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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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    It wasn’t until I was four paintings into her solo exhibition at Jessica Bradley Gallery that I started to get Sarah Cale. And since I’m the type of critic who eschews textual support on the first go-around, it wasn’t until later, when I read the title for the fourth painting, that I realized how synchronous our thinking – Cale’s and mine, that is – was, or rather, is. The title is Separated at Birth and the painting – insofar as you can call these wall-hung objects “paintings” (perhaps “paintings plus” is more appropriate) – is comprised of your standard rectangularly-mounted canvas (in this case, stretched linen) with an additional loose piece of rectangular linen slightly offset from the square attached to the surface. The result of this simple enough gesture is to skew the formal requirements of a painting slightly off the square as well and in doing so set in motion a series of reflections on the twinning of form and content, which are inescapably both separated and united at birth.

    Sarah Cale, Low Rent Oracle (detail), 2012-15, oil and unravelled linen on linen

    While I’ll leave my extended riff on the novelty of formal innovation in the last century of visual art to be collected in my scholarly papers, I will mention that Cale’s playful creations manage to make the serious work of transcendence and abstraction in the field of painting surprisingly fun. From her lengthy exhibition title (see below) to the religiously infused, but not obsessed, titles of her individual works, Cale manages to put the “reverence” back in “irreverence” while avoiding the temptation to play either the clown or the high priest. The laughter that the exhibition elicited was not a chuckle or a guffaw, but the “ha!” of recognition and delight. This often came after my initial assessment had been established, only to be undercut by colourful details that set the work back into motion. For example, Low Rent Oracle is a portrait-sized work on an oval canvas with a full head of unravelled linen hair hanging from face-level past the bottom of the frame. This would be a sufficient experiment on its own, but if you look closely at those split ends you’ll find they’ve been dipped in pink paint. And on further inspection, the hairline is also imbued with far brighter colours than previously assessed. And then a whole bunch of hidden colours reveal themselves throughout the previously thought to be limited exhibition palette. Which leads me back to the theme of spirituality and the quick conclusion that God continues to be found in the details.

    Silke Otto-Knap, Figure (bending), 2007, watercolour on canvas

    The week that Cale’s exhibition closes also happens to be the week that Silke Otto-Knapp, another contemporary artist beating the dead horse of painting, officially opens her solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Ontario. The works have been up since mid-February, but the artist will be giving a talk as well as present a hula performance by a Hawaiian dance team on Wednesday in the gallery, followed by the public opening. After having put in my best effort at appreciating the art on display, I must admit that the hula thing is the most intriguing aspect of this exhibition. The paintings are uniformly indistinct in appearance. They resemble overexposed negatives or washed out watercolours, and depict dancing figures, barren landscapes or culturally specific scenes (the set of a play, for example). The contents acquire an air of mystery or significance through the purposefully obscure method of putting paint to canvas. It reminds me of a conversation from years ago when I was still playing the field. Someone flirting with me asked why my responses were so cryptic and I had to confess that it made me sound more interesting than I was. These paintings fall victim to the same conceit.

    Jessica Bradley Gallery:
    Sarah Cale: My Religion Makes No Sense and Does Not Help Me Therefore I Pursue It continues until March 21.

    Art Gallery of Ontario:
    Silke Otto-Knapp: Land lies in water continues to July 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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    Sera Senakovicz’s exhibition You Can’t Go Home Again presents a body of work about the people who were displaced by the massive restructuring of downtown Halifax in the 1960s. Demolition for a planned but never completed freeway that would become the infamous Cogswell Interchange, Sco-tia Square Mall, the Metro Centre, the casino, etc., relocated over 1600 residents and permanently altered the spirit of the downtown.

    Sera Senakovicz

    A series of drawings on windowpanes line the walls of Parentheses Gallery. The images drawn on glass are quiet portraits of people visibly torn and conflicted. There is an internal, reflective dimen-sion to the images: people with nervous hands whose memories fill their chests as they walk away from home and community. Senakovicz’s drawing style is delicate and considered; the wavering line embodies a sense of turmoil and displacement.

    In the centre of the gallery hangs a giant woodblock print next to the woodblock itself. They are mir-ror images of hard lines carved out of deep black. The depicted scene is tense, chaotic, and emo-tional: people carry their belongings into the night as a boarded-up house falls down behind them. We recognize individuals from the earlier portraits. Their eyes look away, cast down.

    The effect of the exhibition is the creation of something like a folktale. The imagery and characters evoke a mythological sense of loss, of being uprooted and losing one’s place. Like a journey into darkness or a lantern in the night, the story told is one of turning away from home and out into the unknown.

    Parentheses Gallery:
    Sera Senakovicz: You Can’t Go Home Again continues until March 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 found on Twitter @HighamDaniel.

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    The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl has said on more than one occasion that he treats all art, no matter what its vintage, as contemporary. It’s an effective strategy to distinguish critical writing from the work of art historians. There is some overlap in their concerns, but the former is found in the ever-present now while the latter is lost in the past. The critic assesses some sort of immediate aesthetic value (beauty or essence or criticality or something), whereas the historian identifies the lineage of the work. When dealing with the newly new, there isn’t a lot of confusion (though some critics might jump the gun and start calling artists “seminal” before they’ve even passed puberty). However, in approaching a survey exhibition of a senior artist (maybe even one who’s dead), particularly in a gallery that doubles as a museum, there is the increased likelihood that someone writing about the art might throw around the word “important” and start canonizing when they should be criticizing.

    Jean-Michel Basquiat, Black Soap, 1981, mixed media on paper

    Jean-Michel Basquiat died far too young, but was perhaps already in the realm of importance even while he was still alive. He most certainly knew to represent himself as such and in that way fit the bill for a Great American Artist from the get-go. In the intervening decades, he has come to represent a gold standard for late-20th Century painting if auction prices and rap lyrics are to be believed. However, none of that should matter for the everyday Jane and Joe who visit the impressive retrospective now on display at the Art Gallery of Ontario– though of course it does. A game of identifying knowingness vs. sui generis-ness in the artist is paralleled by the viewer’s desire to see his work in the context of downtown NYC in the 80s, racism in America, hip hop’s early years, postmodernism, the rebirth of painting, or any of a bunch of other possible references that Basquiat’s sample-mad canvases and drawings on scraps of paper allude to. From the basics of technique (a wall quote asserts that the artist can in fact draw) to the nuances of language as art (there are words, words, words everywhere), mastery wins out as the work is always one step ahead of the game, responding to my every discovery with “I got here first” before running off to the next thing. It’s not surprising that at one point, the next thing is Exu, a Yorubian trickster spirit, because Basquiat knocks you off balance to grab your attention.

    Art Spiegelman, Study for Maus II, A Survivor’s Tale: And Here My Troubles Began, c. 1985, pen, pencil, and correction fluid on paper

    Comics, cartoons, or graphic novels – whatever you choose to call them – are the latest form of visual art to gun for inclusion in the established institutions. And Art Spiegelman, whose CO-MIX: A Retrospective recently closed at the AGO, is a popular choice for proving this historically low form of culture’s worth. His graphic novel Maus is undoubtedly a classic, probably “important,” and perhaps worthy of a critic’s gaze, but putting it in a gallery, spread out under glass across the walls is really to miss the point and lose the experience of reading the work. It reminded me of the endless extras that are included in certain DVD editions of historically important films. The multiple commentaries, scripts, stills, panel discussions, essays and so forth are fine for scholars, but these days all I want to do is watch the movie and leave it at that. CO-MIX had me pining to go home and dig out my copy of Maus to read over again, but that’s because I’m a critic, which is really just to say a fan, and not a historian.

    Suzy Lake, Miss Chatelaine, 1973, gelatin silver print

    Further lessons in history were also provided this past winter in the also recently closed Introducing Suzy Lake retrospective of the local artist’s decades-long practice of photo-documented performance. Partly because she’s a female artist and partly because she left Detroit for Canada instead of New York, her importance is nowhere near as established at the two Americans above – hence the irony of titling a survey that goes back to the 1960s “Introducing…” As for the critic’s response, I find the ideas outweigh the images in many of these otherwise straightforward photographs. This is often the case with art rooted in Conceptualism, but the older works have at least acquired a patina of nostalgia, which is antithetical to their intent but has become inseparable from their reception. They are now also part of the past: that is, historical artefacts. Seeing them as such yanks them out of the purview of criticism, but makes them curiosities. Whether they are important is for time to decide.

    Art Gallery of Ontario:
    Jean-Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time continues until May 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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    Closing on Saturday at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03, Him and Me is Peter Tittenberger’s first solo exhibition in almost thirty years. While the work is firmly rooted in place (Winnipeg’s North End, where the artist grew up and still lives), it’s notably – though perhaps understandably – adrift in time. The title itself points to one unresolved temporal conflict: the “Him” here is Tittenberger in the seventies and eighties, a photographer, while “Me” is him today, a ceramicist, found-object sculptor, and recently minted BFA. As sharply as he attempts to draw the distinction, though, the line between past and present selves is seldom clear.

    Peter Tittenberger

    Tittenberger has taken it upon himself to walk every street and back alley in Winnipeg, a long-term survey he’s nearly finished. The walks help him understand his home city, but they also provide him with scrap wood, junked furniture, and mechanical bits and bobs to use in assemblage sculptures. If the process of acquiring that material speaks to an attentiveness to his surroundings and a desire to operate in the present moment, the sculptures themselves betray an irrepressible fixation on the past.

    Finely crafted and all the prettier for the weathered condition of their scavenged parts, reminiscent of furniture and housewares but distinctly non-functional, the sculptures that make up North End Kitschen Party are both abstract and insistently nostalgic. Like half-realized relics from a Proustian bargain store, they haltingly reconstruct memories of Tittenberger’s North End upbringing.

    Peter Tittenberger

    More captivating is It cannot but be true, a series of newly collaged and manipulated Polaroids first shot in 1979 and then abandoned. With a woodworker’s eye to precision, Tittenberger refits the indistinct images and watery fields of colour-saturated emulsion into seamless architectonic constructions and near-plausible landscapes. The nostalgic tenor persists, but the collages’ intractable strangeness drags them (to their great benefit) from “reminiscence” into “fugue state.”

    Framing his work as a means of giving order to lived experience, Tittenberger invokes contemporary developments in information science – tag clouds and other ad-hoc systems of digital classification. At first this seems at odds with his evident (and acknowledged) mid-Century precedents, artists like Louise Nevelson, Joseph Cornell, Lucas Samaras, and Richard Long. It can also seem like an oversell of work whose aesthetic forms skew decorative and (in 2015) somewhat generic. It does, however, help give shape to Tittenberger’s sentimental brand of Modernism. Having systematically surveyed and catalogued his career, his city, and his passages through both, he consults the archive, leveraging the raw data into a wistful, expressive, and highly individual vision. It’s an anachronistic approach in some ways, but one more compelling for being stridently out-of-step.

    Gallery 1C03:
    Peter Tittenberger: Him and Me continues until April 4.

    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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    The enduring appeal of surrealism could perhaps be attributed to the universal experience of dreams (except for a friend from university who claimed to only ever experience shifting fields of colour while he slept). Therein lies its weakness as well, for just as the dreams of others can be torturous in their tedium and irrelevance (as anyone who has ever had a roommate recount their dreams in detail on a daily basis knows), so can art that merely jams together disparate images in an attempt to invoke some sort of psycho-sexual turmoil. Any teen with a pair of scissors, an anatomy textbook, and the latest issue of Vogue can do that. What distinguishes worthwhile artists who mine the less-than-rational recesses of our culture is a sensibility built on recurring themes that generate a greater mythology and a twist in the means of display that anchors the work in the space of the real.

    Jennifer Murphy

    Jennifer Murphy has long had a sensibility that draws on a select bestiary, classical figures, and a knife’s edge. I described it as totemism over ten years ago in a review of an early solo exhibition, but it has progressed beyond individual creatures or images created from collaged shards of colour or fabric to metamorphizing multiple entities that overlap or shift from one form to another. In her current exhibition at Clint Roenisch Gallery, the biological kingdoms are united in pictures that combine plants with human or animal parts. The more straightforward combinations are glossy magazine updates of the kind of collages Max Ernst was doing in 1930, but fall prey to reductive readings that equate flora with genitalia. That’s old hat compared to the recombinant figures that paper the gallery walls – pinned ever so gently and at risk of being peeled away – in a constellation of fantastical creations that link beauty and decay. Maybe that’s why she uses plants so often: they bind dirt and decomposition to floral display and reproduction. Other narratives scuttle through the exhibition and come to rest at a black marble platform that holds wobbly towers of thread or dowels alongside an assemblage of driftwood and a long, thin, pink balloon. I’ll leave the meaning of the latter to the chattering classes because the overall effect is one that encourages freeform exploration. The recounting of dreams should begat more dreams, not explanations.

    Valérie Blass

    Valérie Blass plays a funny game with body parts in her current exhibition at Daniel Faria Gallery (a remount of a show from Artspeak in Vancouver). Sometimes they are literally bodies, as with a full-size mannequin of woman, and sometimes they are allusions, as with black plasticine tendrils hanging off metal bars to resemble miniature figures in balance or sexual congress. Even when it’s clearly not a human, the implication is that the object is a stand-in or compliment to the flesh. A velvety black sculpture looks from one angle to be monstrous face, but from another is a cat attached vertically to a torso. However, the tail, when viewed from the concave mirror that is part of the support structure, wags like a phallus and takes the place of the reverse figure's nose. Perhaps I’m revealing too much of myself in naming these parts, but Blass – like the surrealists before her – fragments the self to play at the margins of identity. Each work is an invitation for completion while at the same time resisting that invitation. The armature that locks the sculptures in place impedes any complete view; you have to peer around, look up, or peek under, but the figure never coheres. The result is disturbing, but the lesson of artists like Blass and Murphy is that there is a pleasure in being disturbed.

    Clint Roenisch Gallery:
    Jennifer Murphy & Eli Langer: Caravansary of Joy continues until April 25.

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    Valérie Blass: My Life continues until April 25.

    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 colour of Dorothy Caldwell’s Silent Ice | Deep Patience, currently on display at Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery (and co-presented by the Art Gallery of Peterborough and the confusingly named Idea Exchange, which used to be called the Cambridge Galleries) is striking. The contrast of warm black soil and yellow lichen creates a visual richness that develops from below and within the surface of the materials used. The depth of her colour is the result of an alchemical reaction of texture, pigment, and light.

    Dorothy Caldwell

    Caldwell is drawn to detail. From a distance, the ten-foot high textile compositions are balanced and unified. Through the series, Caldwell explores a recurring line: an arc or mound form. Behind this curved line, the image ground is divided, split vertically in two. The surface is both mirrored and asymmetrical. Up close, the fabric reveals that it has been well cultivated: many layers of material, stitchwork, and printing weave their way through the composition. Many small fragments of image and fabric are sewn into the work; nothing remains untouched. Caldwell’s lines are deliberate and exploratory, precise and organic. She plays with the materiality of her lines, flowing easily from fabric to ink and thread with the fluidity of language.

    In the adjoining gallery, Caldwell shares a collection of tactile notebooks and found objects. Tables, drawers, and walls are filled with shells and rocks. She has collected ancient fishhooks, bits of rusted iron bent into curved lines, and flattened steel cans. In this room it is hard to feel anything but the love of surface and form that she so clearly has for these objects. In them, we see the patterns, colours, and inspiration for her compositions, those organic shapes and tones.

    Caldwell’s textile works show the artist’s relationship to the land she travels on. The drawn lines and stitched cloth tell the story of that place, of human presence, and the passing of time. As the colour of the fabric seems to come from below the surface, so too the memory of these places seems embedded in the material – somewhere just below the surface.

    Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery:
    Dorothy Caldwell: Silent Ice | Deep Patience continues until May 17.

    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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    In the reading list to her recent “self-help guide for artists”, Carol Bove included fifteen-year-old art magazines because they are the best place to see artworks in their “least flattering light.” A decade and a half represents the midway point before things come back in fashion, so this is the point of the greatest estrangement but also the most honest test of a work’s worth. Looking at old art magazines is always dispiriting because they are catalogues of failed careers, flashes in the pan, and the savage Darwinism of art history. So little survives between now and then, and the major institutions can only validate a miniscule selection of an era’s artists. The economy of time and space, as well as money, for the big public galleries is a horribly limited arbiter of what’s remembered, so it’s worth recognizing the efforts of others to keep up with the past. University galleries like the AGYU with their recent Toronto in the late seventies exhibition and the University of Guelph’s Toronto-based G Gallery and their just closed Janice Gurney survey (not to mention mid-career surveys from U of T’s Barnicke Gallery) all do their part to halt our collective amnesia. A couple commercial galleries have also stepped up to the plate and Paul Petro’s current look at the varied output of Ho Tam is a fine example of how to do it right.

    Ho Tam, Untitled (sunset), 2006, colour photograph mounted on dibond

    From an old school magazine rack (how much longer are they going to be around?) housing the full range of Tam’s book and magazine work to a viewing station made up of a vacuum tube TV set, VHS deck, and a selection of VHS tapes with the artist’s videos dating back the 1994 (now over twenty years ago, FYI) ready to be rewound and watched again, the exhibition captures not only the evolution of the work but the drastic technological shifts of recent history. The overriding interest in issues of identity and self-representation carry through to the more recent photo series that benefit from a lens turned on others, be they naval officers facing a sublime sea or weathered seniors in Vancouver or young men who would otherwise be depicted as angry urban youth joyously displaying the stuffed animals they just won at an amusement park.

    Tam also revisits his own past in a photo/video series from 2000 (just over fifteen years ago) taken at his former grammar school in Hong Kong and a more recent series of the artist dressed in ambiguously aged clothes posing amongst miniature cities in a historical theme park. These works stress not only what we remember, but how we remember it. As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” As such, a retrospective is perhaps as much about the present as the newest flavour of the week.

    Paul Petro Contemporary Art:
    Ho Tam: A Portrait of the Photographer continues until April 25.

    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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    Presented in conjunction with Vancouver’s Capture Photography Festival, the group exhibition Wayward was curated for Winsor Gallery by Kimberly Phillips of Access Gallery. The exhibition title suggests a kind of deviation or unpredictability, and the selected works depart from photography as it is more simply understood, but waywardness in photography is more conventional than one might think. Phillips notes in her exhibition essay that since the first decade of photography’s existence, “a certain anxiety was detectable in the writings of the new technology’s practitioners, who confessed their inability to fully control or ‘fix’ the medium.” By the ease of which certain works on view here stretch what can be considered photography, that anxiety appears to have long since dissipated.

    Jason Gowans, California Drought Winter 2015, LA River (After Chinatown) 1, 2015, tri-colour pigment print with UV/infrared spectrum

    Dana Claxton and Ed Spence consider the pixel in digital images where skin becomes squares. Claxton’s Glama stretches a low-resolution image beyond clarity, and the result appears to be a sexualized videogame character, but is this combative profile one of female empowerment or objectification? The scale suggests a little of both. Spence takes a section of a simple but alluring photograph of an isolated dancer, cuts it into little squares, and rearranges them back into the negative space as a geometric pattern. The gesture adds compelling texture to the photograph and, accidentally or intentionally, references “the body”, but it seems secondary, or a bonus, to the artist’s act of pixilation.

    Collage and found imagery are the most prominent alternatives to straight photography in this exhibition and a testament to our era of cut-and-paste reflexes. Lili Huston-Herterich’s Shards (Fermentation of a Whole New Earth) are hand-formed ceramic pieces with litho-transfers of photographs and glimpses of home fermentation forums. Laurie Kang’s Parallelogram Studies emphasize process to the umpteenth degree as the work is both a study of loose and satisfying compositions, as well as reactive since she collages with unfixed, light sensitive photo paper. Many of the works in the exhibition seem to be multitasking mediums. The overall embrace of experimental approaches results in the more conventional or depictive works, such as Colin Smith’s camera obscura environments and Jason Gowan’s infrared journey down the LA River, falling a little flatter in comparison.

    Photography has long been chemically prodded, cut, and ripped, and has had its properties redefined and then canonized. The more processual and materially athletic works in this exhibition reflect an agenda that embraces the continual permutation of a seemingly received format, but that waywardness is not so much radical as it is ritual – a scheduled reinvention taking place every decade or so as if destabilizing its own canon. What was once an anxiety is now a hobby. Wayward remains a survey of photography, but it is photography in the earliest stages of its next permutation.

    Winsor Gallery:
    Wayward continues until May 2.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. Currently, she is writing a book of letters and stories pertaining to smoking and editing a book of writings by Tiziana La Melia.

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    Raymonde April’s Near You No Cold, now on display at Centre Clark, resulted from a residency in Mumbai. It explores the artist’s commute from her living space to her working space, and the details of that working space – her studio. This exhibition is a counterpoint to April’s recent show at Donald Browne Gallery that dealt with the artist’s domestic experience in Mumbai. The Near You half of the title represents the exhibition at Donald Browne and the No Cold half represents the work at Centre Clark.

    Raymonde April, Brasier

    Although I appreciated April’s photographs at Donald Browne, their installation offered no surprises in comparison to the exhibition at Clark that appears to be more thoughtfully constructed. This exhibition consists of a series of photographs, presented with refreshing variety, and a projected video work. April’s practice beautifully and sensitively explores details of the quotidian by making them extraordinary. This body of work is no exception. Six mid-sized photographs are hung on the wall, each image printed on the top sheet of a pad of papers, elegantly folded over at the upper edge, and hanging loosely at the bottom. Three of these images are of street scenes and three depict a bonfire in a courtyard. Another mid-sized photograph of a metal chair in a bare studio-like space is laid flat on a large low shelf, while a large-scale portrait of a group of Indian women wearing saris is printed on a canvas-like material and pinned to the wall. The projected video shows the artist’s commute from home through the bustling, vibrant streets of Mumbai to her studio. Of these works, the photographs of fire are particularly striking. The bright and delicate licks of flame pop out of the mat images with startling beauty. The orange of the fire contrasts against yards of blue fabric that are strewn across the grey courtyard before being tossed into the flames by a solitary woman. These images are emblematic of how April’s depiction of everyday moments, whether in familiar or unfamiliar settings, always evokes a feeling of intimacy and effortlessness in their making.

    Centre Clark:
    Raymonde April: Near You no Cold continues until April 26.

    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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    While there are still some arch-Modernists and aesthetic purists out there who expect the art experience to be an unmediated interaction between viewer and work, most gallery-going proles are open to locating the object of their ardour within a web of material conditions and intertextual references. Doing so recognizes that it is part of the world, which, depending on your inclinations and upbringing, can be a fall from grace or simply a better accounting of the truth.

    John Marriott, Place Holder, 2015, metal backhoe bucket on Eames Eiffel base

    John Marroitt falls into the latter camp and the laminated list of works at the front desk of MKG127 is a necessary accompaniment to any viewing of his soon-to-close exhibition I’ll Be your Mirror not simply for pricing information but for the additional clues as to how to make sense of his elliptical creations. For example, the bright orange backhoe scoop sitting prominently in the front window only begins to evolve beyond a Duchampian readymade when one realises that its support is an Eames chair frame. High design and the contest between form and function, let alone a familiar story of gentrification and destruction, become the reigning themes of a once simple gesture.

    Marriott is a master of the delayed twist, undercutting initial impressions with sly rejoinders. His Zombie Economy series shifts from the obvious financial reference to an art historical one (last year’s “zombie abstraction” meme) to a pop cultural one (from George Romero to World War Z) and back again. Sometimes the gag gets the upper hand (as in the emoticon-featured bronze bust “selfies”), but the ground drops away from the better works (or the walls come apart as with the wonderfully named structural intervention Spoiler) and the world gushes forth in all its chaotic and impure glory.

    John Marriott: I’ll Be Your Mirror continues until April 18.

    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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  • 04/21/15--21:50: Cut-Up at Platform, Winnipeg
  • In a corner of PLATFORM set up to look like somebody’s shitty apartment, Ming Hon ate some donuts and ground other donuts into the floorboards last Friday night. She played records and danced sloppy/sexy against the wall, leaving tracks of greasy fingerprints. She scrabbled over piles of empties and busted cellphones looking for cigarettes. Finding a pack, she smoked them. She simulated masturbation, motioned to asphyxiate herself in one of several borrowed furs, and screamed. Garbage blew across the line of black tape separating her space from ours.

    Ming Hon

    Titled after the last line in Godard’s BreathlessPATRICIA: What is a ‘scumbag’?– the work’s intensity and voyeurism made less of an impact on me than its rote familiarity. Hon is an electrifying performer, but the setup might as well have been my own scumbag apartment in Windsor seven years ago, the performance an only-slightly-heightened sendup of my own scumbag routine. (Swap the fur coats for acrylic sweaters, and you get the picture, more or less. It was a difficult time. We own similar turntables.)

    What can it mean to mount in a gallery an accelerated and aestheticized but, I’ll vouch, essentially faithful performance of mental illness and addiction? (Among the booze and cigarettes, junk food, and scratch-off tickets, “addiction” was the common thread.) And what can it mean to consider it, as the four-person group show Cut-Up asks us to, within a rubric of historical and contemporary collage practices? Certainly there are echoes of Höch and Schwitters, all shellshock and blowing trash, and over three hours Hon channeled the glassy-eyed hysterics who so captivated the Surrealists. For better or worse, however, the cutting gaze of art history casts the work in a more complex but less humane light, adding context but not clarity.

    Billed as a collaboration between PLATFORM and critic Courtney R. Thompson, Cut-Up pieces together an expanded framework for “collage” that encompasses performance, installation, photography, and video. Any cutting and pasting is purely figurative, and, fittingly, the show refrains from smoothing out the seams in its logic or easing our transition from one disparate artist and methodology to the next.

    Kelsey Braun

    Kristan Horton’s frenzied scanner-bed animation, Haptic Sessions, extends and sanitizes Hon’s freeform arrangements, refusing any stable image or narrative, and refocusing our attention on collage’s tactile, temporal arrangement of objects. Kelsey Braun remixes 8mm family footage, projecting silent, grainy images onto a screen of milky water, agitated by a hidden speaker – the murky, synesthetic hodgepodge an elegant analogue of lived experience. Lisa Stinner-Kun’s serenely composed photographs of awkward transitions in formal gardens bring us back into the sphere of social mediation (with its appropriated material, collage is inherently collaborative and political), revealing an uncanny patchwork of public and private, manicured and feral spaces.

    The positions, references, and comparisons that Cut-Up takes and makes are neither obvious nor arbitrary. It is a rare accomplishment for this kind of small-scale, medium-specific venture, and a rewarding one.

    PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts:
    Cut-Up continues until May 23.

    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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    Unless they have deep pockets like Damien Hirst or Larry Gagosian, the denizens of the art world learn to work within and make the most of their limitations. While these limits are often financial, they can be spatial as well. Oakville Galleries, for example, must wrestle every season with not one but two oddball spaces in which to mount their exhibitions. One is an actual cottage in the midst of a lakeside garden on the outskirts of town and the other is a single bunker in the city centre under the same roof as a library and a performing arts centre. Both locations are usually rendered your standard white cubes of varying dimensions, but the exhibitions currently on display do a bang up job of using the spaces as given.

    Samuel Roy-Bois

    Oakville’s cavernous Centennial Square site is normally set up in a way to add walls and bring down the ceiling, but Samuel Roy-BoisNot a new world, just an old trick stretches high up into the rafters and sits implacably as the only entity on display. The white-painted wooden architectural oddity is in fact its own display container and, once the entrances are identified, visitors can make their way inside to view a selection of works from the gallery’s collection tied to barren landscapes, collapsed structures, and refuse. The one exception is a piece I noticed missing from the majestic willow it usually encircles at Gairloch Gardens: Fastwürms’ charm bracelet is hung inside Roy-Bois’ plexiglass tower as an emblem of shoddy value. The low made high could be an alternate titled for the overall experience.

    Roula Partheniou

    That could also be the by-line for Roula Partheniou’s installation at the aforesaid cottage. Rather than simply displaying her quotidian sculptures as art objects, she scatters them as if they were remnants of an unfinished renovation. Blurring the line between her approximations of everyday things and the things themselves, she constructs a room within one room out of faux insulating panels and real wood, thus making the box the work and the viewer the inhabitant. She inverts this (and continues the play with windows she started with the Convenience Gallery window gallery in Toronto) by also building an inaccessible room outside one window and furnishing it with a box topped by an assortment of inscrutably innocuous items that had me desperately attempting to decode their underlying logic. Partheniou’s purposeful reduction of detail leaves one to discover the wonder of form and unexpected details (like the pink and green glow given off by the painted ends of two upright planks of wood) both in the collected works and the space they occupy.

    Oakville Galleries:
    Samuel Roy-Bois: Not a new world, just an old trick continues until May 24.
    Roula Partheniou: House & Home & Garden continues until May 24.

    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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    En Faisant is part of an on-going body of work in which Katie Belcher draws on her experience plucking feathers from pheasants in rural France. In a dance between remembering and creating, she uses the physical body-memory of the plucking process to carve an image out of charcoal. The work shown comprises two new sets of drawings created in residence at the Lunenburg School of the Arts as well as a wall drawing made on-site. The larger abstract images take on the quality of landscapes replete with a wide range of tone and marks; however, in her more minimalist drawings, she most assertively melds the spirit of the pheasant and the process of mark making, resulting in the bold and confident compositions of Notation.

    Andrew Maize

    In stark contrast to Belcher’s gestural charcoal, Andrew Maize exhibits his colourful and psychedelic Marker Drawing Series. These images of morphing inkblots are produced by placing markers on top of a stack of paper to allow the pigment to bleed through the layers. The result is a frame-by-frame illustration of gravity and the physical properties of the ink and paper – thus, a two-dimensional rep-resentation of a three-dimensional process occurring over time.

    Both artists use similar conceptual frameworks to generate the imagery on display at Hermes, but where Belcher relies on personal body-memory, Maize removes the body from his drawing completely. Yet their images share an exploration of physicality and fate, be it our relationship to food and death, or the inevitable path of ink as it runs through layers of paper.

    Note: Selected works by both artists will be on view at the grand opening of the Lunenburg School of the Arts on May 1.

    Katie Belcher & Andrew Maize continues until May 3.

    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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    I’ve been meaning to ask the architect who lives across the street from me whether he designs his buildings with an eye to what they’ll look like as ruins. Is this something they teach in architecture school? Is there a course called Entropy & Decay 101? If you consider Toronto’s current landscape and then jump ahead a hundred years (or fewer) past the coming collapse, then all those glass towers will be shattered and leave only ungainly skeletons, while the Brutalist monstrosities we all love to hate will remain much like they are today.

    Jason Van Horne, The Medicine Shoppe (detail), 2015, mixed media

    Jason Van Horne imagines our built environment in ruins on a more modest scale with his current exhibition at Katherine Mulherin’s No Foundation space. His streetscapes of miniature two and three story storefronts are abandoned to time and vegetation but still recognizable as the city we inhabit. He assembles these rotting strips from the detritus he gathers walking the self-same sidewalks, treating everyday scrap as a metonym for the junking of civilization (inasmuch as Urban Barn can be considered a bulwark of civilization) and detailing them with recycled promotional flyers (now the size of advertising hoardings).

    The assembled works – including a larger diorama in the gallery’s window – play off parallel fascinations: on one hand, with things that are small, and on the other, with things that are old. The latter aspect of Van Horne’s village is undercut by a morbid realization that the graveyard we are looking at is our own; however, the tragedy is tempered by the manageable scale in which it is depicted. The fairy tale calamity that has befallen our puny metropolis is only a model of what is yet to come. Whether you think it comedic or tragic will depend on how soon you see the coming collapse.

    Katharine Mulherin/No Foundation:
    Jason Van Horne: The Beginning of the End continues until May 31.

    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 a few nice shows on offer at the Belgo building at the moment including Séripop at Galerie Hugues Charbonneau, the film reel The Short Form at SBC curated from the LUX archive, and Jon Knowles’ elegant exhibition Rubbing the Kaki at Galerie Donald Browne, the latter comprised of a series of rectangular monochrome paintings and a few discreetly placed sculptural gestures.

    Jon Knowles (photo: Guy l’Heureux)

    Knowles has been pursuing monochrome painting as a strain within his practice for several years and it has been interesting to follow how his conceptual approach towards this body of work has developed. Created by misting on hundreds of layers of yellow, then red, then blue diluted acrylic, the paintings become a cloudy prism of muted tones – pinks, greens, yellows, etc. In this exhibition the layering results in a beautiful mottled earth tone-effect akin to oxidized copper (whereas the paintings in his exhibition at Toronto’s G Gallery from a couple of years ago were much darker and approached black). Knowles initially began this project as an exercise, something to do while thinking about other work. When he finally exhibited the paintings, he presented them as being about the relationship between the private creative studio versus the public exhibition space and, analogously, tied to ideas around painting and capitalism. However, with each exhibition of this on-going body of work, the paintings are discussed and presented in a more straightforward and simple manner. While still encompassing all the concepts the artist originally associated with them, the works in Rubbing the Kaki are allowed to stand on their own. They are so accomplished, mature, and complex as images; it is gratifying to see them presented with such assurance. In spite of this, the artist thankfully throws a curveball: the few aforementioned sculptural gestures – consisting of vegetables, splints, and a cigarette – muddy the waters as they subtlety nod to Knowles’ past projects and concerns.

    Galerie Donald Browne:
    Jon Knowles: Rubbing the Kaki continues until May 30.

    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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    Many of the current exhibitions in our local art institutions are still marginally related to “lens-based art” as the citywide embrace of the Capture Photography Festival presses on, so happening upon a sound installation (complemented by a giant gelatin nose) among the design studios behind Access Gallery is a bit of a sanctuary.

    Gabi Dao, Open Sesame

    Spare Room is a recently established space for site-specific projects. Open Sesame is a project by emerging Vancouver artist Gabi Dao, who built the installation of layered temple motifs interrupted by profane materials (framing lumber, gelatin, LED strips) and created the accompanying nine-minute narrative sound piece. The text, written and read by Dao’s collaborator Linton Murphy, describes elements of the installation in the manner of archaeological documentaries voiced by the likes of David Attenborough. Strips of blue and white LEDs are the only form of lighting in the small exhibition room. Based on the architecture at Angkor Wat, the structure’s concentric right angles are given an under-glow by the lights, leading your eyes to a diorama housing a large nose cast from gelatin. Beneath this awkwardly leaning, but glorious schnoz is a pirated DVD case for Lara Croft: Tomb Raider standing atop a stubby column-cum-Olympic podium.

    Dao’s reference to the Cambodian temple seems irrelevant, given the theatrical treatment of the overall installation, until one learns that Angkor Wat was one of the shooting locations for Tomb Raider, when Angelina Jolie became enamored with the country and adopted her Cambodian son. At the center of this installation is an array of wires splayed like post-sacrifice viscera spilling from the back of a set of speakers, an amp, and a DVD player. Indeed, there is something a little grotesque about the unruly mess. The usual impulse is to hide the entrails of AV equipment behind walls or beneath plinths, but we are a far, and energizing, cry from the white cube in this gallery that feels like a perverse shrine housed in a bedroom closet.

    Dao exposes her material and method to confirm she’s not interested in the hygienic magic of conventional exhibition display, and simply invites us to reflect on collapsed spirituality and her sassy critique of high-budget cultural misappropriation.

    Spare Room:
    Gabi Dao: Open Sesame continues until May 23.

    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada and the United States. She is the editor of Bartleby Review, an occasional pamphlet of criticism and writing in Vancouver, and a curator at CSA Space. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.

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    The usual trajectory for any visit to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art is to enter through their main gallery doors and circle in a counter-clockwise fashion through the headlining exhibition in the big space before making your way over to the small room with the complementary exhibition drawn from the collection of the National Gallery that then takes you back to the entrance. The layout allows you option of running the whole course backwards, and for their current exhibition – the marquee event for this year’s month-long Contact Photography Festival– I’d recommend this route for reasons both chronological and critical.

    Anna Atkins, Polypodium crenatum, Norway, 1854

    The theme of the paired exhibitions is non-representational photography. The Contact curators’ challenge of coming up with a new angle each year coincides here with photography’s challenge to continue pushing the limits of the medium. At a time when everyone and their toddler has a camera on their phone, their computer, their car, and the means of distributing the resulting pictures is instant, endless (as in forever), and global, art photography is the proverbial needle in the haystack. One way of standing out is to turn reflectively on process, either stepping backwards to play with the chemistry and physics that generated the first phase of the form or tinkering with the technology that defines our present age.

    By first viewing Past Picture: Photography and the Chemistry of Intention, one starts at the birth of the medium when it was more science than art and the objects reproduced were less important than magic that made them possible. They are, in a sense, proto-conceptual because they trade representation – the thing that will overwhelmingly define photography and its impact for the next century – for a process-driven abstraction. This thinking shifts into one phase of the art of the 20th Century when subsequent generations of photographers isolate light as the essential ingredient and create Modernist refinements resulting in photographs that represent their own making. This culminates in Huroshi Sugimoto’s pictures of static energy that balance science, art, absence, and beauty perfectly.

    Chris Wiley, Dingbat (2), 2014

    Once the past has proven the worth of this path, the contemporary examples of such experimentation (and a lot of this work is experimental in the literal sense of the term) found in Part Picture are easier to digest. Which is not to say they are easy to love. In fact, many of them are working conscientiously to combat ease for the sake of reflection. They do this through subtraction, by removing the subject or depth or the camera itself, with the result being the photograph becomes an object rather than an illusory window on the world. This practice is one that has been highlighted by curator Chris Wiley (who, immodestly, includes a couple of his own pieces in the exhibition) for a while now; however, it remains on the margins since it is necessary in its explorations, but not necessarily compelling in its findings.

    Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art:
    Part Picture continues until May 31.
    Past Picture: Photography and the Chemistry of Intention continues until May 31.

    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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    JJ Charlesworth’s on-target piece about the recently opened Venice Biennale appeared in my Facebook feed just in time to help me articulate at least one of my responses to the long (five video installations totalling nine hours of screen time), challenging (see below), and soon-to-close group exhibition The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding at The Power Plant. Whether it is on display at the national pavilions in Italy or found steps from Lake Ontario, politically engaged art that takes a critical stance on globalization, capitalism, colonialism, and local instances of pervasive power imbalances comes off naïve or hypocritical given its embrace of and by institutions built on those very power structures. Once the preview audiences clear out of the Biennale, the contrast might not be as striking (though how would I know? I’ve never been able to afford the trip), and the internal conflict is less evident in the placid environs of Toronto, but the queasy feeling that we’re preaching to the converted while the 1% smirk behind their chequebooks is hard to shake.

    John Akomfrah, The Unfinished Conversation, 2012, three-screen HD video installation, audio

    None of this matters when the work is so visually, intellectually, and emotionally demanding as John Akomfrah’s tribute to the cultural theorist Stuart Hall, which gives the exhibition its name and is really the only reason – and a good reason at that – to see the show. This triptych of videos made up of archival footage that is both personal and public narrates the life of the Jamaican-born Brit who wrestled with the tumultuous politics of post-War England while also helping to establish the groundwork for an analysis of culture based on a recognition of different codes. The juxtaposition of film footage across the three screens places Hall within a telescoping context that moves quickly from biographical details to global conflict and back again. The work works because it has a central subject (ironic considering the importance of margins of identity in this sort of thing) whose reach extends through history.

    Steve McQueen, End Credits, 2012, sequence of digitally scanned documents, audio

    It also works because the artist clearly laboured over the construction of his film. Such effort is lacking in Terry Adkins' mash-up of a Jimi Hendrix concert with a Martin Luther King speech or Steve McQueen’s disappointing five hour recorded reading of government surveillance documents pertaining to the perceived threat of Black American singer Paul Robeson. They, in concert with the other works, describe a range of possibilities for creating art out of documentary materials and practices, but fail at communicating their own stories. The formal gestures in these weaker works distract from the content, leaving one to dwell on artistic intentions rather than code-breaking and rely on the curators’ wall texts for intended meaning. Akomfrah’s video transcends the determination of the institution and frees its reading, but the other works can’t stand up to the oppression.

    The Power Plant:
    The Unfinished Conversation: Encoding/Decoding continues until May 18.

    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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    An unidentified writer made the claim a few years ago that “nobody does anything interesting until they are well into their thirties.” If you are looking for evidence to the contrary, you might want to turn your attention to the current exhibition at Secret Eight Project Space by the newly minted (like last week) ACAD graduate Nicole Brunel.

    Similarly emergent, Secret Eight is a brand new gallery in the basement of upscale skateboard shop LESS17. Curator Austin Taylor is operating the venue on that increasingly fertile “not commercial, not artist-run centre” ground, consistently producing surprising projects with the promise of more to come. The space is a glassed-off room alongside the retail area with a cement floor, brick walls and what might be a loading dock. It’s basically an industrial cube. Brunel uses this unusual environment to her advantage, developing it into a strange and immersive environment through a series of sculptures, site-specific touches, and an animation.

    Nicole Brunel, Mattress Poster, 2014

    Venus in the Heat Shadow (Brunel’s titles are uniformly great) employs a kind of cartoon formalism: serious engagement with materials, ceramics, textiles, found objects, and an extreme attention to detail (like little green plastic antennas sticking out the loading dock’s expansion foam). The exhibition is also seriously funny with its deconstructed Simpsons-esque send up of the modern day backyard BBQ. Her three-dimensional work is compelling, but Brunel’s absurdist sensibility is distilled most pointedly in the short animation Mattress Poster. While you could draw visual connections to artists as disparate as Seth Scriver and Valérie Blass, the young artist demonstrates a unique perspective bolstered by her prolific practice. She is, as they say, one to watch.

    Secret Eight Project Space:
    Nicole Brunel: Venus in the Heat Shadow continues until June 20.

    Sarah Todd is a curator currently based in Calgary. Formerly the curator of Media Arts at Western Front, she has also worked at InterAccess Electronic Media Arts Centre, XPACE Cultural Centre and The Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery. Sarah has produced projects with a range of organizations including Vtape, Kunstverein Munchen, The Goethe Institute, The Pacific Cinematheque, Glenbow Museum and The Illingworth Kerr Gallery. She was formerly one of Akimblog’s Art + Tech correspondents and can be followed on Twitter @sarahannetodd.

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    Its current run at Aceartinc. marks at least the fifth public presentation of Emily Hermant’s Spatial Drawings. The work has shown up previously in Windsor, Wilmington, a Chicago suburb, and Montreal, and its widespread appeal is hardly surprising. The lyrical, whimsical bent-hardwood sculptures, planks of red oak twisted into weightless-looking ribbons that stitch their way through the gallery space, are engineered to impress. Hermant reinforces their whizz-bang materiality with careful framing, insightfully re-categorizing lumber among other natural fibres, asking us to consider sculpture as drawing and drawing as dance. She overlays a further thin but durable veneer of social critique, inviting us to consider again how labour is valued and devalued along lines of gender and class.

    Emily Hermant, Spatial Drawings

    However striking and genuinely likeable the sculptures might be, they’re formally a bit generic. Search Google for images of “bent wood sculpture,” and you’ll find many artists and craftspeople using identical techniques to produce less refined but otherwise comparable abstract forms. Hermant distinguishes her practice by reflecting on material, medium, labour, and their implications, though in practice some of these ideas hold up better than others.

    In a recorded artist talk, Hermant cites the influence of dancer/choreographers Trisha Brown and Yvonne Rainer, and it’s satisfying to imagine the work on an expanded continuum of gestural practices inclusive of dance, drawing, fibre art, fine woodworking, installation, and other, less privileged forms of paid and unpaid labour. Bent without steam, the oak seems palpably resistant to its new configurations, a reminder of the control required to execute and sustain an “effortless” gesture. The contingent curlicues are held in place by large clamps and propped up by lengths of unfinished two-by-four, which become abstract surrogates for unnamed studio hands.

    Hermant follows this train of thought a step further with an on-the-nose invocation of Mierle Laderman Ukeles. Near the front of the gallery, one of the smaller timber dipsy-doodles appears to hang-doggedly push a broom across the floor. In fact, the broom supports the sculpture (a meaningful distinction consistent with Maintenance Art’s feminism), but the gesture falls flat. It reads as a cutesy, cartoon illustration of structural inequalities surrounding labour, forces that Ukeles physically embodied and allowed to work upon her physical body in the 1970s. It’s goofy, and it casts the rest of Hermant’s explorations in a less serious, less flattering light.

    The show on the whole is engaging and inviting, nicely composed, and warmly lit. Visiting the exhibition my broom-crankiness peaked and then subsided as the other sculptures worked their charm. Still, I couldn’t shake the suspicion that, despite conscientious framing and the unmistakable effort, the “weightless” wooden structures might, in the end, be largely fluff.

    Emily Hermant: Spatial Drawings continues until June 11

    Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist and writer 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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