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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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    My God, I needed to see Sheila Hicks’ exhibition at the Textile Museum. The day, the week, the month had been shitty and I craved respite. I needed the deliverance from daily stress I can sometime find in a gallery. I needed art that puts things in perspective, that takes the long view, that reveals my petty woes to be the insignificant hang-ups they are. What I didn’t need was criticality or textual analysis or lame and lazy art by lame and lazy artists who think their every poop is poetry. I wanted a heavy duty claim to beauty and big ideas and life experience and material mastery. I was hoping for something greater than me, something that would take me out of myself – but without any cheap tricks or deception, just the truth.



    Sheila Hicks, Predestined Color Wave I & II, 2015, linen

    I must admit that a smidgen of Hick’s appeal lies in her biography: a young artist from Nebraska who studied at Yale in the late fifties, travelled to Chile and worked in Mexico before settling in Paris by the mid sixties to bring the craft skills she learned globe trotting to bear on the abstraction she absorbed from her colleagues at university. The authority of her work lies in those formative experiences, her fearless spirit, and the decades of monkish dedication to art reduced to its basics while still evoking a response. She found inspiration in the light and colour of landscape and created miniature weavings on a portable loom, but also works on large scale installations that run ceiling to floor. One portion of her creations cleaves close to geometry and the hard edges that are familiar when painted on canvas but have a subtly different result when made with string. Her wall-mounted rectangular frames strung with thread resemble abstractions by Gerhard Richter, but maintain an independence that frees them from the artist’s hand. They are held together by their own tension, but left open to the possibility of unravelling. In the remarkable fact of their existence is the gift of uncertainty. They are objects of wonder.



    Sheila Hicks, Grand Boules, 2009, linen, cotton, synthetic raffia, metallic fibre

    On the flipside, Hicks allows for disorder and chaos in bundles that reminded me of Judith Scott’s sculptures at Oakville Galleries and provided an alternative salve to my woes. These hectic assemblages burst at the seams with colour and noise. They are energetic messes that replicate the ecstatic frenzy of the world out there, be it in the scramble to keep domestic order under control (some spheres were inspired by clothes compressed for the purpose of travel) and in the delirious rush of a busy marketplace. Held together in the moment in the gallery, they allow for the possibility of stillness. Pausing there that afternoon, I was thankful for the opportunity to breathe in the silence and take in the colours. (The Textile Museum is the perfect spot for this, by the way, nestled in the innards of a condo tower right in the heart of the city, because it insulates you from that awful world, at least for a time.) I am reminded that art has and might and maybe even can transcend the here and now to give us a glimpse of the infinite. And that experience can be edifying, not crushing. I’m not a religious man, but I have my moments of torment, so getting saved is something I willingly embrace.


    The Textile Museum: https://www.textilemuseum.ca/home
    Sheila Hicks: Material Voices continues until February 5.


    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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    Jean-Sébastien Denis’s drawings on Mylar at Studio 21 bring to mind psychogeographic mapmaking in their assemblage of lines and dots. Black and white is the dominant colour theme throughout, but the Montreal artist breaks up these visual fields with splotches of colour from bright red to various neons. The work is meant to convey the “chaotic multiplicity and resulting movement” of our current reality, according to the artist’s statement. Though there’s chaos, it’s of an orderly sort. The translucent Mylar backdrops establish a monochromatic mood, which Denis then disrupts by overlaying ink blotches, drops of neon green or pink, or a smear of orange, red, and yellow lines.



    Jean-Sébastien Denis, Amas #16-01 (série 2), 2016, mixed media on Mylar

    There’s a sort of Constructivist abstraction to many of these pieces – particularly one set of small black and red drawings – but at other times, Denis’s use of his media is more akin to the fuzzy lines of someone playing around in MS Paint, though closer inspection reveals the hand-painted brush strokes. He refers to his work as a “laboratory” and the sense of chemistry is evident as fuzzy grey lines react with opaque matte blobs of colour and delicate cross-hatching or line work interacts with heavy rigid lines in black or bright colours. More loose and sparse than some of his previous drawings and paintings, these Mylar creations recall Julie Mehretu’s gestural, architectural canvases but on a smaller scale.

    The disparity between the chance ink and paint blots, the stiff straight lines, and the spray painted elements that appear almost computer-drawn perfectly illustrates Denis’s premise of the confusing and blurred lines between the technological and the hand-created that shape our everyday life at present. Ultimately less rigid than an infographic and more intentional than a kid playing with the spray paint tool on a computer, these drawings happily explore their own medium.


    Studio 21: http://studio21.ca/
    Jean-Sébastien Denis: New Works on Mylar continues until December 16.


    Laura Kenins is a writer and comic artist currently based in Halifax. She has written for CBC Arts, C Magazine, Canadian Art, The Coast and other publications.


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    I feel somewhat guilty about reviewing this exhibition this week. It has nothing to do with the artist or the art. Way back in January I challenged myself to review a different gallery each week over the course of the year. I failed by mid-summer, but my intent was to capture – or at least throw some light on – what this city (and the surrounding regions) has to offer for someone interested in contemporary art. There was far more than could be accounted for in a measly fifty odd reviews and the list of the things I missed is too embarrassing to consider, but at least I tried. As I prepare my year-end Top 3 list, it seems that I wrote about Division Gallery more than most (and entirely neglected some equally deserving spaces). Proximity is a factor here as I live in the west end and this Montreal satellite space is nearby. Quality and prominence (not always the same thing) of artists are also factors. And certain art is just more fun to write about.



    Michel de Broin, May Be, 2016, aluminium, plaster, cushion

    As for their current exhibition, Michel de Broin's sculptures have an initial appeal because they make me think of my dad. The bronze swizzle stick mobiles remind me of the minibar we had in the seventies that was stocked with sticks gathered on his business trips. The vacuum-sealed machinery bits bring back memories of picking through his tool box in our garage and gazing in wonder at the possible creations that could be assembled out of random springs, screws, and hinges. There's a temptation to associate these materials – along with the plumber’s pipes, car headlights, and antiaircraft guns – with masculinity and reduce the art to an expression of gender stereotypes, but despite these instinctual associations, de Broin manages to make them speak to something more than identity.



    Michel de Broin, Étant donnés, 2013, sink, plumbing pipes, water, propane gas

    What that is is often a little too literal. The self destructive bond between enemies in the linked guns, the sink with its eternal flame looking like the now iconic image of the same effect in homes near fracking sites, even the dog fight that looks clearly like a dog fight: these all represent themselves in an easy to read fashion. The least sculpted work – five tires crammed within each other like a Russian doll – is strangely one of the more evocative of the artist’s earlier work. His recent creations delve into abstraction like the bulbous bust titled Head or the alien entertainment console with the name Endangered Species. They aren’t as crowd pleasing as the public art assemblages that established de Broin’s reputation and trade in his aforementioned straightforwardness for an ambiguity that might not pay off in the long run. A hospital gurney with an anthropomorphised tube of white plaster manages to balance the obvious with the unexpected. That’s the trick to simultaneously drawing you in and taking you aback. That’s also the strange magnetism of most contemporary art.


    Division Gallery: http://www.galeriedivision.com/toronto/exhibition/-this-and-that
    Michel de Broin: This and That continues until December 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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  • 12/14/16--07:47: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • After a very strange poetry reading, a friend coerced me to attend a performance by Strawberry. She kept saying it, “Strawberry! But, Straw-berry!” until I agreed to go with her. Their live performances are few and far between – this one in particular was organized by Casey Wei’s robust monthly art-rock event at The Astoria. A while later, I was reading Julian Hou’s Akimbo Hit List and he had this to say about Strawberry: “The art music being made by Dennis Ha and Barry Doupé reminds me of the kind of moment that never happened but should have, and that is happening now but you can't believe it.” Which is essentially how I felt when I saw Ha unabashedly sing-ask, “What if Dennis wasn’t Dennis?”



    For’er Players Theatre Company

    Steve Hubert is that friend of yours you go secondhand shopping with and everything he tries on looks maybe a bit weird, perhaps ill fitting, yet he always manages to pull it off without irony. Hubert’s openness to new ventures in the city afforded him opportunities to unfetter his curiosity and pursue a variety of things. In the past year, he produced two plays under the For’er Players Theatre Company (The Chiropractor and Allergic to Power), performed at performance cabaret RERUNS, wrote The Hieroglyph-Prone Society of Actors-in-Commercials (a short story for new literary art journal Young Adult), mounted a solo-exhibition at the recently established Duplex, and several others. Throughout these projects, he touched on the absurdities of subcultures, power dynamics as insecure structures, and a novel approach to artists’ theatre. I don't reckon the result to be mastery, but it’s rare to get a real sense of freed curiosity from many artworks, never mind that of several projects, by an individual artist and his respective collaborators. Executed at the risk of slipping into dilettantism, he emerged the earnest dabbler – in dapper thrift no less!

    Come 2017, assemble an entourage and take the ferry over to the Nanaimo Art Gallery. Curator Jesse Birch has precipitated a dynamic change in how we see regional galleries. The diverse thematic group-exhibitions happening there have included early career artists (Scott Rogers, Katie Lyle, Mike Bourscheid) alongside internationally exhibiting artists (Alex Morrison, Raymond Boisjoly, Stan Douglas) who find intelligent ways to address local flora, labour histories, and the architectural intersections of the region. This past year the NAG also mounted a lively and experimental retrospective presenting the work of Ron Tran inflected with a layer of his experience briefly living in Nanaimo.


    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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  • 12/14/16--08:17: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • Akimblog’s first Winnipeg correspondent, Cliff Eyland has contributed to the local scene in so many ways. His constant and reassuring presence on social media fell silent when he entered the hospital for a long awaited medical procedure earlier this year, and the silence felt… weird. There are many personalities who compose our city’s art make up, each of them vital, and Cliff is one. Here’s to a healthy and prosperous new year, Cliff!



    Kenneth Lavallee

    Anyone who has crossed paths with Kenneth Lavallee recently has likely heard about his dream to cover Winnipeg’s buildings in the designs of traditional star blankets. With the support of Synonym Art Consultation, Lavallee and a group of emerging artists from the Red Road Lodge achieved this dream with the completion of a pair of murals on Main Street. Wrapping these buildings in this motif recalls gestures of honouring and comfort – something much needed by our city in recent years.

    While Daphne Odjig is not considered a Winnipeg artist, she once was. She co-founded the Professional Native Indian Artists Association here and started the Warehouse Gallery. Countless visitors have absorbed the beauty of her mural The Creation of the World during their visits to the Manitoba Museum and her piece Thunderbird Woman was central to the Wood Land School at Plug In ICA this past July. For many artists in our community, as in other places, losing Daphne this year felt like the loss of a beloved matriarch.


    Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.


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  • 12/14/16--08:23: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • The first attempt at a province-wide contemporary art survey, Terroir was a multi-year project headed by the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia that curated work by twenty-nine Nova Scotian artists selected from an open call. Bringing together emerging to established artists working in every media, including video installations, performance, textiles, and sculpture, the exhibition included pieces from artists like Ursula Johnson, Wayne Boucher, Melanie Colosimo, Charly Young and others. Named for a word used in wine terminology, the exhibition featured a heavy landscape slant through its various media – a sign of our fraught relationship to place in the Maritimes. AGNS curator David Diviney told me in an interview with The Coast that the gallery is considering whether the provincial survey model is “viable” for continued future exhibitions. Everyone in the arts in the province is keeping their fingers crossed it is.



    Amanda Dawn Christie

    Anyone who regularly makes the drive to New Brunswick from Halifax has been a witness to the basic premise of Amanda Dawn Christie’s ambitious suite of works for the past few years. As the CBC dismantled its RCI international radio transmission site outside Sackville just across the provincial border, the Moncton-based artist has been documenting the iconic site in film and other media since 2009. In 2016, she debuted two parts of the four-part project in Halifax, with the experimental documentary film Spectres of Shortwave premiering at the Atlantic Film Festival in September. She also recreated the site with an interactive scale model on the waterfront during the late-night Nocturne festival in October. Viewers could touch it to play sounds Christie recorded at the site before it was dismantled in 2014.

    NSCAD’s Anna Leonowens Gallery staff lobbied to have the gallery take over a bar space in the school property that had been vacated ahead of the school’s planned move from the downtown Granville campus in 2019. Opened as a pilot project in January, the Art Bar’s main mandate is to provide a space for performance and other non-traditional art forms, but it has paid host to concerts, installations, artist talks, Dada cabarets, and inventive forms of karaoke from PowerPoint to drag. The bar has breathed new life into the community and given artists a space to casually gather and socialize. It’s the kind of space that invites conversation and new connections, and one we’ve been lacking since the old Khyber bar on Barrington shut its doors in 2007.


    Laura Kenins is a writer and comic artist currently based in Halifax. She has written for CBC Arts, C Magazine, Canadian Art, The Coast, and other publications.


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    Maybe it’s the time of year or maybe it’s the change of seasons or maybe I’m just feeling increasingly lost in this world, but an exhibition like Astral Bodies at Mercer Union hits me where I live. I've been revisiting my philosophical assumptions about reason and religion through McGill University prof Carlos Fraenkel's wonderful book Teaching Plato in Palestine and the big metaphysical questions were already buzzing in my mind when I entered the dimmed galleries on Bloor Street West.



    Shuvinai Ashoona, installation view of selected works on paper

    My first call to reflection was a tabletop display of Shuvinai Ashoona's drawn cosmologies depicting the world as multiple blue and green marbles carried, fought over, animated and eaten. Her universe is controlled by animals, monsters, and anthropomorphic gods that are as confused, panic stricken, and profane as the human residents of the earth. Her iconography is at times reminiscent of Daniel Johnston's psycho-fantastical drawings of his personal mythology, but Ashoona’s is bound up with and presumably deepened by a better understanding of Northern stories and beliefs. Whether they be supernatural or just plain natural, there are forces at work here. Sometimes they make sense and sometimes they don’t (which is as good an account of life as any I’ve come across in thirty odd years of searching).

    After that collection of riotous colour and frantic imagination, Pamela Norrish’s Outfit for the Afterlife brings my mind to a standstill. Sarah Todd wrote about this work when it was exhibited at the Glenbow Museum in the summer and I defer to her description, but will add that the delicacy of this glass beaded t-shirt and jeans carries maximum impact through the wording of its title and the manner in which it is displayed. The clothes could have easily gone on a mannequin, but instead they lie flat and either wait for someone’s passing or remain after someone’s loss. Death is the one inevitability.



    Astral Bodies, installation view (including works from right by Shary Boyle, Pamela Norrish and Karen Azoulay), Mercer Union, 2016

    The degree to which we transcend that final exit – at least in the memory and imagination of those we leave behind – is beautifully demonstrated in Spring Hulrbut’s endlessly watchable video of her opening a container of cremated ashes. I’ve described elsewhere the evocation of ghosts and spirits in the swirling dust that emerges in the light. The dust is also simply that, so, in a sense, this work reinforces the materialist adage ashes to ashes and dust to dust to remind us that is all we are.

    That said, Karen Azoulay's video projection of a night sky recreated by elegantly handheld candles portrays a lapsed cosmos that brings the heavens down to earth, while also hinting we are all made of stardust, which on a good day might make one feel somewhat transcendent. The either/or of this duality – physical/metaphysical, immanent/transcendent, mortal/divine – is contained in the exhibition title (hats off the curator York Lethbridge for orchestrating this compact but powerful assembly of stellar works) and in the single sculpture by Shary Boyle. It depicts the figure of Atlas as a young boy holding up a globe (which brings us back to Ashoona’s work). However, this sphere is God’s Eye according to the title and, as such, a piece of celestial anatomy that has fallen to earth. Make of it what you will.


    Mercer Union: http://www.mercerunion.org/
    Astral Bodies continues until February 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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  • 12/21/16--05:47: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • The denouement of 2016 is a little more bleak than the end of other years in recent memory. It’s difficult not to sink into abjection and nihilism – to throw your hands up and say, “What’s the point of making art?” or “What power does visual art really have to effect meaningful change?” or “Maybe I should become a social worker instead.” With this in mind, one of the more challenging and “now” events of the year was Anne Imhof’s Angst III performance at the MAC as part of the Montreal Biennale.



    Anne Imhof, Angst III, 2016 (photo: Jonas Leihener)

    Performers, accompanied by four live falcons, pour out cans of Coca-Cola and smear themselves with shaving cream in a smoke-filled space. Some see her work as vacuous normcore art; others appreciate it as messy, opaque, and layered with meaning. At any rate, Imhof seems to capture the stifled potency of an anxious generation paralyzed in the tropes of youth by economic pressure and societal bias. Her work asks awkward questions and offers no easy answers to the world’s ills.

    In contrast to Angst III, the re-creation of Pierre Ayot’s Croix du Mont-Royal engaged many facets of Montreal’s local community. Originally created by the artist in 1976 as part of the Corridart public art exhibition on Sherbrooke Street, the work, a scaffolding cross laying on its side, was bulldozed along with the rest of the exhibition on the eve of the Montreal Olympics under the orders of Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau. This year, as part of an Ayot retrospective at the BaNQ, the cross was to be reinstalled at the foot of Mount Royal in view of one of Montreal’s most iconic monuments. But plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose… Current mayor Denis Coderre got whiff of the project and tried to stop it, claiming it could cause offence to the residents of the convent situated a few meter away from Ayot’s sculpture. In the end the cross was installed, but the mayor’s reaction could be a harbinger for the type of particularly toothless public artworks deemed appropriate for the upcoming Montreal 375 celebrations.

    Finally, I made note of this in my last review and it has since gained further press: a handful of new galleries/project spaces have popped up throughout Montreal – from L’inconnue to L’escalier to Vie d’Ange and Projet Pangée– in the last year. This regeneration is desperately needed. The fact that many of these spaces are DIY is also great.


    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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  • 12/21/16--06:12: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • While 2016 saw Calgary fall deeper into a recession, the art scene was on the up and up. Here are three exhibitions that I didn’t write about this year but I consider highlights. They indicate developments that will contribute a positive trajectory for contemporary art in the city for the year to come.

    This year Calgary was lucky to welcome curator Lorenzo Fusi in the position of visiting academic curator at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery at the Alberta College of Art and Design. He immediately made a mark with Performing the Landscape, an ambitious multi-site exhibition (IKG, Stride Gallery, TRUCK, Contemporary Calgary, and the Glenbow) featuring a mix of international artists (Mikhail Karikis, Cyprien Gaillard, Taus Makhacheva) and Calgary-based talent (Miruna Dragan, Jason De Haan). It’s extremely exciting to have a curator engaging a wider range of international work while maintaining a close eye on the local context. I’m looking forward to see what he has on deck next.



    Colleen Heslin, Spotting Elegance within the Chaos, 2016, dye on cotton and linen

    The Esker Foundation continued to be the most enduring glimmer of light for contemporary art in Calgary with perfectly produced exhibitions like the pairing of Colleen Heslin: Needles and Pins with Jack Bush: In Studio. Heslin’s hand-dyed textile abstractions alongside rarely exhibited Bush paintings was one of those synergistic combinations which leads to surprising connections between two otherwise disparate artists. Esker, helmed by Naomi Potter and Shauna Thompson, shows no signs of slowing down as they kick off the new year with Earthlings, an exhibition of ceramic sculptures and works on paper by Roger Aksadjuak, Shuvinai Ashoona, Pierre Aupilardjuk, Shary Boyle, Jessie Kenalogak, John Kurok, and Leo Napayok.

    The press release for Material Girls, an exploration of material practice in relation to feminized space at Contemporary Calgary this past spring, asserted in the first sentence that the exhibition “is about women taking up space.” Yes, please. This unabashed, fully embodied, messy, funny exhibition originally from the Dunlop Gallery (curated by Blair Fornwald, Jennifer Matotek, and Wendy Peart) provided a refreshing (nay, essential) counterpoint to Calgary’s generally masculine energy, especially during Stampede week. I would visit and kind of loiter in the exhibition space; it just made me feel better. Exciting things are to come for Contemporary Calgary: they just cleared three million in fundraising for their new space (what recession?!) and I am eagerly anticipating newly hired Lisa Balidssera’s contributions to the local cultural landscape.


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


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  • 12/21/16--07:05: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • The year began with a January visit to Regina as an artist included in the exhibition On The Table at the Dunlop Art Gallery and to scout the city's climate for my impending move. Some of the best art and weather of 2016 happened that week. On the Table was like a banquet over-flowing with food-themed artworks. If I had to mention just one, it would be Song Dong’s Bread (After Song Dong's "Bread" 1994), an ordinary, store-bought loaf of bread encased in a glass vitrine that had been allowed to mould and atrophy – a metaphor for the transformation of Chinese society. A staple food and symbol for nourishment turned abstract landscape, fetishized art object and unbearably noxious. (The gallery staff had to wear HAZMAT gear while installing the loaf.)



    Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone 2.0, 2010, video projector, computer, digital file, haze machine (photo: Don Hall)

    At the same time, the MacKenzie Art Gallery was showing a recent acquisition: Line Describing a Cone 2.0. This 21st Century iteration of British-born artist Anthony McCall's “solid light” installation was originally shown in movie theatres in the 1970s. McCall's stark animations sculpted volumes in projector light bounced off of airborne smoke particles. Who could ever imagine that people giving up smoking would basically ruin your art? In 2016, vapour machines were used to fog the air. (I hope that McCall might collaborate with dudes who congregate in vape shops for his future projects.) I encouraged a stranger entering the gallery to stick his hand into the trough of light created by a white dot's progress across the black screen. He did so, and we both giggled – perception at odds with knowledge.

    We all have some personal connection to the things that we like the best. I don't think it's just because I volunteered to perform as a naked demon lady for Lechedevirgen Trimegisto's Inferno Varieté that makes it stand out for me, but it was quite an introduction to my new city. For years, the simultaneous festivals Queer City Cinema and Performatorium have been creating a queer mecca on the prairies. Mexican artist Lechedevirgen's performance at this year's festival was remarkable: balancing feats of exertion with heart-breaking vulnerability and levity. At its climax, the oppressiveness of machismo was palpably illustrated by Lechedevirgen's legs, skinny as pipe cleaners, trembling as he bucked his hips, swinging a pair of pendulous bull testicles tied to his own testicles. Blood streamed down his face from a row of fresh piercing on his forehead caused by small darts with feathered ends that looked like bandilleras used to weaken bulls.


    Sandee Moore is a nationally exhibited artist, arts administrator, occasional art writer, and newcomer to Regina. She can be followed on Twitter @SandeeMoore.


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  • 12/21/16--07:42: 2016 Critic's Picks
  • We learn from studying history that things don't just happen. Every unexpected event will, on closer inspection, reveal the roots that lead to the revolution, the riot, or the reaction that none of the experts predicted. The most obvious recent incidence of this was the American presidential election and the subsequent soul searching from both left and right as to how it all went down. Who were all these people voting for Trump? The same questions resounded after Brexit. Who were they who voted? And, by association, are we who we think we are? These questions of identity tied to place served as a catalyst for some of the most provocative group exhibitions in Toronto this year. Perhaps such queries are always being raised, but it feels like they’re becoming increasingly critical.



    Pansee Atta, Afterglow, 2015, GIF animation (from Canadian Belonging(s) at the Art Gallery of Mississauga)

    The year was bookended by exhibitions that attempted to say something about the artists who live and work in this fair city. Showroom at The Art Museum started the ball rolling on the question of what makes Toronto Toronto, and the tag team of Form Follows Fiction (also at The Art Museum) and Tributes + Tributaries (at the AGO) wound it up (for the time being). All three were inevitably inconclusive but served as opportunities for debate, criticism, historical revision, and plain old artistic appreciation. While identity crises aren’t necessarily any fun to experience personally, they certainly provide fertile ground for artists.

    One reason for the current prominence of this theme is the ever-shifting populations that make up the GTA. Two other exhibitions – Canadian Belonging(s) at the Art Gallery of Mississauga and Yonder at the Koffler Gallery – assembled work by artists who have moved from place to place and are working to represent the hybrid sense of self (of what’s lost, gained, threatened, learned, hidden, etc.) that comes with being in flux. The other reason is the increased space given to aboriginal artists and curators whose own investigations into identity and place derive not from migration but from the ongoing impact of colonialism and their efforts toward decolonization.



    Sheila Hicks in front of elements from The Treaty of Chromatic Zones, 2015 (photo: Cristobal Zanartu)

    The counterbalance to predominantly younger artists figuring out who they are could be found in the surfeit of senior female artists exhibiting this year whose work demonstrates a mastery and a clarity that only comes from doing something fearlessly for decades. Among those who reminded me of the power of art over the past twelve months, there was Ann MacIntosh at Nicholas Metivier, Wanda Koop at Division, Spring Hurlbut at the Ryerson Image Centre, Iris Haussler (and, of course, Sophie La Rosiere) at the Art Gallery of York University and Scrap Metal Gallery, Judith Scott at Oakville Galleries, Sheila Hicks at the Textile Museum, and Shuvinai Ashoona at Mercer Union.

    Lastly, the fact of the matter is that if you don’t toot your own horn, no one is going to toot it for you. Which is why I’m flagging the ten years of reviews that have run on Akimblog as something of a highlight this year. The anniversary passed in April (the 26th to be exact) and I meant to write about it, but was too busy doing the rounds to reflect. Now that I have a moment, I want to say that the artists, curators, museums, artist-run centres, galleries, gallerists, collectives, and creative folks of this city are a gift to all who find themselves here. Even after a decade, I still head out ready to have my mind blown, my eyes fried, my world warped, and my assumptions thrust assunder, and I am rarely disappointed (and even when I am I try to find something of value for balance). I’m guilty of missing more than I’ve covered, but I hope whoever is reading this feels like I do: art writing is in service of the art, the artists, and the art lovers, and ongoing critical reviews are essential for all three. That, if anything, is going to keep us here at Akimblog going for another ten.


    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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    This collection of recent works by Shannon Bool at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery gets its title from a 1983 exhibition of carpets at London’s Hayward Gallery and offers refreshing complexity, despite its initial understated appearance. Upon slightly raised, white platforms lie a number of selections from her Madonna Extraction Series– hand-woven textiles that address the fraught relationship between Oriental carpets and Western art history through both imagery and the means of production.



    Shannon Bool, Forensics for a Mamluk, 2013, HD video

    These works appropriate images of rugs found beneath the feet of Virgin Marys across art history (for example Madonna Extraction Carpet V uses carpet visuals from Jan van Eyck’s Madonna and Child Enthroned and Petrus Christus’ Virgin and Child Enthroned) and weave them into new compositions accompanied by the gray and white Photoshop grid standing in for figures and surrounding scenes. Adding an additional, crucial layer of meaning, Bool outsources the fabrication of the carpets to master craftspeople in Anatolia (the traditional site of production for Oriental carpets) who use ancient techniques to create these thoroughly contemporary objects. These rugs access a kind of circular, ironic Orientalism by fusing craft and technology as well as icons from East and West across one visually lush surface. I was amazed how seamlessly the various references blend into one confounding and frankly beautiful object.

    Bool’s works are united through a preoccupation with the potential of ornamented surfaces. In Forensics of a Malmuk, the single-channel video installation at the back of the gallery, the gaze of the camera travels across the surface of the giant Egyptian Malmuk carpet, one of the most valuable and rare carpets in the world. It was nearly forgotten in storage in Florence’s Palazzo Pitti and only rediscovered in the 1980s. The video offers an intimate, nearly excessive view of the carpet’s design and texture. Extreme close ups overload the viewer with information and detail, and render the precious object ultimately as an abstraction. The Eastern Carpet and the Western World Revisited offers a kind of densely, pleasurably layered work that warrants repeat viewing, and you will find yourself thinking about its visual puzzles long after you leave the gallery.


    Illingworth Kerr Gallery: http://ikg.acad.ca/
    Shannon Bool: The Eastern Carpet and the Western World Revisited continues until February 11.


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


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    Curator Ebony L. Haynes (also the director of NYC’s Martos Gallery) says the work she gathered for Freud’s Mouth, a group exhibition that is closing any minute now at Cooper Cole Gallery, is “not your mom’s 1993 identity art” and that stung for a moment because I felt like my generation (or the generation moments before my generation – our older siblings) was getting slighted. And then I realized I bemoan identity art from the early nineties too, so all was good again. But I still had to wrap my head around the new millennium ID art I was looking at and figure out what it had to do with Freud’s oral fixation (cigar smoking, thumb sucking, fingernail biting, and all that).



    Adrianne Rubenstein, Untitled, 2016, ceramic and gumballs

    When I picture the art from twenty-five years ago, I see scrappy VHS videos on CRT monitors and clinically organized installations with piles of things that would otherwise be thrown away. This doesn’t look anything like that. There’s one HD video (by Sara Magenheimer) and a consumer combo display (Ajay Kurian’s rhino warrior toy on puzzle box) that remind me of Haim Steinbach, but the rest are your standard wall-hung paintings with a photograph and a photo-collage thrown it. There’s also a ceramic psychedelic mushroom bowl made with gumballs from Adrianne Rubenstein that resembles an ashtray with phallic prongs standing erect in its concavity. The father of psychoanalysis would have a field day after you told him it was made with nubby testicular spheres that you pop in your mouth. Rubenstein’s messy aesthetic appears as well in an eye-grabbing painting entitled Broccoli Vision that might depict garden foliage from the perspective of someone who has no interest in horizons. The contrast between the loose brushwork here and Sascha Braunig’s precisely patterned oil paintings could be discussed in the context of the anal stage of psychosexual development, but Freud’s Butt is an exhibition that will have to wait for another day.



    Hamishi Farah, Untitled, 2016, acrylic on canvas

    Back to the matter of identity, there’s a painting by Oreka James with a naked black female figure but her head’s been cut off by the frame and that would have been a no-no back in the day, so something has changed. Alex Chaves, who’s better known as a painter, contributes a photograph with a Raggedy Ann doll beside a shirtless, ambiguously gendered young adult. Another critic used the phrase “queer hermeneutics” in review of a previous exhibition of paintings by the same artist and that didn’t surprise me. The portrait by Hamishi Farah of a couple expecting their first child appears to be a straightforward gesture normalizing representations of people of colour, but this Somali-Australian artist isn't one to do things in a striaghtforward fashion, so there's something else going on.

    If I had to put my finger on what’s different about the art of these youngsters’ elementary school years is that identity used to be about categories in which you’d find yourself. You’d identify with a group or challenge how that group was identified. This art, on the other hand, is more of an expression of the individual. As with an ID card, your identity can also be singular, and the absence of unifying elements in this gathering leads me to see each artist in isolation – which can be both positive and negative. I’m still on the fence as to where I feel it falls.


    Cooper Cole Gallery: http://coopercolegallery.com/
    Freud’s Mouth continues until January 14.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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    Geoffrey Farmer is a seasoned architect of worlds collaged from references to music, literature, theatre, history, and more. His latest for Catriona Jeffries is simply titled The Kitchen. On entering the gallery, we are confronted by a monumental baby blue broomstick. The broom’s status in magic is unflappably intact in this towering representation and, as the first thing we encounter, it most definitely trumps the modest works on paper around it.



    Geoffrey Farmer, The Kitchen, 2017, installation view (courtesy: Catriona Jeffries, photo: SITE Photography)

    Each framed drawing depicts a little matchstick man who spits a rhyme contained in a speech beside it. This little character, a small thing containing both catastrophes and ambiance, is made more ominous in the same way that someone who speaks in rhyme unsettles. Thin, tender-tomato red theatre backdrops create a quaint company of kitchen appliances, wares, and cabinets. The objects are of relative scale to the broomstick and drawn with chubby black lines that seem to outweigh the cloth that wavers over the gallery’s white walls.

    Farmer provides a passage from Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons as a dusty and scratched lens to think through this installation. However, the lens he’s supplied is practically opaque. There are scratches on the glass that impose an accumulated composition; the particles of neglect are the dirt of suggestion. The obscurity isn’t remotely mean spirited, but it’s not the kind of lens we associate with enlightenment, clarity, orienteering, or telos. We probably all prefer the fertile lens of Stein, which is actually a cushion for our imaginations (Farmer’s imagination?).

    Amidst the density of Stein’s poetics in relation to Farmer’s invocation of it, my clarity is found in a question posed without a question mark: “Why is the perfect reestablishment practiced and prized, why is it composed.” As a statement, it dismisses the ritual re-staging of an ideal. Does this mean Stein is letting us off the hook? Never! Is Farmer off the hook? Not remotely.


    Catriona Jeffries Gallery: http://catrionajeffries.com/
    Geoffrey Farmer: The Kitchen continues until February 18.


    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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  • 01/18/17--08:16: Winter White at Olga Korper
  • It’s a little disappointing to visit an exhibition called Winter White on an afternoon in January when a day of rain has washed the snow away. If you live in a Canadian city, you understand that snow white turns dirty white overnight. The whites on display at Olga Korper aren’t pristine. They’re off-white and often just another colour, though one that dominates in this disparate collection of artists saying something with the pigment that represents nothing.



    Gerald Ferguson, Period #8, 1974, enamel on canvas

    The assumption of nothingness allows white to be a surface that is projected upon. It does that well. The empty space – that is, the white space that is mistaken for being empty – is something to consider too. Ken Nicol's drawings of blank three-by-five cards are one example of a nothing that is something, a space to be occupied. Gerald Ferguson's drop cloth painting alludes to a formerly blank canvas that was never intended to be looked at or loved. Leslie Hewitt’s photograph of a plain sheet of wood propped – like the work itself – against the wall foregrounds a similar sense of emptiness or loss. Matt Donovan’s Lego block rectangle of rippling white is a section of a larger indistinguishable plain that extends to infinity. And infinity, like utopia and heaven, is no place you want to be (since you have to die to get there).

    Balanced against other un-white elements, white becomes light that emphasizes or obscures the things seen. Bobbie Oliver’s faint dry-brush sketches and calligraphy emerge from the haze of gesso that hides other things farther back in the past of her paintings. Ron Shuebrook uses white emphatically as he blocks in black space with heavy charcoal that sullies the blank spaces. White is a necessary condition for dirt and impurities. It is the colour of purposeful smoke and the fog of scary movies. And sometimes it’s just light as in Barbara Steinman’s photograph of illuminated magnetic tape (which both hides and reveals in its blackness).



    Leslie Hewitt, (Solidity) Still Life Series, 2013, digital chromogenic print in custom maple wood frame

    You can’t have white (and/or black) without a reference to race and there’s a suggestion of it in the two Robert Mapplethorpe portraits, but it’s only a hint. The only overt politics on display appear in works by Nicol and Kelly Mark. Both use the f-word against an expanse of white to turn text into theatre. His “fuck off” and her variants on “fuck this” are assertions of rejection. They enact an adamant negativity. It's an antisocial gesture with an ethical undercurrent. When things are fucked, then “fuck off” might be the only reasonable response. Apart from the current events that might have you using profanity this week, the seasonal context is another that elicits articulations of rage. No one says, “Fuck spring!” but winter is routinely subject to abuse and antagonism. If you’re not feeling it now, then give it about a month, when winter white becomes winter blight and we are starved for any colour other than the one spotlighted here. Maybe the timing is perfect?


    Olga Korper Gallery: http://www.olgakorpergallery.com/
    Winter White continues until January 28.


    Terence Dick is a freelance writer living in Toronto. His art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, BorderCrossings, Prefix Photo, Camera Austria, Fuse, Mix, C Magazine, Azure, and The Globe and Mail. He is the editor of Akimblog. You can follow his quickie reviews and art news announcements on Twitter @TerenceDick.


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  • 01/25/17--05:05: Mujer Artista at aceartinc.
  • Initiated through an informal meeting between filmmaker Cecilia Araneda, interdisciplinary artist Praba Pilar, and visual artist Monica Martinez back in 2014, Mujer Artista came together to create space for the experiences of Winnipeg-based Latin women artists working in visual art, film, and dance/performance. Now including Carolina Araneda, Francesca Carella Arfinengo, Alexandra Garrido, Mariana Muñoz, Camila Schujman and Ilse Torres, the collective acknowledges that while they operate under the umbrella of shared identity, their diversity is represented in a range of ages, artistic disciplines, family histories, and countries of origin.



    Alexandra Garrido, Untitled, performance

    Their exhibition Speaking In Tongues, now on view at aceartinc., takes as its starting point that this group also includes difference in language. They consider the role played by Indigenous languages as well as the Spanish and English spoken by collective members to varying degrees. The loose connections that exist between these artists are evident in the somewhat unfocused relationships between the artworks included in the show, but the collective does point out that this is a process-based exhibition. Performance and installation work dominate and the overall feel is one of a group playing, coming together, and finding its footing.

    Martinez creates a collage of photographs and official documents on the gallery wall using raw clay as the means to hold it all together. Carella Arfinengo interweaves sheep’s wool from Quebec and Peru with cotton that has been dyed using Manitoba Oak bark and mud in her piece Placeholder. Both of these works highlight the importance of an identity’s connection to not only language but land as well. At a moment when immigration, border policy, and women’s rights are at the forefront of public discourse, this exhibition is an exciting first offering from what will hopefully continue to be an important collective of voices in our city.

    There will be performances and artist talks at the gallery this Saturday, January 28 at 2:30pm.


    aceartinc.: http://www.aceart.org/
    Mujer Artista: Speaking In Tongues continues until February 3.


    Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.


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  • 01/25/17--05:09: Sky Glabush at MKG127
  • The new Flaming Lips record came out last week and predictably it failed to measure up against their previous work. Someone once said, “You’re only as good as your last song,” but there’s also an inclination to judge an artist against their past classics. Most people aren’t lucky enough to have any classics in their history, but for those who do, they have an uphill battle to be appreciated for what comes after. It’s a problem for those who peak early – or, for the Lips, in mid-career – and then keep working. Sometimes the best thing a band can do is break up. But what about a visual artist? All that’s left is to keep struggling and not repeat the past. Repetition is just as bad (maybe even worse?) than throwing in the towel. Those who persevere deserve at least a modicum of respect. Ever striving, ever searching, and ever failing (à la Samuel Beckett). This is when art shifts most drastically from being a product to being a process and the audience alters its critical apparatus because we need to re-evaluate our position on the artist, their art, and the work under scrutiny.



    Sky Glabush, The true brother, 2016, oil and sand on canvas

    Sky Glabush is not one for repetition. He doesn’t play his hits. He is always striving. I reviewed an exhibition of his paintings a dozen years ago and I imagine he could have stuck with those same scenes to this day and made his gallerist happy. However, each of his subsequent exhibitions has had less of the familiar and more of an exploratory mode. His restlessness emerged in abstractions, unexpected portraits, and a catholic taste for mediums. I still think of him as that house painter from 2004, but he hasn’t been the same since. Consistency is a blessing for critics because it allows us to pigeonhole artists. Unpredictability is harder to love, but it has its rewards as it turns one attention to influence and projection rather than direct attention.



    Sky Glabush, Nature is never spent, 2016, acrylic and ink on cotton and wool

    Glabush’s current exhibition at MKG127 makes demands on the viewer. The links between concrete sculptures, muted paintings in sand and oil, and textile panels is not obvious. He is heading in three directions at once, but the shared earthy colour scheme provides some sort of gathering principle. There’s also the possibility that unity is not part of the program, that he is roaming the frontiers of his practice and coming back with discoveries as new to him as they are to us. The unfinished, rough hewn quality of the plinth/pedestals contrast with the orderly lines and shapes of the woven works. The former are intentionally brutal, primitive, immature (one is titled Early childhood development). The latter reveal subtle variations and aberrations on inspection, which is to be expected since he is new to the loom. Even the paintings come off as exercises in working within limitations of size, pigment, form, themes, and expression.

    To succeed is to be finished is to be dead, and that’s not necessarily the desired outcome of all art. To fail well is to grow is to live, and evidence of that is heartening. When artists push past their pasts, when they broadcast from unfamiliar territory, when they don’t fulfill our expectations: this is when we have to consider them less like masters and more like students whose lifelong learning is a lesson to us all.


    MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/
    Sky Glabush: A New Garden continues until February 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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    Knowledge in the current patriarchal construct of science is questioned in How Do You Know, a group exhibition curated by Becky Welter Nolan for the artist-cooperative space Hermes Gallery. Three emerging artists – Annie MacMillan, Sam Kinsley, and Angela Glanzmann– present observations of their imprint on the world. They all draw on scientific formula, but add intuitive and emotional elements to the methods they use to know the world.



    Annie Macmillan

    Annie Macmillan animates a stream of consciousness that maps the streets of Paris. The video meanders alleyways that she walked during her residency at Cite Internationale des Arts. Each city block unfolds as a compartment for a stray thought as she comes to know her surroundings.

    Sam Kinsley examines the quantitative features of herself as portrait. She measures a pound of clay for each pound of her weight, which are then pressed into bowls formed against her body. After taking on various imprints, the white clay concaves pile up on one another, supported by their multitude and form. They are made in porcelain and, as such, are strong enough to be pressed thin to the point of extreme fragility.

    The top of Angela Glanzmann’s head hooded in a mosquito net peeks into the frame of a projected video. The artist stands stock still, both vulnerable and shielded in her gear. The piece presents the sublime landscape agitated by a relentless swarm of bugs.


    Hermes Gallery: http://www.hermeshfx.com/
    How Do you Know continues until February 5.


    Anna Taylor is an artist, crafter, and organizer sitting on the board of the Halifax Crafters Society. She is Akimblog’s Halifax correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @TaylorMadeGoods.


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    Street photography provides two rewards that are at odds with each other. On the one hand, there is a voyeuristic thrill in spying on the lives of others. When otherwise we'd avert our eyes, instead we peer intently at the strange figures and faces that pass quickly from our sight. We examine clothes and gestures to measure ourselves against those around us or those who live far away in time and/or space. We learn what we can from them or simply recognize them as fellow humans and, in this way, learn something about ourselves.

    At the same time and on the other hand, we see the street as a form of theatre and project a narrative on what we see through the frame of the camera’s lens and the selection, developing, and cropping that happens in the darkroom. A skilled photographer turns the everyday into drama and isolates the moment that looks cinematic.

    One reading relies on veracity, the other artifice.



    Viktor Kolář, Montreal (Place Bonaventure), 1972, Gelatin silver print

    I just finished reading local writer (and occasional art critic) Kyo Maclear's new book Birds Art Life before I visited Stephen Bulger Gallery to catch Viktor Kolář’s exhibition of photos from the late sixties and early seventies when he lived in Canada. Maclear's memoir is about finding an anchor to battle her artistic dissipation by birding with a fellow lost soul (musician, photographer, writer, etc. Jack Breakfast). It reminded me of my own meandering through the urban forest and the pleasure I derive from identifying familiar features in the cityscape like an amateur naturalist. Maclear and Breakfast resist the urge to turn birds into metaphors and instead find a greater truth in recognizing them as they are (among other things). The same lesson comes through in Kolář’s photographs: we see the world as it is, not as we imagine or want.



    Viktor Kolář, Montreal, 1972, Gelatin silver print

    Seen through another filter, these same pictures acquire a patina of make-believe. The skill in Kolář’s snap is to isolate the moment of maximum suggestion, thereby telegraphing the drama within the shot into a range of possible narratives. The time and place of these works puts them within a particular historical and cultural context: that moment in the early seventies when hippies were shifting into a standard uniform but the square styles of the fifties still lingered and cross pollination between the two resulted in the uniquely unsettled fashion of the decade. The dominant architecture of the age was a commercial brutalism that turned every street into a location shot for a dystopian movie sets minutes into the future. JG Ballard mined this landscape for his speculative psychodramas where consciousness abutted concrete. I recently watched Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of Ballard’s High Rise and the costumes and set design could have come right out of a Kolář photograph. Urban dread was still shocking and a perverse affection for apartments and underpasses made for a natural response. This truth is equally resonant and the exhibition fluctuates between the two possibilities to scintillating effect.


    Stephen Bulger Gallery: http://www.bulgergallery.com/
    Viktor Kolář: Canada, 1968-1973 continues until February 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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  • 02/08/17--15:07: Wally Dion at Urban Shaman
  • When he was a younger artist, Wally Dion was once asked by an Elder, “Who gave you permission to use the colours you are using?” As a member of the Yellow Quill First Nation who was raised apart from the traditional teachings of his Saulteaux community, Dion has kept this question in mind throughout his evolving practice. He first established himself as a painter before turning to discarded computer circuit boards as a medium through which to explore environmental concerns, cultural identity, and technological impulses. Two of his iconic circuit board collages are included in his solo exhibition at Urban Shaman, but the central focus of Colour Wheel is an intriguing mash up of kinetic sculpture, automatic painting, and performance art.



    Wally Dion, Custom Made-More Than Visible

    Three glass jugs of blue, pink, and yellow pigment are suspended from the ceiling and rigged up to a pumping system activated by a spinning bike tire installed on the gallery floor. While the Duchampian tire can also be turned by hand, the artist used a piece of heavy-duty wire as a jump rope during his artist talk, snagging and rotating the pegs attached to the tire as he skipped like a jingle dancer. Paint moved drop by drop through clear rubber tubing until it accumulated in a small container that he then poured onto a wooden structure recalling the Roman Colosseum or a Powwow Dance Arbor. In the centre of the circular construction was a mechanized drum tapping out a steady beat as the paint dripped separately in some areas and blended together in others to create tones of orange, purple, and green.

    This publicly personal ceremony of colour procurement is visually dizzying in its razzle-dazzle, but there is a deeper inquiry set in motion by Dion’s Rube Goldberg machine – one highlighting the complex dynamics of authority and authorship within the structures of contemporary art and cultural protocol.


    Urban Shaman Contemporary Aboriginal Art: http://urbanshaman.org/
    Wally Dion: Colour Wheel continues until March 11.


    Jenny Western is a curator, writer, and educator who lives in Winnipeg. She can be followed on Twitter @WesternJenny.


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