected with dots and triangles but no legend to decode it by. Straight lines, breaking, branching, spreading out. No names or places, only lines.

    Some of the Daybook images can be categorized as mind-maps. Surreal abstract collages, they create a dreamlike field of apparently disconnected imagery: architecture, animals, cut-out words. But, in the way of the dreams, they feel connected. The mind wanders. The wandering line is anal-ogous to the body of work. The tension between chaos and order, and our attempt to reconcile the overwhelming and unknowable, is an endlessly mappable terrain.

    Barbara Lounder: Daybook continues until March 1.

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

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    In the process of explaining Maggie Groat’s current exhibition at Erin Stump Projects to a friend, I had to backtrack a number of times lest I misrepresent her work as being something that it wasn’t. I tossed out the word “assemblage” but qualified it because I didn’t want to give the impression that there was just an offhand collection of found stuff. I mentioned “collage” in reference to the work on paper and perhaps the manner in which Groat deals with her stuff, but her materials tend to be formal or, in that they resemble anything in the world, elemental rather than cultural. In struggling with the content, I threw out the term “new age” but then qualified it again and again because I did not want my friend to think the artist was hippy-dippy, because she leans more to the cool and crisp than the warm and fuzzy. But then again, there are some crystals and pyramids on hand, so I couldn’t completely disregard the possibility. In then end, my friend got tired of my waffling and proceeded to tell me about the Basquiat show at the AGO, but I kept up an internal monologue as I couldn’t let Groat go.

    Maggie Groat

    Later that day, I came to the provisional conclusion that she somehow entertains transcendental themes – or, at the very least, the pursuit of them (but I’d like to think she’s more sincere than that) – through the most quotidian means. The result is my favourite sort of alchemy, one that extends beyond the sum of its ridiculously simple parts to generate the depths of contemplation that one usually looks for in only the highest of modes of expression. So her allusions to balance, order, harmony, and all those classically aesthetic qualities emerge not out of marble or paint on canvas, but sneak into the room through a string hung with nails or salvaged wood approximating geometrical forms. The symmetry of the cosmos is planted at floor-level by inset bowls of water sitting on two perpendicular mirrors, while a potted fern beneath a haphazard pyramid triggers the longstanding dialectic between the real and the ideal. It’s the scope of her concerns that make her so hard to pin down. If only I’d thought to say that to my friend.

    Niall McClelland, Never had the Height, 2015, basketballs, melted ice, leaves, dirt, cigarettes, coins, receipts, champagne cork

    Niall McClelland used to parlay a similarly cosmic range with blackened sheets of paper unfolded to reveal inadvertent star charts or wrapped up printer cartridges stuffed in a back pocket to generate intense symmetries of colour, but his current exhibition at Clint Roenisch Gallery stays close to the ground. He moves from dirt to dirt in five large canvases impressed with the grot (including stray cigarette butts!) from his studio floor. The results are earthy abstractions but the limitations of the process keep them bound to their source. A collection of abandoned and semi-deflated basketballs does a better job of suggesting a desultory constellation left out in the rain. The debris collected in its gravitational field – from dirt (again) to a champagne cork – takes this piece beyond the whimsy of an accidental discovery and cranks up the mystery by hinting at some greater narrative. Things fall back to earth with a collection of anti-establishment silk screens that rely on the same cool cynicism as Richard Prince’s joke paintings. McClelland manages to draw on the antagonism of the message while also maintaining a clinical distance from the sentiment. It’s a clever trick but not much more.

    Erin Stump Projects:
    Maggie Groat: For insufficient interest in present circumstances continues until March 14.

    Clint Roenisch Gallery:
    Niall McClelland: Hot Sauce continues to February 28.

    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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    Simon Starling and Sophie Calle both create work that tells a story, but in most other respects they are polar opposites. He makes cerebral projects steeped in research, whereas her art is full of personal and emotional journeys. It’s a bit of an odd coincidence to have such flagrant binary stereotypes of male and female approaches so starkly juxtaposed, but both have impressive and engaging practices, so I was eager to check out their parallel exhibitions at the Musée d’art contemporain de Montreal.

    Sophie Calle, Voir la Mer, 2011 (courtesy: Galerie Perrotin and Paula Cooper Gallery; photo: Caroline Champetier)

    I have enjoyed Calle’s practice since first learning about it in my early twenties (let’s face it, she is like an empathetic rune for romantic young women studying art and art history), but I was a little “meh” about the two relatively recent works on exhibition here. Voir la mer from 2011 – where the French artist brought inner city residents of Istanbul to the sea for the first time – even came off as slightly condescending. Calle is best when her works document her own performativity and the subject is personal.

    Starling’s career had begun to kick off outside of Glasgow just when I arrived in Scotland to start my MFA. This retrospective, titled Metamorphology, provides an opportunity to see how much more complex and dense his practice has become over the years. His work often rests on a similar methodology involving the research and re-creation of the journey/ecology of specific objects in history: cars, boats, bicycles, steel, marble, modern art, etc. In later works such as Project for a Masquerade (Hiroshima), the interweaving stories and metaphors prove somewhat richer.

    I was sorry to miss Sophie Calle’s artist talk last month, but this year’s Max and Iris Stern Symposium, entitled Every Object Has a Story: Art, Research and the Reinvention of Things, is inspired by Starling’s practice and the artist will be among the presenters at the end of March.

    Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal:
    Simon Starling: Metamorphology continues until May 10.
    Sophie Calle: For the Last and First Time continues until May 10.

    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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    The Winnipeg Art Gallery, a Tyndall stone sarcophagus at the best of times, was especially dead when I ducked in this past Saturday. In fairness, the museum is between major shows: after five months, its lackluster and long-running Dalí-themed cash grab is finally behind us and the next self-styled “blockbuster,” a sprawling cache of Greco-Roman sculpture on loan from Berlin, won’t open until late next month – at which point it will remain on view for a punishing fifty-one weeks.

    Wanda Koop

    Confined to the front atrium, a new suite of paintings by Wanda Koop is, for the time being, the main attraction. The WAG can often seem indifferent to contemporary art in this city; as a show of engagement, throwing a few Koops up in the lobby is not exactly inspiriing (though this is no comment on the work itself).

    Grumpiness aside, the eight nine-by-seven-foot monochrome paintings are indeed beautiful (if a touch bloodless) and, in fact, beautifully sited. Washy black ink and acrylic on unprimed canvas greige nicely echo tones in the fossil-flecked limestone walls, while the paintings’ massiveness and minimal handling highlight the scale of the architecture space, imbuing it with an uncommon airiness – a feat of alchemy perfectly suited to Koop’s reflective, daydream imagery.

    That imagery adds a compelling subjective layer to her familiar conceits: VIEW from HERE interpolates landscape imagery from past series into a new body of stylized human heads. Where typically Koop’s proto-cities fruit like fungi in undifferentiated Petri dishes of painterly space minimally recalling floodplains and prairies, here they coalesce alongside natural features to form surreal, sphinxlike facial expressions. Koop enlivens the literal but lovely meditations on physical and psychological “place” with subtle humour and wit – the deftly-accomplished paredolia is a pleasant surprise each time, and the feline footprints trailing from one river scene are an unqualified delight.

    Nic Adamson

    From the WAG that afternoon, I cut through the downtown Bay to catch a bus to C Space, where Nic Adamson was gallery-sitting and strumming a guitar on the last day of his video exhibition Bright Burn.

    Adamson’s own “meditations on place” are equally clever but at once more seductive and sarcastic. Lo-fi interventions in the form of hanging screens transformed found footage of tropical vistas into an immersive pastiche, a plasticky fever dream of Bloody Mary sunsets and desaturated palms. Though the exhibition implied a critique of an escapist, constructed image-world, the improbable #FF00FF fuchsia of fluttering azalea blossoms was – to this Florida transplant’s tired eyes, at least – as real and true as anything, and a welcome and necessary departure from the consuming grey of late winter in Winnipeg.

    Winnipeg Art Gallery:,exhibition/175/wanda-koop-view-from-here
    Wanda Koop: VIEW from HERE continues until May 31.

    C Space:
    See website for current exhibition.

    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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    I thought for a second I had stumbled into a dentist’s waiting room, what with the jaunty but characterless piped-in music and the colourful but meaningless framed paintings on the walls, but I double-checked the door and it was definitely Susan Hobbs Gallery and the card on the door said Krista Buecking’s work was on display, so I sauntered in. The absence of chairs actually gave the space more of an investment firm lobby feel and the music was familiar but difficult to place. The overall tone of the tunes was optimistic and incomplete – just a selection of fragments that sweetened the air but didn’t leave me feeling anything in particular. I was beginning to realize that this hollowed out sensation – both in the objects and their meaning – was the point.

    Krista Buecking

    The eternal now and fragmentary forms of contemporary art don’t leave a lot of room for history paintings or their post-medium equivalents. That said, work that concerns itself with our collective past does arise (Stan Douglas is a good example) and, as is inevitable, plays a political role in framing those lost moments. Buecking’s era is that of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century’s dismantling of financial regulations. The real world consequences of such actions were felt up to and include the collapse of 2008, but the route to such bubble bursting went straight through the fantasy of unencumbered profiteering unmoored from actual stuff (you know, all those things Marx was obsessed with like labour, commodities, and the means of production). Her images on view hint at corporate graphs or profit charts but are stripped of any referents and merely decorate the sunsetting colours that sit behind them. They could serve as a movie set for the heady days of free floating capitalism that inflated during the eighties. However, they rely only on formal elements and a colour scheme; the truth of their matter is nowhere to be found. All you have are empty promises, simplified schemes, and the appearance of substance, which is as good a description of what went wrong as you’re going to get.

    Felix Kalmenson

    For another take on our recent economic history it's worth the stroll over to Pari Nadimi Gallery where Felix Kalmenson is, among other things, tormenting his gallerist with a ceaseless cacophony of unholy proportions. His multiscreen installation sets dozens of identical celebrations of initial public offerings on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange in a dense grid that multiplies the frantic cheering and noise of commerce to generate phantom whistling and unexpected droning tones that suggest the uncontrollable epiphenomena created by an overloaded financial system on overdrive. The uniform tableaus that play out in miniature across the screens can be distinguished through unique details like individual logos, colour schemes and company mascots, but the celebrants cheering, particularly amidst a sea of equally referenceless employees and generic board members, rings hollow (again!) and the overall effect is nothing less than hellish and alone worth the trip.

    In contrast to the din, Kalmenson's replicas of exchange floor platforms are mere props. On their own they might have carried some weight as minimal sculptures from a bygone age, but the theatre of spectacle and hierarchy they once represented is now overshadowed by the onslaught of electronics. They are also historical works in their own way and allude to a time and place where money was still anchored in time and places, but as artefacts their true purpose is to emphasize the inescapable truth that every history is a story of loss.

    Susan Hobbs:
    Krista Buecking: Matters of Fact continues until April 4.

    Pari Nadimi Gallery:
    Felix Kalmenson: A Year in Review continues until March 28.

    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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    There are times – usually after I’ve just exited a biennial-sized smorgasbord of all the weird and wonderful things that contemporary art has to offer – when everything I happen upon feels like an undiscovered artwork waiting to be discovered, appropriated, and/or replicated. The city surveyor’s spray paint marking out sewer routes on snowbanks? That’s a piece. The iPhone voice memo recording of a three year old chanting, “Dracula eats blood” for two long minutes? That’s a piece. The dumpster full of shattered concrete and one half-eaten apple? That’s a piece. Now the difference between me and an artist is that I leave it at that, whereas the latter follows through with the moment of inspiration. And thank the gods they do, because otherwise I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

    Mathieu Latulippe, The Fall, 2013, digital print on Hannemuhle paper

    Mathieu Latulippe, who is currently exhibiting a wide range of work at Division Gallery’s Toronto location, is the type of artist who follows though with every burst of inspiration. While such creative momentum is something to be applauded, it doesn’t mean that every stray thought should be realized. A Sol LeWitt sculpture splattered with faux bird poop might sound good on paper, but when witnessed in person it comes off as bratty (particularly when it is titled Shit Happens #1). A picture of Niagara Falls with a mushroom cloud rising from it is just a variation on the same theme (natural wonder + atom bomb = Minimalism + poop). And grainy screens shots of indiscriminate landscapes taken from scary movies should be tossed along with any other student work.

    That said, Latulippe transcends his sources with a weathered birdhouse plus TV combo running a loop of unpopulated scenes from the zombie classic Night of the Living Dead. It’s the type of seemingly random conjunction of disparate parts that can’t be explained, but once it exists is hard to forget. I felt a similar compulsion to keep looking at his obscurely titled print No. 3 (Blue, yellow, orange on deep black). What seems to be your standard starry night sky is revealed on further examination to be a constellation of tiny satellites that are barely visible but – and this might just be my failing eyesight – eventually congeal into an impressive array of distinct devices for telecommunication and surveillance. That neither of these works can be reduced to a one-liner is a good indication of where the artist should continue to find his muse.

    Lyse Lemieux, Wall Drawing 6 - Toronto, 2015, felted wool

    A cleansing tonic from the surfeit of content and reality in Latulippe’s work can be found in Lyse Lemieux’s free floating gestures on view at Katzman Contemporary. While there are hints of things represented – particularly in her endearing suite of profile portraits reduced to a thick squiggly line tracing nose-lips-chin plus black-grey watercolour washes that shadow the eyes and brain – the dominant pieces are three floor-to-ceiling drawings of the barest sense of figuration rendered in strips of felt. One looks to me like a baby whale, another like someone with an eggbeater in their mouth, but given enough time I’m sure I could come up with far greater visions. Lemieux manages the difficult trick of opening the door just a crack and then leaves it up to the visitor to identify the results. This subtle manner of art-making can fall apart into meaningless marks or easily be dismissed as insubstantial or, worse yet, simply not noticed; however, as I learned years ago from a wise jazz man who more often than not held his trumpet in his hands rather than at his lips, it’s the notes you don’t play as much as it is the notes you do.

    Division Gallery:
    Mathieu Latulippe: Back to Paradise Lost continues until April 18.

    Katzman Contemporary:
    Lyse Lemieux & Meryl McMaster: in-between-in-between continues until March 21.

    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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  • 03/17/15--13:19: Talk Show at SBC Gallery
  • When I need a little distraction from work I love to watch old episodes of the BBC chat show Parkinson on You Tube. The repartee and storytelling, particularly in some of the 1970s clips, are fascinating and entertaining. So I was delighted to walk into the SBC Gallery’s current exhibition Talk Show and find almost forty contributing artists, as well as a significant series of public events, all concerned with the idea of conversation and its complexities.

    Talk Show set at SBC Gallery

    As is frequently the case at the SBC, the gallery space has been specifically designed to be multipurpose. Curated explorations of the exhibition thesis, consisting of video clips and audio files of interviews and other ruminations on the mediated space between the self and another, are displayed alongside a space for live events – in this case an actual talk show set constructed in the gallery. Many of the video and audio clips were selected by invited guests; for example, curator cheyanne turions chose a provocative interview between British talk show host Mavis Nicholson and the writer James Baldwin. Artist Jake Moore’s work Tessitura explores the female voice and its environment, while other highlights include a film by Pablo Sigg of Luc Tuymans under hypnosis, and the intriguing film Je ne suis pas féministe, mais by Sylvie and Florence Tissot, which looks at the feminism of sociologist Christine Delphy. The extensive public events program – consisting of workshops, talks, and screenings – is co-produced with Mexico’s el-instituto and well worth checking out.

    Programming at the SBC has been consistently strong over the last few years with Pip Day at the helm (she was just announced as a co-curator of Santa Fe’s biennial SITE-Lines). Talk Show is the first project of a new Focus Program at the gallery based on Clarice Lispector’s 1973 book Água Viva, and it once again sets the bar in an imaginative vision of what an institution can achieve by allowing curatorial research to develop over a period of time in thematically connected exhibitions.

    SBC Gallery:!home/mainPage
    Talk Show continues until April 25.

    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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    I’ve never been to Montreal, but I’ve built up an image of art in that city based on the trickle of shows that make it to Winnipeg. I’ve come to anticipate the inevitable silkscreen installations, the highlighter hues and allover patterning, the varyingly-earnest occult sensibility, the fashionable references always just past their pull date by the time they get here. Jacinthe Loranger ticks off each of these boxes in Éveil sur des rives étrangères, her solo show currently on display at the Maison des artistes. This might not be a problem in itself, but a totalizing fixation on style conspires with shoddy workmanship to undermine what would otherwise be a perfectly interesting, enjoyable exhibition.

    Jacinthe Loranger

    Loranger’s toolkit comprises torn, tiled, chewed up, decoupaged, and wheat-pasted silkscreen prints, gloppy clouds of expanding foam, lasciviously-crooked pairs of witch fingers, and candy-coloured translucent pig’s feet. She combines and recombines these ingredients to concoct odd, makeshift memorials – seasick lighted monuments, a dissolving birthday cake and bubbling tar pit, an intestinal cloud of twisted pink tendrils, surprisingly tender bas-relief portraits of road kill – that regard death and decay through the dual lenses of sensual pleasure and abjection trauma.

    The Maison’s drop-ceiling tube fluorescents intensify occasional pops of neon colour, bathing everything else in a blunted, overcast chill. As I pad around in sock feet to protect works pasted to the floor, all sounds are muffled. Located in the old St. Boniface City Hall, the gallery has never seemed more like a municipal office, and the bureaucratic ambience only heightens the overall uncanny mood.

    It all checks out on paper and looks good in photographs, but the foam sculptures straddle plinths that, in person, look like badly wrapped birthday presents. Presumably for ease of shipping, the tar pit has been cut into wedges, giving the impression of a carbonized party pizza. I like the work, actually. (I’m an aging Millennial with a hard-on for Day-Glo and a soft spot for Freudian themes. I studied Wicca in middle school. This is, as young people presumably no longer say on Tumblr, “my aesthetic.”) I want to believe, and, if I could just smooth out the wrinkles, erase the seams, square the corners, and clear out some of the junk, I actually think I could.

    Marijana Mandusic

    As a bonus point of comparison, the pastel soft grunge of Marijana Mandusic’s Fluff, which closed over the weekend at C Space, was in some ways even more concerned with style and more pointedly of-the-moment. Still, the effect was less self-serious, more self-aware, and the work was better made.

    Mandusic’s signature move is to isolate gestural brushstrokes, physically peeling them from their supports or repurposing them as photocopied collage elements. In Fluff, the Xeroxed blobs and squiggles appeared as pattern motifs for digitally-printed textiles. Soft sculptures – lopsided accent cushions; distended neck, hemorrhoid, and bed pillows; a beanbag chair – sidled up against, swaddled, and threatened to smother a handful of generic abstract canvases.

    It’s possible I saw lighthearted feminist trolling because that’s what I wanted to see, but the work functioned well in that light. There were satisfying echoes of Riot Grrrl cut-and-paste aesthetics, Yayoi Kusama’s polka-dotted phalluses, and Eva Hesse’s parasitized cubes and frames. One could consider the decorative decoupling of mark-making from “expression,” the Pop-like treatment of repetition and branding, and the different gendered valences of fabric. (Also, some of those “generic” stretched canvases seemed more like pointed pastiche – casual glosses on home-décor-riffing abstractions by local boys like Krisjanis Kaktins-Gorsline and Robert Taite.)

    While it was hard to gauge whether these were really “fluff” pieces or something more substantial, they were inviting in either case. Then again, I’m pretty much always down to nap.

    La Maison des artistes visuels francophones:
    Jacinthe Loranger: Éveil sur des rives étrangères continues until April 11.

    C Space:
    See website for current exhibitions.

    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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