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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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    Reviewing an exhibition is sometimes like solving a puzzle, and, despite what a guy like this might say about the value of art, dozens of Sudoku-obsessed subway riders and I think that puzzle solving might just be an end in itself. In fact, a group show can often turn into a round of aesthetic Clue where one has to figure out how the disparate suspects come together and just what their underlying motives might be. From the individual works to the exhibition title to the hints peppered through the curatorial text, a case can usually be made, but some cases are tougher than others.



    Mark Clintberg, Hair (2012-ongoing)

    The key to making sense of G Gallery's cryptically titled “I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else” is found in the nom de plume of curatorial duo Jon Davies and Kristin Weckworth. As The Venn Diagram, they complete a trilogy of exhibitions grouped under the title Your Undoing, united by titles taken from Frank O’Hara’s 1962 poem Lines for the Fortune Cookies, and conclude with the head as their central motif (previous instalments were focused on feet and guts). As a model for illustrating a range of possible relations, a Venn diagram is a helpful tool for considering the various overlapping concerns of the four artists on display because they don’t all work in the same group or follow the same trajectory, but rub up against one another in a variety of exclusive ways.

    Mark Clintberg’s fading hair models provide a handy starting point as they foreground the face/head/self, but are on their way to oblivion as they continue to fade in the light. Mungo Thompson’s flicker-fast video of Time magazine covers turns the faces of history into a stream of shifting identities that moves too rapidly to assess. Both artists destabilize identity and in doing so overlap with Kristie MacDonald’s replicas of paper detritus that are indistinguishable from the originals. Which leaves Nadia Belerique’s installation of copper pipes and metal footprints as the final piece of the puzzle. However, I suppose I’d be ruining the fun if I told you how it all added up.


    G Gallery: http://ggalleryprojects.ca/
    “I think you’re wonderful and so does everyone else” continues until June 13.


    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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    Longer exhibition titles pique my curiosity more than the poised or monumental ones. The title of Rana Hamadeh’s exhibition at the Western Front, Can You Make A Pet of Him Like A Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls?, seemed cheeky at first. Curious about its conception, I discovered it’s an excerpt from the Old Testament that describes the Leviathan. So it turns out the title, as well as the exhibition, is not in fact cheeky, but far more monumental than I first surmised.



    Rana Hamadeh, A River in a Sea in a River (detail), 2014, script and scenography for a play (photo: Tom Callermin)

    Exhaustive and comprehensive research is imbedded in the Lebanese artist’s exhibition, which is conceptualized as a theater set, and the employment of inventive display strategies is integral to her work. Arresting relationships proposed between a USSR military-issued pocket wire saw placed by a copy of Hygiene for Beginners from 1947 are presented in the vicinity of antique phlebotomy cupping glasses and a set of tin toy soldiers. The phonetic similarities between “medical” and “military” seem eerie and ironic in the presence of these groupings. Despite didactic diagrams and detailed descriptions of origins, this treatment of obscure objects and ephemera doesn’t always make their importance obvious. In fact, obviousness is totally scarce, but straight-up information is not part of the exhibition's intent.

    A central sculpture is a textile draped over a low zigzagged platform quoting the beheading passage from Alice in Wonderland. A massive tapestry spot lit by a projection is an image repository of other objects and silhouettes in the room, such as a page from the artist’s sound-play script (an eight-channel horn speaker affair inspired by the Shi’ite ceremony “Ashura”), which is available as a take away. If it should all resonate as a bit theatrical and a blitz of content and form, it may be because the exhibition and performance are both part of Hamadeh’s process for an opera-in-development.

    The focus of her research is never singular or explicit, though the myriad of content ranges from set design to Syrian and Lebanese histories of power. In an exhibition that almost guarantees a trip to Wikipedia later, its depth is in the notion that you don’t necessarily need to become a scholar of the exhibition’s purview. There is no shortage of entry points to pave your own inquiry, and it’s fair if you get a little lost.

    Note: This exhibition is presented in conjunction with the artist’s Can You Pull an Actor with a Fishhook or Tie Down His Tongue with a Rope? coming to Gallery TPW in Toronto in June.


    Western Front: http://front.bc.ca/
    Rana Hamadeh: Can You Make A Pet of Him Like A Bird or Put Him on a Leash For Your Girls? continues until August 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. She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao.


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    If asked, most people would put Andy Warhol at the beginning of modern art’s fascination with repetition, the appropriation of tools of mass production, and a blurring of the border between fine art, fashion and commercial graphics. However, the current exhibition at the Textile Museum of Canada runs counter to that assumption and ends with the Factory master after providing an enlightening revision of the 20th Century’s reigning art historical narration through a comprehensive collection of artist textiles. In addition to challenging the status of the prince of Pop Art, the exhibition also repudiates two resilient Modernist prejudices: one against beauty and the other against commerce.



    Salvador Dali, Number, Please?, 1947

    To be honest, the first prejudice collapses under scrutiny and is really only representative of one particular aesthetic narrative, but it’s always nice to be reminded that visual art can be pleasing to the eye as well as the mind. It’s also helpful to remember that stylistic shifts bleed over the turn of the century, so the 19th lasts well into the middle of the 20th and what we call contemporary is still only a recent anomaly. Which is just to say that Constructivist rugs and scarves by Henry Moore, Henry Matisse, and Alexander Calder all look lovely hung on the wall, while fabrics by Marc Chagall and Joan Miró make for stylish frocks.



    Andy Warhol, Happy Bug Day, c.1955

    The trickier second prejudice is also subject to collapse, but the tension it introduces is most evident in the work of Hammer Prints Ltd., a pair of British avant-gardists (Eduardo Paolozzi and Nigel Henderson) who, along with their spouses, textile designer Freda Paolozzi and anthropologist Judith Stephen, anonymously produced fabric designs that mashed up science, ethnography and children’s drawings. The exhibition suggests that their fellow artists regarded consumerism with disdain, but a photograph of a young Princess Margaret in one of their dresses is an effective retort to that complaint.

    In retrospect, Warhol’s radical innovations seem inevitable and the graphic design he created in the fifties binds the generations in the exhibition like a jaunty belt cinching the waist of a summer dress.


    Textile Museum of Canada: http://www.textilemuseum.ca/home
    Artist Textiles: Picasso to Warhol continues until October 4.


    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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    RetroActive is about time. The exhibition currently on view at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia features a cross-section of works from John Greer’s career in a wide range of forms and media. A number of the works refer directly to ancient history: Egyptian hieroglyphs, Greek sculpture, and Chinese artefacts. But the work does not only look backwards in time; throughout the show, Greer integrates contemporary imagery and materials as well.



    John Greer, Thinking Back to Gertrude and Henri

    Reproduction is diptych of carved stone panels and two versions of the same image: a modified segment of Egyptian hieroglyphs. In the middle of the image, a block is cut out from the stone and carved into this space is a sunken relief origami paper crane. This mashup of imagery is disorienting. The label informs us that the images are of an Egyptian funeral scene and the paper crane refers to the atomic bombing of Japan. The gallery text also explains that one of the stone carvings is actually made of polystyrene foam.

    Thinking Back to Gertrude and Henri is a series of bronze casts of someone’s back. The forms are intimate, beautiful objects that by virtue of their figurative nature embody the sad paradox of mortality moulded into material permanence. The title of the work refers to Gertrude Stein’s poem about Henri Matisse: “…hearing this one telling about being one being living…” A mirror installed nearby (titled End of a Full Length Image) underscores the ephemerality of the human form as viewers walk in and out of the reflected image.

    Greer makes a point of playing with the materiality of the objects he’s created: the bronze forms are installed on what appears to be an iron plinth but which is in fact made of painted plywood; one of the hieroglyph pieces appears to be made of sandstone but is made of styrofoam. While at times oblique, the back and forth between permanence and ephemerality, past and present, asks us to reflect on our own fleeting place in time.


    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia: http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/en/AGNS_Halifax/exhibitions/johngreer.aspx
    John Greer: retroActive continues until September 13.


    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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    Polyphonies, a group exhibition currently on display at Optica, examines, as the title suggests, a plurality of voices and the negotiation between the informal individual subject and a more proscribed voice of the Other, the group, or the institution. Curated by Véronique Leblanc and featuring eight artists (including two sets of collectives), the exhibited works all revolve around dialogue and/or recitation. The experience of the subjects featured (sometimes including the viewer) ranges from passive to abrasive to bordering on intrusive.



    Katarina Zdjeldar, Don’t Do It Wrong, 2009, video

    Among the strongest works in the exhibition is Emmanuelle Léonard’s La Taverne, where the aging locals of a bar discuss directly to the camera their impressions and experiences of life. The marginalized leisure community of La Taverne battles sonically against Katarina Zdjelar’s video Don’t Do It Wrong, which features a group of Turkish school children running wild then straightening up in rows to sing the national anthem. Considering how the two groups are very much at odds with one another, the two works make an effective pairing.

    In the second gallery, the viewer is immediately confronted by Sophie Castonguay’s La part du lion. A man approaches the visitor directly and begins to perform a rather impassive monologue, clearly reciting from an earpiece, on the “idea of looking” in relation to a series of paintings on the wall. The resulting discomfort led a couple of my fellow viewers to refuse to engage and instead hightail it out of there almost as soon as they entered. I tried to give the performance my time, despite the fact that my baby in his stroller decided to add his own fussy contribution to the polyphony of the show. The performer ploughed through and I tried to negotiate between the two – the impatient non-verbal baby and the soft spoken robotic discourse pleading with me to slow down, take my time, and look.

    The ideas raised in this exhibition are interesting and the works articulate the theme well; however, it still feels oddly dated since no work relates directly to the internet. Relations between individuals and communities have been dramatically redefined through this technology and an exhibition on polyphony should at least reflect that.


    Optica: http://www.optica.ca/
    Polyphonies continues until June 13.


    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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    If I was the type of critic who identified generational shifts, I might call the present moment “New Materialism.” After perusing the cluster of galleries at Bloor and Lansdowne, I was sorely tempted to make the claim. Every exhibition was obsessed with things. Like conceptualism never happened and content was old hat, these artists aren’t interested in creating meaning; instead, they discover it in the world of consumer goods á la Duchamp’s readymades. Art is, after all, just an object that has no function. Edson Chagas over at Scrap Metal Gallery finds it in junk left on the street: chairs, coat racks, and a speaker stack that no longer do their jobs, so they’ve become inert and useless things. Jimmy Limit at Clint Roenisch Gallery finds it in the commercial display of products before they are put to use, when their aesthetic potential is maximized as eye candy. And over at Mercer Union, VSVSVS converts the interior into a funhouse of alienation where the objects that occupy our living space are displayed in all their formal glory.



    VSVSVS, Not together, but alongside, 2015, installation detail

    The warren created by the Torontonian collective has surprises at every turn, which serve to heighten the visitor’s awareness of the aesthetic potential in bowls, plants, dishes, and artfully designed containers. The architecture doesn’t escape this sense of play with hidden nooks, bi-level lofts, and adaptable projection screens to explore. There’s even a sensorium that converts visual stimulus into vibrations (or maybe it’s the other way round).

    It’s all very fun and engaging, but I left feeling somewhat empty, which is, I supposed appropriate given that it’s not really about anything except itself. Sure, there is a slight undercurrent concerned with the social and active artifying of life, but the ultimate end is always delight in the materiality of things. It strikes me as symptomatic of a generation (meaning everyone who exists now) that spends a large portion of their lives in mediated experience. Just as words and images are habitually cut and pasted, so now the objects around us are reconfigured – as if Photoshop was applied to reality (whatever that is). The thing about this obsession with things as things apart from purposes, narratives, economies, politics, religion, etc. is that it requires an audience apart from purposes, narratives, economies, politics, religion, etc. A fuddy-duddy like me needs to know where he’s coming from to know where he's at, but that’s old news and this is the new thing.


    Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
    VSVSVS: Not together, but alongside continues until July 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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    In photographs, likenesses are “captured.” In 1974, as an infant, Scott Benesiinaabandan was “apprehended” and left in foster care. He only learned his mother’s name as an adult, eventually acquiring five snapshots of relatives he’s never met. In the intervening years and since, he collected other images: grainy newswire photos and TV stills from the Oka Crisis, Burnt Church Crisis, and Ipperwash Crisis. For years he carried a picture of masked Zapatista rebels in his wallet. (These insights, among others, are taken from media artist Skawennati’s excellent companion essay Resistance Training.)



    Scott Benesiinaabandan, little resistances: mary|ezln, 2015, digital media

    In little resistances, which opened last week at Platform Centre, Benesiinaabandan brings together these very different groups of photographs to image and to imagine sites of Indigenous resistance both interior and acted upon, monumental and invisible. He does so in a manner that’s at first almost shocking: working digitally, he arranges the images side by side in pairs, prints them, and then violently crumples the prints as if to cast them off. An abject gesture on its surface, this “destruction” is a ruse that effects a number of startling transformations. Creases and shadows obliterate the boundaries between the paired subjects, binding them in a new, shared matrix of material, place, and time. They become sculptural, moulded to contours of Benesiinaabandan’s fist, turned into stones that could, in turn, become tools or projectiles with a differential flick of the wrist. Or they might be simply carried, worried in the palm.

    A further transmutation occurs when Benesiinaabandan re-documents the already ephemeral prints on the open bed of a desktop scanner. Bands of light settle across unexpected features, tracing arcs between them; the background falls away in blackness. Object and image are transfixed, assuming the plural aspect of artifacts, asteroids, and flickering holograms.

    Unconventional staging adds its own nuances. The new photographs are printed on vinyl, imparting a rubbery half-gloss like the skin of unvarnished oil paint. The prints adhere to box forms that project seamlessly from the gallery walls like inverted reliquary niches – an association strengthened by the photographs’ enveloping chiaroscuro and pseudo-painterly aura. In this way, Benesiinaabandan’s spectral images noiselessly and subversively assume the mantle of architectural and art historical inevitability.

    In the rear of the gallery, a thirty-foot length of white fabric emblazoned with text unfurls like a proclamation. Narrow, uppercase block letters recall the emblematic “I AM A MAN” placards of the African-American Civil Rights Movement, intimating a solidarity that cuts across generations and the boundaries erected to divide and further subjugate survivors of colonial violence. Its message, woven from Benesiinaabandan’s own words and those attributed to the semi-fictitious EZLN spokesman Subcomandante Marcos (a nom-de-guerre since abandoned), extends that earlier assertion of personhood, enumerating demands and articulating a model of resistance that binds together individual thought, collective action, and the land itself.

    Benesiinaabandan’s little resistances, like the constructed Marcos persona, gain power from their elusiveness, even from being “cast off” – a strategic misdirection. Both operate in a kind of mythic, holographic register that renders them impossible to ever fully quell or kill, capture or apprehend.


    PLATFORM centre for photographic + digital arts: http://platformgallery.org/exhibition/little-resistances
    Scott Benesiinaabandan: little resistances continues until July 11.


    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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    As you may have heard, the Alberta College of Art and Design’s well-regarded Illingworth Kerr Gallery will not be filling the director/curator position once Wayne Baerwaldt retires in June. I won’t go too much into it (I did recently and briefly work at IKG), but the reaction to this news has underlined the fact that Calgary is becoming an art scene without curators. Esker Foundation curator Shauna Thompson, responding quickly and insightfully to the news of IKG’s restructuring, wondered aloud in her statement on social media what it means for a “historically culturally isolated city like Calgary to have even less exposure to international contemporary art, artists, and ideas.”



    Mia Feuer, An Unkindness

    Established in 2012, The Esker Foundation is a private non-commercial gallery and now one of the few institutions in Calgary with curatorial leadership. Their spring/summer exhibition program features three concurrent solo exhibitions in the main space: Kevin Schmidt’s A Sign in the Northwest Passage, Mia Feuer’s Synthetic Seasons, and Guido van der Werve’s Nummers Vier, Acht, Veertien. Each exhibition, from Schmidt’s quest for a sign post lost at sea to Feuer enveloping and unnerving installations to van de Werve’s epic cinematic meditation on futility evoke expansive feelings of foreboding. It’s all very romantic though: the future is bleak, but it sure looks beautiful.

    Feuer’s Synthetic Seasons features the striking and ambitious participatory work An Unkindness. This flat black skating rink is surfaced in ice made of an inky black polymer and suitable for actual skating with gear provided. While the environmental implications could be read as bit heavy handed (…skating on thin ice…), it is deliciously perverse to take a spin around a blackened ice rink (a most Canadian structure) in the summer heat of the home of the tar sands.


    Esker Foundation: http://eskerfoundation.com/
    Mia Feuer, Kevin Schmidt, & Guido van der Werve continue until September 6.


    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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    Last week I wrote about an exhibition that didn’t have any content. This week I’m writing about an exhibition that has too much. Both statements are as much description as they are criticism. The artists involved would likely agree with my assessments, though they might feel a sting of rebuke in my words and I might admit that’s my intention in part. Public Studio, the duo of Elle Flanders and Tamira Sawatzky, are authors of the overload at O’Born Contemporary with the provocative title The Accelerators. The curious thing about the mass of history, culture and politics that constitutes the stuff of this collaborative installation is that the majority of it isn’t even in the gallery; it’s out in the world.



    Public Studio, The Accelerators, 2015, installation detail

    The literal key to the entire exhibition is a pamphlet (that I happened to lose on my way home) that contains a diagrammatic network of relations between the disparate elements of history flagged in photographs, found texts, documents, objects, and reproductions of all of the above. The artists appeal to the idea of apophenic or incongruous associations to elicit a non-linear exploration of a web stretched from Marie Antoinette’s nipple bowls and land claims against the Toronto Purchase to the assassinations of Archbishop Oscar Romero and the CEO of Renault Automobiles. However, the works in the gallery are merely indices of a further territory that is left to be explored. So the pamphlet is a map of the gallery, and the gallery is a map of an alternate history in the making. In effect, the exhibition is a museum display by historians guided by intuition and coincidence working through obsessions and happenstance like an insomniac roaming the internet late into the night. The risk is that the epiphanies have no meaning and the discovered order is random. Public Studio invite this outcome with a frame derived from studies of schizophrenia. Then again, mad times call for mad treatments.


    O’Born Contemporary: http://www.oborncontemporary.com/index.html
    Public Studio: The Accelerators continues until June 27.


    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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    I heard someone looking from the street exclaim “Woah!” but I couldn’t successfully beckon him inside. The striking objects in Erica Stocking’s solo-exhibition at Artspeak are shapes and silhouettes referenced from the artist’s family video footage taken over a period of six months. Clothes are the choice referent, but other excerpts include an oven mitt, carrot shavings, daisies, and a Christmas morning fort. In place of plinths, Stocking has customized cylinder pedestals that suit the scale of each sculpture. Everything is made of canvas, sewn together, and stiffened to imply volume or hold a pose.



    Erica Stocking

    But how can a pose be made without a body? Fishing line. Articles suspended with the transparent string appear to be standing without a wearer, creating striking negative spaces to imagine the bodies or limbs. A moment of weirdness passes when you remember that the ghost limbs you’ve conjured inhabited garments that starred in Stocking’s home life. Morning is a fragment of a pale blue sleeve suspended high in the air. Its angle implies an outstretched arm that might accompany a hearty yawn; the colour summons pajamas but the memory is inaccessible. Stocking’s titles are generous to interpretation (two pairs of shed underwear are respectively titled Christmas Morning and Hail the New Puritan). Others are pure description, such as Towel Turban and Found in a closet of an old Kitsilano Home. A grandmother passed, a friend moved away. You look like Frumpy Peggy Olsen. A chance taken. Tossed on the edge of the nursing chair. Stocking’s precise and flat application of pigment to translate textiles should not be a mere footnote of the exhibition. These elegantly manipulated forms are likely to be initially understood as sculpture, but the entire exhibition is essentially paint on canvas.


    Artspeak: http://artspeak.ca/
    Erica Stocking continues until July 25.


    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 decentralization of the Toronto art scene continues apace with the inaugural exhibition at Cooper Cole's new space on Dupont near Dufferin (a block down from Geary Avenue where the Toronto music scene is similarly in search of virgin turf according to some). The relocation to frontier lands north of Bloor has, it seems, as much to do with avoiding the city's chronic traffic delays as it does with acquiring high ceilings. CC left a sizable room on Dundas West (currently temporarily occupied by Kunstverein Toronto and their crammed retrospective of senior Canadian artist Glenn Lewis) for a former bank – complete with vault still intact – across the street from LIFT and steps from Toronto's second grimmest mall: the Galleria (first place goes to The Crossways). Cole's opening gambit is a group show cheekily named Road to Ruin (after the Ramones album) featuring a selection of artists whose birthdays spread from the 1940s to the 1980s. (Is this a thing now? To include the artist's age in the list of works?)



    Ryan Foerster, Failed Laminating Photos, Fuck Holes, 2012, mixed media

    The oldest artist – Gee Vaucher, an associate of the anarcho-punk band Crass – sets the tone with her gritty visual collage of WWII newsreel footage. The youngsters follow suit with equally snotty (a good thing for contrarian aesthetes) retorts to late 20th Century artistic gestures. Brie Ruais’s boot stomped corner-crammed ceramic sculpture is minimalism pushed to the limit. Marlie Mul’s cigarette butt-stuffed wall panel makes for a similar degrading of purist form and function. JPW 3 adds popcorn and hot wax to an otherwise placid ceiling-hung chain and Sarah Greenberger Rafferty attacks Michael Snow’s walking woman with a bunch of butcher knives.

    The overall tone is one of creative antagonism within the bounds of conventional forms, which, given his move to the least fashionable corner of the west end to set up a white walled haven for artists transitioning into the halls of respectability, is an appropriate introduction to the gallerist himself.


    Cooper Cole: http://coopercolegallery.com/exhibitions
    Road to Ruin continues until July 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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    Milkweed was an ongoing topic of conversation in our household this spring. In addition to learning about its importance for the declining Monarch butterfly population and that it is still considered a noxious weed in some provinces, I realized that plant life, like human life, is judged and divided along cultural as well as biological lines. My childhood memory of sending milkweed seeds flying with a puff of breath came up hard against the pesticides and agribusiness that found nothing poetic in this wild and unproductive species. It’s no wonder then that artists, those proponents of diversity and untamed behavior, might gravitate to these denizens of the plant kingdom that are too often pushed to the side.



    Zachari Logan, Ditch 3, 2015, blue pencil on Mylar

    The reigning motif in Prairie artist Zachari Logan’s solo exhibition at Paul Petro is the ditch. This is the place where hardscrabble species survive through sheer effort and inventiveness. It’s neither the road nor the field – both zones controlled by human animals and bound to their demands. The ditch is not so glamorous, but it’s a place of freedom and, if you’re willing to throw around such words, nature (though, as the artist points out, dandelions are an invasive species brought to North America from the UK, so who’s to say what’s natural?). Logan’s clinically precise blue pencil drawings of short, to-scale sections of this landscape are reminiscent of scientific drawings from an earlier age. It’s easy to see them at first as indiscriminant selections of greenery until the variety of life is revealed. And if you’re lucky enough to know their names (or have someone handy who can distinguish between Queen Anne’s lace and common mugwort), then their individual character soon unravels in actual histories and potential narratives.



    Zachari Logan, Ditch 5, 2015, blue pencil on Mylar

    Logan is interested in evoking those stories within a discourse on masculinity, sexuality, and the body. His portraits of human figures enveloped by animal and plant life – or literally made of it – make that explicit, but his drawings and ceramic sculptures of vegetation on its own sneak up on you. It’s easy to overlook them, just as you would miss a ditch; however, both are worth a second glance.


    Paul Petro: http://www.paulpetro.com/ppca/current
    Zachari Logan: Ditches, Dandies and Lions continues until July 11.


    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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    On St-Jean-Baptiste Day, Quebec’s national holiday, it seemed oddly fitting to battle my way through throngs of tourists in the Old Port to check out Yinka Shonibare’s exhibition Pièces de résistance at DHC/ART. Almost without exception, Shonibare’s post-colonial themed work is visually sumptuous, and the anomalous combination of colourful and densely printed African textiles together with 18th Century European fashion and cultural references (art, opera, ballet) have formed the basis of his practice for over twenty years.



    Yinka Shonibare, Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads, 1998 (courtesy: DHC/ART, photo: Richard-Max Tremblay)

    In this tightly curated survey of his practice by Cheryl Sim, most of the works date from the last ten years, but older ones, such as Mr. and Mrs. Andrews without their Heads from 1998, are also included. Many of the sculptural works and photographs are generated from art historical references: the above mentioned Mr. and Mrs. Andrews by Gainsborough, Gericault’s Raft of the Medusa, Goya’s The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters, a series based on famous death paintings, and, feeling rather out of place, Andy Warhol’s Camouflage. The strange, spindly, dismembered nature of Shonibare's culturally mashed up figurative sculpture is intriguing, but I found the staged photographs – faithfully recreated from original paintings – less so. His videos are his most successful endeavor. Working from opera and dance, they hold all the graphic and formal beauty of his sculptures, but further elaborate and complicate through movement, sound, and repetition. They are weirder and more haunting.

    Surprisingly this is Shonibare’s first solo exhibition in Canada. That it is happening in Quebec, a nation with a complicated colonial history and relationship with post-colonial waves of immigration, makes this exhibition all the more relevant and pertinent to contemplate.


    DHC/ART Foundation for Contemporary Art: http://dhc-art.org/
    Yinka Shonibare MBE: Pièces de résistance continues until September 20.


    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 printmaker recently challenged me to think about where print practice fits within the discourse of contemporary art. I was kind of stumped. I have ingrained images left over from art school of printmakers lovingly rubbing lithography stones for hours on end. The hard-core medium specificity doesn’t seem very uh, contemporary (whatever that means). Of course, there is a lot of great print stuff going on (shout-out to Vancouver’s Malaspina Printmakers!), but it always seems like an adjacent or minor practice – something artists are doing as an aside to their primary work. In the current climate of maximum media fluidity, this is to be expected. I ended up blurting out that I thought contemporary print practice might be mostly related to recent internet art. It was a half-baked hunch.



    Dominique Pétrin

    Imagine my surprise to have this hunch validated in some capacity by the work of Dominique Pétrin in her solo exhibition Three Withdrawal Movements for an ATM at Contemporary Calgary. Pétrin uses silkscreen prints and potato starch adhesive to create immersive hyper-decorative environments. The various patterns are instantly reminiscent of early user-friendly web platforms like geocities and – most resonant for me – the glory days of early nineties MacPaint: the limited pallet of shades and patterns informed my earliest visual experience on the computer. The installation is a digital aesthetic made physical.

    However, Pétrin also pushes beyond the virtual to makes sure you are abundantly aware of the materiality of her motifs. From a distance the installation is a seamless Second Life room, but up close the rough hand cutting, imperfections, and patina of the adhesive are evident. The painstaking labour involved in the making is evident in the installation itself and also a time-lapse install video that functions as both a didactic resource and a kind of performance document. It works well in the storefront City Hall space of Contemporary Calgary (another Calgary gallery without a curator, FYI), but, after absorbing its wheat-paste DIY ethos, I would have really loved to see it outside, plastering City Hall in spectacular ornamentation.


    Contemporary Calgary: http://www.contemporarycalgary.com/
    Dominique Pétrin: Three Withdrawal Movements for an ATM continues until July 19.


    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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    It is perhaps an indication of how far they’ve come that the 35th anniversary of what would become Gallery TPW is distinguished by an exhibition centred on a piece that has no photography whatsoever. In fact, the only actual visual component is the artist Rana Hamadeh’s accompanying text of the play that sort of forms the basis for the sound work that, cranked up to eleven, rattles the foundations (and the interior walls) of the gallery’s new home on St. Helens Avenue (the epicenter of what has become the newest cluster of art exhibiting concerns in Toronto at least for the time being). That the Lebanon-born, Netherlands-based artist eschews visuals and, for the most part, language in favour of rumbles and feedback that stimulate and, oftentimes, aggravate (intentionally) the body more so than the ear is part and parcel of the art/philosophy brain trust’s investigation of that which cannot be represented. Hamadeh’s topic is war and mourning, and, while I can’t say it’s a fun experience, I strongly suggest you subject yourself to a full immersion in the gallery’s sound-chamber, just so you know what she and I are not talking about.



    Rana Hamadeh

    The rest of the exhibition is stacked with scripts, props, and artifacts (including, yes, photographs!) that purportedly make a lot more sense if you saw the performance/talk the artist gave at the exhibition opening. If you missed it like I did, be prepared to spend a lot of time examining maps, music stands, ornaments, and odds and ends to discern the family resemblances that generate the underlying meaning of the collected goods. There’s a 20th Century, Middle Eastern (as in midway to the Far East), post-colonial vibe to the proceedings, but anomalies (like a Sun Ra LP cover or a stereoscopic photograph of the dent made in a field by a body that fell from a blimp) throw a spanner in the works and keep you looking for the key. In the end (insofar as you can say that regarding an exhibition that has none), the work tests the viewer/listener (literally) and then empowers them to take agency in generating feasible narratives. Make of it what you will.


    Gallery TPW: http://gallerytpw.ca/
    Rana Hamadeh: Can You Pull In An Actor With A Fishhook Or Tie Down His Tongue With A Rope? continues until July 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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    Over time, certain artistic articles of faith, while still observed, have lost their once authoritative grip. “Authorship” itself was interrogated to death ages ago, and anything like “medium specificity” is only weakly enforced. Other, more insidious preconditions hang on, however, notably in the demand for what might euphemistically be termed “aesthetic autonomy.” Under the current rules, uselessness is art’s defining trait. With Identity Politics safely institutionalized or else confined to the ghetto of historical practice, personal and political narratives are once again and all too often regarded as embarrassing dependencies, accessories to or distractions from the supposed substance of art. The disavowal and erasure of these narrative frameworks amount to a program of assimilation, of course – a denial of difference and of the uneven cultural terrain we each navigate, a defense of the status quo. It flatters a Eurocentric and colonialist perspective, surreptitiously working to naturalize and uphold privileges that I and other settler artists presently enjoy. Like the larger matter of decolonization, unlearning these “rules” is hard, but it becomes less so through encounters and engagements with artists who freely disregard them.



    Adrian Stimson, Aggressive Assimilation

    The artists in Mammo’wiiang to make change (the Anishinaabemowin word means “gathering”), which closes this week at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba in Brandon, work to expose, reckon with, and remediate colonialism’s delimiting impact on people’s lives and ideas about art. By example, they affirm both the idea that making art creates new language for articulating experience and the imperative of putting that language to use.

    Two works by Adrian Stimson reflect the mechanisms and the effects of assimilation, both forced and (to the extent these things are possible) freely chosen. In a framed triptych, the Old Sun Residential School physically comes between the two men, pictured as children. Nearby, a bison robe draped in the elder Stimson hockey uniform lies splayed across the floor, deflated, a disarticulated glove grasping weakly for a trophy. The piece touches on the ambivalent role of organized sports in the lives of Indigenous young people, their dual emphasis on individual achievement and subordination.

    Michael Farnan succinctly penetrates the hollowness of white people and white Hollywood’s Indigenous expropriations, ensconcing cardboard cut-outs of Pierce Brosnan (star of the 1999 stinker Grey Owl) and Kevin “Dances with Wolves” Costner inside Coast Salish-inspired wooden owl and wolf “transformation masks.” In her off-kilter performance video, Ayumi Goto cycles through themes of national and sexual identity, migration, death, and renewal as she transforms from “Geisha Gyrl” to spawning salmon on the streets and docks of Kelowna.

    These poetic illustrations lay important groundwork for the exhibition; other works engage viewers more directly and to powerful effect. A collaborative installation by Scott Benesiinaabandan and Paul Zacharias subversively invites viewers to play with and, in the process, uncover the disastrous effects of resource extraction. As the disembodied voices of Indigenous activists drift in, we can push toy excavators through a backlit sandbox, revealing bleak, fragmentary footage of industrially ravaged landscapes.



    Michael Farnan, Pierce Brosnan Grey Owl Transformation Mask

    Both Peter Morin and Cheryl L’Hirondelle have made practices of radical generosity, achieving breathtakingly fluid and deeply moving syntheses of contemporary art, collective action, and diverse forms of Indigenous knowledge. The work of Morin and five collaborators, because they’re all somebody’s daughter, comprises fifty-two willow-branch and rawhide rattles, a tribute to Indigenous women who endure and fall victim to violence. The rattles hang in a weightless but seemingly impenetrable circle, anticipating the breeze or audience member who might shake them out of deathly silence.

    An activist, musician, and songwriter, as well a performance artist, L’Hirondelle helps give voice to the disenfranchised and dispossessed in a more direct sense. For Wintercount: Can’t Break Us, she collaborated with a group of young inmates at a Regina detention centre to compose, perform, and record a four-minute song, itself a rousing assertion of selfhood and resiliency. Viewers can leave comments on Post-It notes, affixing them to a deer hide in an echo of the traditional Plains winter count calendar. A powerful and, one senses, meaningful connection emerges through simple acts of listening and response.

    Thoughtfully curated by Leah Decter and Jaimie Isaac, Mammo’wiiang’s aesthetics are hardly “autonomous,” enmeshed as they are in complex histories, lived realities, and human connections. They aspire instead to empathy, solidarity, and insurgency, which seem, as ever, not just useful but critically needed.


    Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba: http://agsm.ca/main-gallery
    Mammo’wiiang to make change continues until July 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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    Operating out of a residence in the community of Maillardville, the Maillardville Cultural Appreciation Society has a clear view from the foot of its driveway of IKEA Coquitlam. If you need a reason to venture to the suburbs for something other than a BILLY bookcase or MALM for your bedroom, James Linton Murphy’s Canada Pavilion Coquitlam is it. The exhibition features the artist’s Vexation Island, a side-scrolling adventure game based on Rodney Graham’s film of the same name that was shown at the Canada Pavilion during the 1997 Venice Biennial and stars the elder Vancouver artist as a marooned pirate who falls victim to gravity and coconuts.



    James Linton Murphy, Vexation Island, 2015, screen capture

    To the tune of an 8-bit soundtrack emitting from coconut-clad speakers, the player uses a coconut-clad mouse to command Pirate Graham across the beach. The mouse pad is a direct reference to Graham’s Lenticular Coruscating Cinnamon Granules from 2003 with its print of a glowing stove element/cosmos. When playing the game, one feels compelled to fulfill the narrative of the original film, so when you come across a lone palm tree, you can’t help but click on it. A coconut descends at a cartoonish speed and the game is over – or is it mission accomplished? While Graham’s film hearkened to a slowed down slapstick with humorous sensibilities in portraying self-effacement and yielding to one’s environment, Murphy’s work articulates a closer-to-home kind of vexation: the boredom confronted on the outskirts of the metropolis. He wryly asks, “In the suburbs, what else is there to do but play video games?”

    Murphy’s game is about as action-packed as watching paint dry, but it is an astute work of appropriation for this idiosyncratic context. With this penchant for unorthodox, subterranean undertakings, you don’t need a ticket to Venice when you have Coquitlam.


    Maillardville Cultural Appreciation Society: http://culturalappreciationsociety.org
    James Linton Murphy: Canada Pavilion Coquitlam continues until July 19.


    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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    I’d already decided to riff on the idea of the group exhibition as a dinner party (instead of a recipe or smorgasbord) when I finally got around to reading curator Catherine Dean’s statement that The Agency of Acquaintances, currently on view at Clint Roenisch Gallery, is comparable to a gathering of people who are acquainted with each other but not necessarily close friends. For an introvert like me, such social situations are fraught with anxiety and inevitably lead to definitive judgments about who I gravitate to and to whom I do not. Coincidentally enough, I feel the same way about ensembles of disparate artists collected together for any number of reasons – shared media, nationality, age, blood type, whatever (e.g., Jenifer Papararo’s 2002 The Jennifer Show at Oakville Galleries) – picking and sticking with my favourites for most of my visit. This would make me a bad host, but that’s Dean’s job; I’m here for edification, not diplomacy.



    Lili Huston-Herterich, A Curtain For Clint (to funnel the sun), 2015, cyanotype print on cotton silk blend

    If I had to limit myself to one interaction, I’d happily spend the entire evening with Lili Huston-Herterich’s A Curtain for Clint since it is both smart and beautiful, not to mention evocative and mysterious. But if I had to mingle, I’d get better acquainted with Nadia Belerique, who is clever and intriguing (as well as all over the place this summer including an exhibition at The Power Plant with Huston-Herterich and Laurie Kang), and Diane Borsato, who is contemplative and drily funny (plus her video is about bees and anything about bees is fascinating). I’d definitely avoid Marvin Luvualu Antonio, because he cops too much attitude and lacks substance, and Brian Rideout, because I get the feeling his paintings are making fun of me. Brad Tinmouth, with his art/life-blurring functional constructions, is the life of this party, which reminds me of parties I used to go to ten or fifteen years ago when relational aesthetes were the cool kids. As for Karen Kraven and Abby McGuane, I’ll need to cross paths with them at a couple more parties to know how I feel (though Kraven’s pretty/ugly gymnastic leotards at Mercer Union haven’t helped me reach any conclusions).


    Clint Roenisch Gallery: http://clintroenisch.com/
    The Agency of Acquaintances continues until July 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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    The absurdity of artist prize competitions is on full display until the end of August at the Gardiner Museum with five nominees up for judgment in the annual RBC Emerging Artist People’s Choice Awards– which is not to say it’s a bad exhibition. In fact, I’m going to encourage you to see it. However, your response at the ballot box, after perusing the candidates, will say more about you than the worth of any one artist. Which is also not to say art can’t be judged (if that were the case, I’d be out of a job), but to select an artist here is like choosing a religion. They all worship clay, but their (and, by association, your) preferred treatment of the earthy matter really amounts to a difference of individual worldview.



    Derya Akay, cyclodrum, potbound & soup from stone, 2015, installation detail

    At one end of the spectrum is Lisa Henriques, who makes pots for the pottery crowd and, given the mandate of the host institution, is likely to win over the most support. At the other end is Derya Akay’s chaotic installation of suspended fragments of clay smears, kitchen detritus, fermenting vegetables, arcane wooden hoists, and paint-stained walls. Akay is most likely to speak to the contemporary art crowd (his less exciting window work at Kunstverein Toronto might still be on view) with his exuberant playfulness and the radical impurities he introduces into the world of craft. Next to him is Veronika Horlik whose two-part sculpture links the cosmos, mythology, and Japanese video games to tree planting and forest fires. The abundance of narratives imbedded in her works work to redeem the formal incongruities of the pair (one is a magnificent but cheesy star, the other an ungainly blob). Next to Henrigues (but not close at all) is Zane Wilcox whose perceptual experiments and highly formalized designs will appeal to neo-Platonists and all those who seek order in the universe. Somewhere in the middle is David R. Harper, whose collection of stones, bones, teeth, and skulls are as anally organized as Wilcox’s symmetries but bound to an obsession with natural history and the transformations humans impose on particular objects. His work is church-like in its restrained contemplation (and somewhat troubling in its appropriation of artifacts from other cultures), but I lean more to the Dionysian party that Akay gets underway. To find out where you stand on this ecumenical path, you’ll have to see the exhibition for yourself.


    Gardiner Museum: http://www.gardinermuseum.on.ca/home
    RBC Emerging Artists People’s Choice Award continues until August 30.


    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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    Erika Dueck’s The Ephemeral Mind stood out among a notably large and accomplished cohort at the University of Manitoba’s 2013 BFA Exhibition. Her imposing crumpled-paper pendant, which went on to win top honours in BMO’s student art competition that year, was lit from inside to reveal a warren of minutely detailed, alarmingly disordered miniature studio spaces. It was a potent illustration of unruly memory and mental clutter. Now an MFA candidate at Guelph, Dueck makes a brief homecoming this month at UM’s School of Art Gallery. With a trio of new sculptures, she continues to construct scale interiors that give tangible form to her “ephemeral mind,” but, rather than relying on allegory as before, the new works engage with the phenomenology of inward experience directly, if not exactly head-on. It is a critical and confounding step forward.



    Erika Dueck, In Between Spaces, 2015, installation view

    Untitled (Tower #1), (#2), and (#3) are rickety-looking, chest-high, foam-core periscopes, their outsides a mess of openings and tangled wires. At the top of each, a mirror angled 45° sends our gaze plunging down inside the column, even as we perceive ourselves looking ahead into a series of uncannily lifelike hallways. As “In Between Spaces” (the title of the exhibition), Dueck’s anonymous corridors seem appropriate settings for an inquiry into uncertainty. Further burnishing the analogy, the depicted architecture is itself compromised: one hallway is under construction, another half-demolished, while vegetation and crystal “boulders” erupt through the walls of a third.

    Still, it’s the simple, finely-executed illusion – made all the more disorienting by our awareness of its mechanics – and its vertiginous realignment of our perspective that pulls the work out of its metaphorical and analytical register (and us with it). We aren’t just made to understand Dueck’s doubt; we feel it, if queasily.

    In a happy bit of synchronicity, fellow 2013 Manitoba graduate Rowan Gray will be exhibiting work across town at the University of Winnipeg’s Gallery 1C03 early next month. Gray’s simultaneously lush and withholding installation at the aforementioned BFA show was another favourite of mine. Since graduating she’s distinguished herself as a director of C Space here in Winnipeg. A (+) Grace comes out of a yearlong mentorship with Video Pool director Melentie Pandilovski. The installation, which will incorporate a multi-speaker sound environment and video projected through copper mesh onto a concave screen, will aim to deconstruct perception as it relates to sound and music. The exhibition is set to run August 6 to 8.


    University of Manitoba School of Art Gallery: http://umanitoba.ca/schools/art/772.html
    Erika Dueck: In Between Spaces runs until July 31


    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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