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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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    For many who find themselves awash in this year’s Canada 150 promotions, Canada's 1967 Centennial looms large. This is no more evident than in Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn's Space Fiction & the Archive, which is currently on display at the MacKenzie Art Gallery. It is one of a number of current exhibitions that seek to connect the present moment to the giddy optimism of fifty years ago. In personal scrapbooks and the records of Library and Archives Canada, Hoàng Nguyễn discovered a perfect metaphor in the form of a small Northern Alberta town's award-winning Centennial project to build a UFO landing pad – “a symbolic gesture of welcoming whoever from wherever."



    Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn, Greetings from St. Paul, 2012, diptych inkjet prints on archival paper

    Literally dwarfed by the remnants of history installed in the gallery, one can examine each fibre in the newsprint in Hoàng Nguyễn's glossy photos of yellowed news clippings, collector coins, and other ephemera. A large aerial photograph of St. Paul, Alberta is laid out on the floor like a welcome mat. The UFO landing pad could be any carport in this tidy grid. An outsized photographic slide leans against a wall. A makeshift sign illuminates the passage leading to a looped projection. The artist has spliced together Technicolour propaganda films and dour news footage to chart a path that links the town's alien landing pad project with Canada's new immigration policy.

    The wacky optimism and radical inclusivity that were the ensign of the age are tarnished when viewed at a distance of half a century. The video includes an interview with a woman who recounts her involvement in a play put on by students at the local residential school to celebrate the opening of the UFO landing pad. Many ethnicities were portrayed in the play, she notes, but depictions of Indigenous people were omitted, which is surprising as St. Paul was founded as a French/Métis farming community.


    MacKenzie Art Gallery: http://www.mackenzieartgallery.ca/
    Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn: Space Fiction & the Archives continues until September 10.


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


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    Some artists spend their careers doing one thing over and over again. Others have solo exhibitions that look like group shows. Neither method is necessarily better than the other, but the difference in their approaches indicates something about the priorities at play in their creative processes. The current two-person exhibition at Angell Gallery is a study in contrasts with one artist using a different medium for each piece to capture a wide variety of responses to a particular idea, while the other dedicates himself to a singular technique, returning again and again with slight variations to its specific challenges and evocations.



    Erika DeFreitas, (if you look closely she moves), 2016, assemblages of thread spools, candle sticks, glass, wood, brass, stones, beeswax, vintage Mary sculptures

    If a link can be made among the collected works of Erika DeFreitas spread through the gallery, it could be the way that the past resonates through things. Whether she folds and pins fabric patterns that date from a time before her birth or assembles tabletop Madonna sculptures on candlesticks wound up in spools of twine, her choice of objects is inextricably linked to their previous lives. From the grand narratives of history to our personal lineages, we all must come to term with previous lives. For a colonial nation like Canada, it’s the repressed trauma of its origins. For the rest of us, it’s the death, disappearance, or absence of our parents. Birth, death, loss, and memory are inescapable themes when an artist makes use of found objects. DeFreitas gets to the heart of this confrontation with mortality through her collection of beeswax-dipped obituaries. Stacked in neat piles on a plinth, these small rectangles aren’t anyone famous and aren’t that historic. They come from a recent, everyday newspaper (the Toronto Star) and are perhaps the sole public record of nobodies (like you and I), but are saved from the recycling bin by an artist who understands the tragedy of forgetting and is doing what she can, in whichever way she must, to hold onto what so quickly disappears.



    Daniel Hutchinson, Delta Flowers (united steel), 2016, oil on canvas

    Daniel Hutchinson responds to a more precise experience of loss in his paintings, but they resonate at a sympathetic frequency to DeFreitas’ disparate projects. They originate with his eviction from his studio in Hamilton and record the surfaces of that space’s aged wooden floors and antique patterned-metal ceiling. The rough lines and geometric shapes might put one in the mind of abstraction, but his use of frottage to imprint those surfaces on his canvases means that they are actually one-to-one representations of the real world. Mirroring this labourious process of imprinting is the equally intense way in which memory is imprinted on things. Anyone returning to a childhood home or an old school will experience the flashbacks elicited by seemingly mundane things like a bannister, bedroom wallpaper, or the weathered tiles in a classroom. Hutchinson renders his personal connection with this place though an array of colours that is even more striking if you are familiar with the predominantly black paintings he’s exhibited in recent years. This tips the scale of his work toward the formal considerations of the medium and away from the conceptual concerns of nostalgia, which might explain why he sticks with painting while DeFreitas roams farther afield.


    Angell Gallery: http://www.angellgallery.com/
    Erika DeFreitas: Impossible Gardens continues until July 8.
    Daniel Hutchinson: Delta Flowers continues until July 8.


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


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    One of the nineteen artists included in the Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal’s In Search of Expo 67 measures the distance between that year and the present in breaths. David K. Ross’s video As Sovereign As Love is “an exhale” following the “gasp of awe inhaled fifty years ago by so many visitors” to Montreal. In it a camera-mounted drone traces the former route of a mini-rail built to tour visitors around Parc Jean Drapeau. Set to excerpts from the Antoine de Saint-Exupery text that inspired Expo’s Man and his World subtitle, the video moves us over public sculptures, through mise en abyme waterfalls beside the Quebec and French pavilions, and along the Pont de la Concorde toward (and straight into) the iconic Buckminster Fuller Dome – in reverse! This last view captures the video’s “backwards looking imperative” and sets a nostalgic tone for the rest of this timely group exhibition. In the same room, Cheryl Sim’s three-channel video installation Un Jour, One Day shows the artist in a modified Expo 67 hostess outfit singing a version of the event’s theme song. Nostalgia for Montreal’s swinging sixties is toned down by more personal, second-hand memories as she leafs ponderously through a scrapbook of her parents’ honeymoon at Expo.



    Cheryl Sims, Un Jour, One Day, 2017, three-channel video

    The artists in this exhibition position themselves between official and personal memory, between the utopianism of Expo 67 and a critical recollection of it now. The enormity of the event and its impact is signaled in a scene spread across all three of Sim’s screens showing the artist dwarfed by Alexander Calder’s public sculpture Trois disques (L’Homme). The role and labour of women in Expo, as several of the artists in the exhibition suggest, is overlooked all too often in celebratory narratives of its vaunted modernism.

    The Indigenous artists in the exhibition search Expo’s pavilions for ideological and personal significance. Inuk artist Geronimo Inutiq’s multimedia installation runs together archival images of the Canadian pavilion’s interior design elements in a room that feels like a space-aged fun house. The work recasts an armchair ethnographer’s journey through Canada’s Indigenous heritage as psychedelic space travel or a video game binge. Krista Belle Stewart of the Okanagan Nation takes a mediated look at a rare image of the "Indians of Canada” pavilion. The vinyl windowpane installation repeats an image of the artist’s mother Serpahine recovered from an NFB documentary about the pavilion. Freezing Seraphine and the pavilion in a pink and black backlit Warholian grid, the piece is both personally charged and arresting for viewers.

    In 1967 Canada was working out its settler-colonial relationship with First People, often badly, and welcoming waves of immigrants from post-colonies around the world. Pierre Trudeau articulated the country’s official policy of multiculturalism and in 1969 Jean Chretien issued a widely criticized “White Paper” proposing a massive scaling back of Indigenous rights to encourage “full participation of Indians in Canadian society.”

    Jacqueline Hoàng Nguyễn’s archival film-montage 1967: A People Kind of Place examines the awkward pairing of these visions of Canadian “hospitality.” The work takes a satirical look at the grand opening in 1967 of the world’s first UFO landing pad in St. Paul, Alberta. We see a TV comedy clip in which an immigration officer explains to an off-screen alien that the country has no quota for “green people.” Text superimposed on a picture of the Buckminster Fuller Dome reads “science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive.” And an excerpt from a political speech on the need to distinguish between multiculturalism as mere state policy and as a more “radical vision” of cultural difference and contact shifts the tone of the work from sci-fi satire to manifesto. One is reminded of the inhospitable views of Parc Jean Drapeau in Ross’s video. In a parallel universe, his drone might well have landed in St. Paul.



    Althea Thauberger, The Tree is in its Leaves, 2017, two-channel video

    While Ross opens the exhibition with an “exhale” fifty years after the awestruck gasps of Expo 67, Althea Thauberger closes it with more deep breaths. Her two-channel video installation The Tree is in its Leaves begins with the sound of little breaths, attributable to archivists in quiet study and poets about to issue forth first words. For this project, Thauberger and a group of young poets interpret the life and work of the NFB Still Photography Division’s executive producer Lorraine Monk through an archival study of Monk’s social documentary project for Expo’s Canadian pavilion called The People Tree. In period-specific office-wear Thauberger-as-Monk holds photographs of women and people of colour over her head, with closed eyes as if to feel instead of just look at them. They are shown at work and play, in lab coats hunched over beakers and microscopes, or at podiums giving speeches to enraptured audiences. Deepening her historical sympathy and critique across the fifty-year gap Thauberger interacts with the images, reaching into and mimicking them. A hand slowly moves across the frame of a photo to tap a schoolgirl on the shoulder, releasing her from the tedium of an unimportant lesson. Other lessons are more pressing. We see the same pale hand come to rest on a picture of a rather glorious Afro. In loaded moments like this Thauberger’s project returns us to the key distinction in Hoang Nguyen’s work between a mere state policy of multiculturalism and a more radical vision of encounters with difference. Poet Kama La Makerel bids us to adopt this vision with a few hotly whispered lines. The work tells stories “of pain, of heartbreak, of transporting (oneself)… of grabbing at ankles with long fingers and refusing to let go… of colonization and bleeding eyes.” As the credits role, we are returned once again to deep breaths.


    Musée d’art contemporain de Montréal: http://macm.org/en/
    In Search of Expo 67 continues until October 9.


    Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.


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    Word on the street is that Canada on Screen Installations is the last exhibition to be held in the TIFF Bell Lightbox gallery space. That’s a shame because the mutual inspiration between cinema and contemporary art has been a vibrant one. Though, to be honest, the influence of the latter on the former has been limited to stylistic riffs (from Dali’s set design in Hitchcock’s Spellbound to Hirst-inspired props in Tarsem Singh’s The Cell) and forgettable directorial efforts (Cindy Sherman’s Office Killer, for example). A more engaging body of work has emerged over the decades from artists taking film into their own hands. One obvious, local, and essential example is Michael Snow’s film work. His Two Sides to Every Story makes up one part of a loose trio of installations (supplemented by screenings of Rodney Graham’s 1984 piece Two Generators and Roman Kroiter, Colin Low and Hugh O'Connor’s In the Labyrinth from 1967). Snow’s two-projector mirror-image film is from 1974, which puts it after his better known Wavelengths and La Région Centrale, but it makes a similar systematic interrogation into what film as a medium can do while dismantling the illusions it relies on. The focus is on perception, and its images and variations are explored in a non-narrative manner, though there is evidence of a story here. Snow plays the director giving instructions from his chair, two male technicians operate the cameras, and a pretty young girl dressed in white performs the tasks designed to obstruct and reveal the intersection of the two cameras set in opposition to each other. Beneath its conceptual surface, the underlying politics of filmmaking are also exposed.



    Stan Douglas, Overture, 1986, black and white film

    Moving ahead chronologically, Stan Douglas’s film loop Overture from 1986 directs our attention to both the mechanics of the medium by linking railroad technology to the development of the motion picture camera/projector and the manner in which film has shaped our sense of the past. He combines passages from Proust that refer to night time, sleep, dreams, disorientation, and loss of identity with subtly manipulated archival footage of trains passing in and out of tunnels along the mountain passes of the Rockies. The aged and degraded film circles around and shifts from dark to light. Both train and film strip chug along on their tracks; the steam engine’s light piercing the darkness like the movie projector’s beam. They reveal a moment of transition from the old way of being in the world to an era of mass migration and mass communication. Douglas manages to condense the whole of the burgeoning 20th Century into a seven-minute sequence that captures the North American frontier spirit in both its vertiginous glory and nightmarish effects.



    Vera Frankel, The Blue Train, 2012, multi-channel video installation

    The most recent installation is the first one you see when you pass through the Lightbox lobby. Vera Frenkel's The Blue Train maintains the railroad theme, but updates the medium to video and multiplies it by 34 channels. She’s in the middle of the century and back in Europe, revisiting the vagueness of memory, the way our stories are assembled out of fragments, the way history is constructed. Looking back on the past she folds technology (more trains and now typewriters) into metaphors and piles up names and narratives to emphasize the uncertainty of evidence. Faint memories, discarded letters, forgotten photographs, and found footage only help to approximate what has happened to us. Film is one among many elements in this dense work, but our familiarity with it makes it central to our visual understanding. Contemporary artists can’t help but continue to work under its influence and test its limits, so let’s hope that other curators (like Laurel Saint-Pierre here) continue to exhibit their responses.


    TIFF Bell Lightbox: http://www.tiff.net/events/canada-on-screen-installations/
    Canada On Screen Installations continue until August 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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    With summer in full bloom (at least in spirit), you might want to swing down to Harbourfront Centre to check out their exhibitions for the season. Do anything but drive to get there (trust me) and take the opportunity to enjoy at least three experiences that are popular at this time of year: travel, nature, and surfing the net (is that still what it’s called or am I dating myself?). Regarding the latter, the biggest exhibition space is given over to the IRL extension of the NFB’s Legacies 150 project – thirteen stories told online through photographic (and a couple drawn) essays. These reflections on Canadian identity include some names familiar to the visual art world (Walter Kaheró:ton Scott, April Hickox, and Larry Towell, for example) as well as contributing collaborators from the film, documentary, and literary communities. The baker’s dozen of tales are all made for online interaction, so seeing them on iPads in the gallery doesn’t do much other than promote their presence. The lives detailed are far-flung in all possible directions, but that’s true to the nature of this land on which we all cohabit. Binge-watching the whole set is inevitable, so settle in at home and take a trip.



    Winnie Truong, Abalone Porthole, 2017, video animation

    Travel is referenced explicitly and explored thoroughly in the wall gallery series Postcard curated by Patrick Macaulay. The once-ubiquitous text-plus-image combination is, I imagine, in danger of being relegated to the dustbin in an era when we can tweet “wish u were here!” from every corner of the planet to our friends, if not the entire planet. However, these artists treat the exhibition title as a metaphor for places, nearby and far, and use means as diverse as animation, found objects, short videos, and plein air paintings. Winnie Truong’s undersea adventure spied through the hole in an abalone shell makes a natural link between her living hair illustrations and the swaying locks of sea plants blown back and forth by the waves. Andrew Blake McGill assembles a collection artefacts tied to the farming community in Ontario where he grew up and recently returned (including his family’s prize winning winter wheat). And Janet Bellotto travels from Sable Island in Canada to Sir BaniYas in the United Arab Emirates, as well as parts in between, to hint at the disorienting effects of international movement.



    Dianne Davis, Niagara Palimpsest

    For those of us stuck in one place with no one to send postcards to, a backyard or local park provides entry to the world beneath our feet and the wonders that are there to discover if we only stopped to look and learn. Dianne Davis’ photo-series of two-page spreads from a found album of pressed flowers dating back to 1891 confirmed two things: 1) the photographing of books presented in grids of sequential pages is something I have a sweet spot for, and 2) I should know more about plants. The 178 species from the Niagara region that survived a century squished between these pages touch on mortality, epistemology, the environment, and the poetic. It’s too bad they’re relegated to a hallway that most people breeze through. Stop to see the roses! And be sure to visit the craft working area to see displays of Elycia SFA’s silk stationary. They replicate another dying form of communication and should not be forgotten.


    Harbourfront Centre Visual Arts: http://www.harbourfrontcentre.com/visualarts/current/
    Visual Arts Exhibitions Summer 2017 continue until September 17.


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


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    I woke up around five yesterday morning to the sound of my dog barking downstairs. We don’t have air conditioning, so the windows stay open during the night and I always worry that someone will try to break in. I was thinking that it finally happened as I made my way through the house. (I wasn’t thinking what I could do about it, armed as I was with a cellphone flashlight and nothing else.) The dog was at the back door, so I let her out, thinking she needed to go to the bathroom, but instead she chased something in the shadows of the garden and leapt up at the neighbour’s fence. There was a furry creature on top of the rickety trellis and it took me a couple seconds to see it was a raccoon. I didn’t want to deal with vet bills for a ravaged canine, so I grabbed the dog and dragged her back inside and went to bed. She continued to bark intermittently for the next hour or so, but everything was chill when I finally got up at seven.



    Mary Anne Barkhouse, Le rêve aux loups (installation detail), 2017 (photo: Rafael Goldchain/Koffler Gallery)

    Even though they sometimes shit outside my kitchen window and knock over the neighbour’s green bin (mine is secured with high tension bungee cords), I don’t have a hate-on for the city’s least loved mammals like some of my fellow citizens. I actually felt embarrassed about the dog’s behaviour, because they have as much right to the city as we do. Maybe even more so. They were here first, but now we’re stuck with each other, so what’s to do done?

    The ethics of relating to fellow animals was already on my mind, having visited Mary Anne Barkhouse’s solo exhibition at the Koffler Gallery this past weekend. She makes an explicit connection between her Indigenous background, native North American animals like wolves, owls, coyotes, and hares (not, at least in this exhibition, racoons, by the way), and colonialism. However, her animals are more than metaphors for human relations. From a First Nations perspective, non-human animals aren’t resources to be consumed and/or slaughtered by human animals; they are equal participants in both nature and the metaphysical realm, and, as such, are afforded a much greater moral authority than they have in European conceptions of the great chain of being.



    Mary Anne Barkhouse, Le rêve aux loups (installation detail), 2017 (photo: Rafael Goldchain/Koffler Gallery)

    Barkhouse establishes this equivalence by having her life-size sculptures focus on each other. Human visitors observe as the animals that occupy the gallery remain intent or contemplative. In once case, an owl looks down upon a strange gathering of miniature people with the same distance. Any judgements, however, are fraught with assumptions and inversions. One ornately framed image of two wolves reads, “Though I am hated by all beasts, I nevertheless rather enjoy that.” A parallel dichotomy is constructed through silhouette sculptures of black wolves and pink poodles. The two sides – one representing nature, the wild, North America, and Indigenous traditions; the other standing for culture, domestication, Europe, and colonialism – face off in the gallery and on a rooftop of a neighbouring store. The opposition isn’t simple though and there is a mutual curiosity that coincides with their difference. It’s there in the packs of dogs wrestling with each other at the nearby dog park and the nocturnal visitors who inspire such intense emotions in my homebound hound.


    Koffler Gallery: http://kofflerarts.org/
    Mary Anne Barkhouse: Le rêve aux loups continues until August 20.


    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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    Elad Lassry is known for studio photography in the vein of stock advertising images, but he also uses similarly generic found photos, which disrupts the origins of all his pictures. Staged portraits of animals, people, or food in the vernacular of commercial advertising are the foundation of his repertoire. These images are presented as modestly-scaled, framed photographs that are often accompanied by a sculptural relief element such as a knot of chubby silk rope or a pleated cummerbund-like wrap that obscures part of the work. Sometimes that material consideration is further articulated in the gloss and colour of the frame. This endows his pictures with the quality of minimalist objects.



    Elad Lassry, Untitled (Silver Bar, Pelican), 2013, foil on silver gelatin print, aluminum frame

    But just because Lassry’s work is small by comparison to the local tradition of picture making, doesn’t mean that a survey exhibition of the last decade of his art (and his first major exhibition in Canada) should go in a medium-sized room at the Vancouver Art Gallery. Simply put, this room is DAMN full. As far as summer shows go, his was cause for excitement, but the density of presentation verges on that of a Saturday afternoon yard sale where people are looking but not buying. We need to encounter this colourful, shiny, and, at times, humorously appendaged work as a more pointed presentation, rather than an overenthusiastic onslaught. This hanging undermines the possibility of the remarkable, discomfiting encounter that his work can inspire in a viewer by performing the same program as consumer images: corralling a highly proliferated, deeply normalized picture into a shiny frame reminiscent of cheap cars and artificial flavors.



    Elad Lassry, Fringe, 2011, chromogenic print, painted frame

    The greatest shame about this exhibition is the treatment of three 16mm films – two at least ten minutes in length. All are bereft of a darkened space or a place to sit, which leads to the conclusion that they are not meant to be looked at. I’ve been told that they are always shown this way, but that raises a formal question of whether the duration of these films has any meaning at all? Or do they just begin and end in the time it takes for the viewer’s attention span to wane? Nothing wounds a critic more than the requisite excitement of attending, with the intention of writing about, the exhibition of an artist she holds in high regard but is rarely given an opportunity to see in person, only to encounter the tangible and disappointing consequences of an institution under pressure to deliver as much content as possible to a summer crowd who would not be pleased to find merely a handful of carefully selected, challenging, and conceptually robust artworks.


    Vancouver Art Gallery: http://www.vanartgallery.bc.ca/
    Elad Lassry continues until October 1.


    Steffanie Ling's essays, criticism, and art writing have been published alongside exhibitions, in print, and online in Canada, the United States, and Europe. She is an editor of Charcuterie and co-curator at VIVO Media Arts Centre. Her books are Nascar (Blank Cheque, 2016) and Cuts of Thin Meat (Spare Room, 2015). She is Akimblog’s Vancouver correspondent and can be followed on Twitter and Instagram @steffbao


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    Montreal’s SBC Gallery is awash with the light of Joi T. Arcand’s neon channel sign reading “Don’t be shy!” in Plains Cree syllabics. Pink beams shoot back a few feet behind it to a poster of an all-Crow Indian rock band from the sixties called The Maniacs, and forward with diminishing intensity to a drawing by the late-Inuk artist Annie Pootoogook titled Coleman Stove with Robin Hood Flour and Tenderflake.

    Beyond the din of numerous national and municipal celebrations, artist Duane Linklater and his partners Tanya Lukin Linklater, cheyanne turions, and Walter Scott have initiated Wood Land School, a yearlong project in three parts (or “gestures”) to “centre Indigenous agency” and nurture “Indigenous-to-Indigenous relationships” across the Canada/US border. Pootoogook’s charming drawing of the equipment required to make the traditional flat-bread bannock (or palauga for Inuit) will remain in the gallery until December as a conceptual anchor and in honour of a woman who, for Montreal-based art historian Heather Igloliorte, “broke the ethnic art ceiling” for Inuit artists. One hears faint echoes in Pootoogook’s work of the psychiatrist Frantz Fanon’s appeals to Algerians to fight for bread and land. But Wood Land School’s struggle is quieter, and its gestures are less militant. As a key to the exhibition, the sharp and neutral style of the drawing and its themes of disappearance, resilience, and mobility are most resonant. In the first two parts of this project, participants focused on sharing the means or “ingredients” of Indigenous self-determination and withheld fixed images of Indigenous identity.



    Wood Land School at SBC Gallery, installation view

    Strategies of conceptual and post-conceptual art are adapted to draw attention to the recovery of language, knowledge, and traditions that animate struggles for Indigenous rights. According to New York-based art historian David Joselit, the proposition, the readymade, and the document have proliferated in global contemporary art because, unlike other avant-garde forms that locate forces of artistic innovation in Euro-American centers, they are not perceived by their users as derivative. Rather, they enable “urgent and eloquent enunciations” by Indigenous artists and people of colour in their specific locations.

    The appearance of these forms in the exhibition bears out Joselit’s claim. In their video The Plains Indian Sign Language, Elisa Harkins and Nathan Young tell a story about a drowned camper in gestures used historically to mediate between the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes of Wyoming. The pictorial language in the video is familiar even before we read the subtitles. Accessible language-based works in the exhibit like this and Arcand’s neon sign reflect Wood Land School’s goal of observing “tenets of treaty” such as “reciprocity and relation across difference” without compromising a “starting position of Indigenous self-determination.” Indeed, the politics of language in the project are insistent. The home-page of the Wood Land School website displays a statement in Mohawk rendered by the Director of the Kanesatake Language and Cultural Center, and an audio work by the art and research group ReCollection Kahnawake included in the exhibition’s first part under the title Fine, but don’t shove it down our throats records Indigenous responses to the “language of instruction, public signage and advertising” articles in Quebec’s controversial Bill 101.

    The readymade and the document also serve to describe the local experience of artists and communicate Wood Land School’s political goals more broadly. Flags positioned across from one another in the gallery utilize the readymade form to open a dialogue about symbolic and economic forces of global capitalism upon Indigenous communities in the US and Canada. Gabrielle L’Hirondelle Hill’s Orinoco Note is made entirely of tobacco leaves (“precursors to the US bank note”) whose dimensions are mimicked by the flag. In another restorative gesture, Marianne Nicolson’s The Sun is Setting on the British Empire replaces sun and water lines that appeared in the original BC flag to “reflect the language of the earliest treaties.” The most striking document in the first two iterations of the exhibition is Wendy Red Star’s Tyvek rock-band poster titled The Maniacs (We’re Not The Best But We’re Better Than The Rest). The carefree makeshift studio atmosphere of the image conceals racial tensions the musicians endured on tour outside their Lodge Grass, Montana reservation – tensions that would result in the 1977 murder of bass guitarist Wendell Red Star Jr.



    Wood Land School at SBC Gallery, installation view

    For the exhibit’s first and second iterations Brian Jungen contributed a series of gesture drawings on gently folded loose sheets of sketchbook paper. Like Pootoogook’s work, Jungen’s drives home a key point of this initiative - that Indigeneity like any expression of personal or cultural identity is mobile, adaptive, and suggested through actions or gestures rather than fixed in stereotypical images. In Jungen’s ephemeral figures drawn from gay dating app profiles, we see contours of men donning sunglasses and mustaches, cowboy hats, and wrestling masks, painfully alone in their desire, insecurity and vanity, but composed by the artist into something resembling a community. Another of Joselit’s key terms for post-conceptual art suggests itself here: “aggregator” comes closer than “community” to describing the spirit of Jungen’s work and of Wood Land School’s collection of art, writing, conversations, and events at SBC Gallery and on their website. Like the readymade, the document, and the proposition, aggregators for Joselit have the special capacity to bring rooted elements into a dialogue across cultural and national boundaries.

    Post-colonial critic Edward Said argued in 1979 that the media environment’s saturation with images of Palestinian “victimhood” or “aggression” left no neutral position from which to make claims for Palestinian statehood. The cool and neutral look of the artworks in Drawing a Line from January to December respond to a similar bind for the Indigenous people of Turtle Island all these years later. Wood Land School provides a crucial opportunity for dispassionate and informed dialogue about current and recent approaches, artistic and otherwise, to Indigenous self-determination.


    SBC Gallery: http://www.sbcgallery.ca/wood-land-school-gestures-c19i2
    Wood Land School continues until the end of December.


    Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.


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    Curators are the patron saints of generosity in the art world. Sure, artists give a lot of themselves with the work they do, but there’s inevitably a self-serving aspect to their gifts. And yes, there are plenty of egos among the curatorial set, but the essence of their calling is to make others shine and their love of what those others do is the fuel for their fire. That enthusiastic deference is what I will remember about curator Ben Portis, who passed away this weekend. I first began to hear of him around the turn of the millennium when he was organizing the No Music festival in collaboration with the Nihilist Spasm Band. Our last conversation was about buying records. In the interim, we’d cross paths every year or so as he moved through various curatorial posts (the AGO, the MacLaren Art Centre) and I always enjoyed hearing about what he was working on because he was smart, he didn’t care about fashion (though fashion sometimes caught up with him as with his Christian Marclay exhibition at Oakville Galleries a decade before the mega-popular The Clock), and he was generous of time and spirit.



    Kelly Jazvac, Forward Contamination, 2017, video

    Given his musical inclinations, Ben probably would have liked Kelly Jazvac’s video Forward Contamination in her solo exhibition at Gallery TPW. In it, a conversation between the artist and planetary geologist Catherine Neish is recreated by two voice actors accompanied by an improvising drummer. The percussion punctuates the discussion about interplanetary contamination and, as the explanation of problems becomes more dramatic, the drums build to a cacophonic climax. It reminds me of something I’d watch in the 1970s on children’s television (the Electric Company? Sesame Street?), but my delight with the sound and visuals (microplastics being separated from a Lake Ontario water sample) was balanced against the depressing nature about what was being described. Artistic, informative and educational, it’s worth catching before the show closes on Saturday (when there’s also a public talk with Jazvac and the artist Christina Battle).



    Katie Lyle, The Mentor, 2017, pencil crayon on paper, memory foam, sewing pins

    A couple doors down at Daniel Faria Gallery, Katie Lyle is exhibiting work that might be referred to as paintings by someone who didn’t want to have a long conversation about materials and the limits of the canvas. However, to talk about them simply as paintings would miss the many ways in which Lyle interferes with the frame or the surface of her works. She covers them with screens or mounts them on foam. A paper cutout hangs from one, while a cord pierces another. All this must be navigated before you begin to discern the figures and their movements within the ostensible images. Whether this effort results in a unity of form and content remains to be seen, but she definitely gives you something to chew on.

    Next door at Clint Roenisch Gallery, a similarly diffuse group of artists has been gathered under the evocative title The Morning Shines with the Lights of Love. Opening with Tony Romano’s colour-coded light show/song and interspersed with Jérôme Havre’s colourful paintings on found paper (perhaps pages from an art history text?), the show’s optimism isn’t limited to its name. It also closes this weekend, so squeeze it in and enjoy an early Sarah Cale painting, a nifty Raymond Pettibon print, and a bizarre mixed media monstrosity by Connor Crawford, among other gifts to the senses.


    Gallery TPW: http://gallerytpw.ca/
    Kelly Jazvac: Proof of Performances continues until July 29.

    Daniel Faria Gallery: http://danielfariagallery.com/
    Katie Lyle: The weather is in the room continues until July 29.

    Clint Roenisch Gallery: http://clintroenisch.com/
    The Morning Shines with the Lights of Love continues until July 29.


    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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    Camille Paglia was on the radio and, amidst a flurry of other things, said that people were searching for a new religion. An hour later I was looking up at illuminated clouds hung high on the walls of Division Gallery. Scott McFarland's light boxes glow like stained glass windows (though they also could be advertisements – yet another opiate of the people). They hint at the kind of art you see in a church or cathedral rather than the earthbound installations more commonly witnessed in a secular white cube. The ineffable meteorological formations they depict, those fluffy white masses that entrance young and old alike, are just one phase of a miraculous transubstantiation (the holy trinity: evaporation, condensation, precipitation) that sustains all life on the planet. Beams of sunlight radiating from behind them add the requisite deistic touch to remind the viewer of the age-old perception that some random star that happens to heat our planet is also a transcendental signifier for an all-mighty God, perfection, or the highest truth.



    Scott McFarland, Untitled #10, #11, and #12 (Sky Leaks), 2016, transmounted chromogenic print displayed in LED lightbox

    But there's something wrong with these photographs. The edges bleed on a couple and there is some printer grot on another. The sun causes lens flaring that renders these pictures less than perfect, while other have been misprinted with unnatural colours. They aren’t great photos, but they have great purpose. Or rather, they are purposeful failures to record the distance between what is idealized, aspired to, or desired and what you actually get. They are a celebration of how human we are and how are errors are what makes us human. They are icons for a belief system that celebrates the "good enough" metaphysics of atheists hungry for meaning but sceptical of belief. They ask you to look up and outward, but don’t promise anything in return except a glimpse of the sublime and some disappointment. For many of us, this is the most we can expect of the world: cloud cover, indirect light, and the best of the failures. After a lifetime of empty promises and false prophets, I accept this version of meaningful expression. This is my kind of church.



    Mark Jenkins, Goredilocks and Papa Bear, 2016, plastic tape, fake hair, fabric, teddy bear, concrete, chair

    If McFarland gives us a glimpse of heaven, then Mark Jenkins, over at the Arsenal half of the building, gives us a taste of hell with his collection of creepy mannequins posed to reference art history and horror movies. As with all scary things, the more lifelike they are, the more they disturb. And the more time you spend with them, the less scary they become. The best way to experience this show is to not know what you’re in for, so bring friends and see how they react. The work doesn’t go much farther than that, but is worth it because fear is an emotion that isn’t often elicited in art galleries.

    Also at Arsenal, David Spriggs' animated video of a transport truck seen through an x-ray is not scary so much as disturbing. The ever-evolving hues move like a lava lamp to reveal the human forms hidden behind the truck’s cargo. Just last week, eight people died in a similar truck in Texas. That is what makes this work horrible: those skeletons are living, breathing beings. If there’s anything that should be held sacred, it’s all those lives.


    Division Gallery: http://www.galeriedivision.com/toronto/exhibitions
    Scott McFarland: Sky Leaks continues until September 9.

    Arsenal Contemporary: http://www.arsenalmontreal.com/en/exhibitions/?t=now&w=toronto
    Mark Jenkins & David Spriggs continue until September 9.


    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 look up, up, neck craned, straining my eyes to see. Jason de Haan’s staggering mid-career retrospective at Esker Foundationtitled Oh for eyes! At night we dream of eyes!– bemoans true sight just as speculative fiction novelist Olaf Stapledon’s genius dog bemoaned his pawed clumsiness, crying: “Oh, for hands! At night I dream of hands!”



    Jason de Haan, Salt Shroud, 2017, 3D polyester printed digital scan, salt (photo: John Dean)

    A speculative fictionist in his own right, de Haan uses poetry as a tenderizer for time. Poetic texts – titles, didactic panels, captions – throughout the exhibition enable us to envision both the present and mythical as similarly material. A series of collages propose to install organ pipes on a “foreboding” cliffside, place a gargantuan foot sculpture on a beach, build a monument to a meteorite dwarfing the tallest buildings in the world, cast a gothic cathedral in concrete. One work captures a century in some acrylic ink and variegated gold foil, titled: Set of ten books, each containing notation of each second of each minute of each hour of each day of each week of each month of each year, for the next century, the countdown begins when you read this.

    Images of disfigured and decaying bodies repeat throughout, some made holy in their state of disrepair. A vintage Kodak Ektagraphic III projector flicks through slides of Shelly, a soft shell turtle. A now-archaic CD player plays tones of Hope, Love, Peace, Generosity, Purpose, Harmony through crystal-encrusted car speakers arranged in a circle. The instances of decay and growth occur simultaneously, as hotwired humidifiers blow mist through shells into the gallery space. We breathe the shells’ decay into our bodies, while the resulting humidity grows a salty beard on the Salt Shroud in the next room. Inside this ecosystem, I look for the 14-carat gold band placed on an upper branch of de Haan’s Green Gem Ficus tree – part of his Future Age series. I need to glimpse it quick, quick, like a ghost in a mirror, before it is engulfed in rings of tree.


    Esker Foundation: http://eskerfoundation.com/
    Jason de Haan: Oh for eyes! At night we dream of eyes! continues until August 27


    Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer living in Calgary. She recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly.


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    Tau Lewis crafts her discards into art that approximates living things. She cobbles together figures from twisted wire and scraps of fabric. One hangs in a Christ-like pose from rebar, salvaged wood, and stone. Another has fully articulated limbs and an inscrutable expression. A third is a miniature person – maybe a child, maybe a doll – dressed in stuffed patchwork and resting in a tiny rocking chair. None of them are lifelike in the sense that they might be mistaken for the real thing. Instead they are models of models, sculptures of representations of people or primates or children that reveal their construction (and their artifice) through exposed armature and raw seams. These depictions of depictions reflect our imagined understanding of how things are, but leave the picture incomplete – all the better to see what we’ve got wrong (or, at least, what we’re still working on).



    Tau Lewis, you lose shreds of your truth every time I remember you, 2017, plaster, cloth wire, chain, acrylic paint, stones, secret objects, fur, leather, chair, pants, shoes

    Lewis includes two monkeys in her exhibition at Cooper Cole. One in particular is barely there; its wire frame stripped of everything except a smattering of tufts of fur. This was never a real monkey and the artist isn’t trying to convince you so; instead, it resembles the final stages in the breakdown of a replica – be it a museum model, an automaton, or a plaything. Even the human figure who holds the animal’s chain is rough hewn in plaster, but he wears store-bought pants and shoes. The contrast between what is actual and what is art is only one of degrees and it pulls the viewer into the funhouse mirror of Lewis’ creations, inviting us to identify these figures, figure out their identity, and then piece together their stories.



    Curtis Santiago, Parktown, 2017, pastel, charcoal, watercolour and spray paint

    Curtis Santiago (also known at Talwst) is better known (at least to me) for his miniature dioramas set in jewellery boxes. A couple are featured in the AGO’s current omnibus contemporary exhibition Every. Now. Then. The precise realism of those little sculptures is nowhere to be found in the Expressionistic portraits on display here. He’s added an element of graffiti or street art by incorporating spray paint and explicitly raises the issue of race in European art history in two works titled Cocoa Picasso and Rembrandt was a Moor. There are also references to the influence of African colonialism on early Modernism, but the majority of these canvases and works on paper are focused on faces composed from oil paint and charcoal that has been scraped away to capture individual expressions. With a minimum of gestures, Santiago draws out the personality of people from the famous (Colin Kaepernick) to the familial (Uncle 2).

    The title of this two-artist exhibition, Through the people we are looking at ourselves, emphasizes the ways in which Lewis and Santiago make art as a means of self-recognition and self-understanding. That is nothing new and the use of art as a mirror goes back to the beginning of human creations. However, as Black Canadian artists, they inevitably have to deal with positioning themselves – to see themselves – within a predominantly European Canadian art establishment. The work on display here makes a welcome contribution to the corpus of reflections that are available to us and better represents the world we live in. Through their eyes and by means of their hands, we see each other as well as ourselves.


    Cooper Cole: https://coopercolegallery.com/
    Tau Lewis & Curtis Santiago: Through the people we are looking at ourselves continues until August 26


    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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    Though the exhibition title is an awkward distillation of an Anti-Slavery Speech from 1852 by Wendell Phillips – “what gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind"– curator Jess Richter's survey of local print makers for the Art Gallery of Regina, Gunpowder for the Mind, goes far beyond the printing press.



    April Dean, We Are Ill Equipped, 2013, inkjet print on film

    April Dean's photos of wet T-shirts are a bewitching collision of quotidian crudeness and ethereal romance. Printed on transparent plastic reminiscent of X-rays, each garment's construction is revealed in the density of its seams, while folds in the fabric become dark veins. Although the body is notably absent, the damp cloth suggests the sensual and the corporeal.

    Across the room, block letters shout their doubt about appropriating rap lyrics in letters incised from a pale yellow/brown image splotched with red, which I took to be Caucasian skin but is, in fact, a screen print of antique letterpress tympan paper. Like letterpress type, Robert Truszkowski's Am I a Rapper? can be set into different configurations and thus remixed like pop culture citations.

    Pop culture of another era is remixed by Caitlin Mullan. Her works can be thought of as visual poems. The syntax is composed by Mullan and the words are drawn from Claude Paradin's Devises heroïques, a 16th Century book cataloguing symbols used by nobility. Mullan let her subconscious guide her compositions – a hand with outstretched fingers, a spike projecting from the tip of each, sits atop a leaky barrel ringed with a garland of twined rope – and, likewise, avoids providing a "key" for viewers to decode the works, hoping that each viewer will formulate their own meaning.

    Cut-up, collage, and recombination are also recognized as the techniques of memory in Rowan Pantel's images of her parent's house. And lastly, while the print multiple literally springs to life in Eric Hill's camera-less film In Motion, identical impressions reveal the capricious activity of ink blobbing and smearing to animate the form of a man, a horseback rider, and a cat.


    Art Gallery of Regina: https://www.artgalleryofregina.ca/
    Gunpowder for the Mind continues until August 25.


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


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    SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut is a large collection of works that chronicles generations of artists from a vast Inuit region in northern subarctic Labrador. Independent curator and scholar Heather Igloliorte crafted this selection originally for The Rooms in St. John’s and has toured the exhibit here to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. SakKijâjuk means “to be visible” and with this exhibition Igloliorte has succeeded in presenting a clear representation of an artistic community along with a knowledge of Nunatsiavut’s significance as Canada’s only self governing Inuit region.



    Barry Pottle, Awareness 2, 2009-2010, digital photograph on paper

    In 2005 Nunatsiavut was officially formed under the ratification of the Labrador Inuit Land Claims Agreement. SakKijâjuk guides the visitor through four generations of Nunatsiavut artists: Elders, Trailblazers, Fire Keepers, and the Next Generation. Each new group of emerging artists is enriched by the previous generation’s experimentation. The narrative thread tying together this large number of works is one of transference of skills and materials colliding with expanding exploration of new media and concepts.

    Though the artists move along this timeline their works show their shared experience and place. A shifting political empowerment shines through the work made by those generations living through and after the ratification of their land claims. Though emboldened by self-governance the newer generations of artists continue to work around the inflated costs of making in a place where travel between communities and shipping of materials is made difficult by isolation. The materials are precious and the objects crafted from them are exquisite and full of story.

    The Atlantic Provinces are wide-ranging and disconnected by lack of infrastructure. This show is an incredible gift of labour undertaken by the curator, her collaborators and the artists. Its installation at the AGNS brings a much-appreciated connection to Nunatsiavut and Labrador – a region many Nova Scotians never even take the opportunity to visit.


    Art Gallery of Nova Scotia: http://www.artgalleryofnovascotia.ca/
    SakKijâjuk: Art and Craft from Nunatsiavut continues until September 10.


    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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    We like to think of dancing as revolutionary, liberating, and democratic. We paraphrase Emma Goldman and proclaim, “If I can’t dance, I don’t want to be part of your revolution!” Or we quote another radical and declare, “Free your mind… and your ass will follow.” Overall, we uphold moving to the music as a means of challenging the status quo, celebrating spontaneity, and experiencing freedom – if only for an evening. Which is all well and good, but there is a repressive, regimented, and disciplinary side to dance that instils uniformity, conformity, and obedience. The strength of Xpace’s current exhibition, Intersections in Dance, curated by Victoria Mohr-Blakeney, is that it highlights both ends of this spectrum within its modest purview.



    Danièle Dennis, tek ah jump, 2017, two-channel video

    Ella Cooper’s photographs of gravity-defying Black female bodies provide a straightforward account of how dance can be both physically and politically uplifting. Her subjects’ joy is apparent in their expressions and it represents an assertion of agency. This dance comes from within, whereas the celebratory rituals evoked in Danièle Dennis’ video tek ah jump are social and more complex. She is never completely seen in this two-channel work, but she relays her interactions with passers-by in the streets of Philadelphia as she attempts to initiate a one-woman carnival in tribute to her memories of Toronto’s wildly popular Caribana festival. There is a stark contrast between the polite but reticent denizens of this American city (they claim they can’t dance) and the artist’s enthusiastic invitations, her sparkling body paint, and the energetic music that signals the temporary inversion of power that generally defines the carnivalesque. There is also a tinge of melancholy here, highlighted by Dennis’ isolation and distance from the people around her. They apologize to each other as she sets up her camera and then she dances by herself. Her performance has more to do with solace and connecting with her identity, than with getting the party started. A similar assertion and claim on public space is made by jes sachse in their Instagram videos (Find@squirrelofmystery), which are credited as part of the exhibition but can be found online. In them they turn public space into a stage for sachse to occupy, express their frustrations as a disabled person, and experience a sense of freedom that isn’t often found in the everyday world.



    Daria Blum, I am ready, 2017, video

    The repressive power of that everyday world is mapped out on a dense grid in Allanah Vokes’ drawing Salute to Our Armed Services Ball: The Inauguration of Donald J. Trump, the 45th President of the United States of America. By tracing the paths of dancers’ noses and identifying each political figure by a different colour, she creates a chaotic jumble of lines that hints at the complexity of relationships that reinforce the ruling elite. Among other things, the dance she graphs is a performance of power – be it military or financial. Anyone with a passing familiarity with history will understand that control is imposed symbolically as well as physically. A microcosm of that discipline is enacted by Daria Blum in her video’s seemingly endless series of nausea-inducing pirouettes. Ballet, the highest of the high arts is also the most restrictive, and Blum plays up its sadism while also acknowledging the necessity of repetition, effort, and instruction. The beauty of dance should not be denied even when it is reached through the mantra “no pain, no gain.” Free expression can occur through order as often as ecstasy, which brings this exhibition full circle in one final pirouette.


    Xpace: http://www.xpace.info/
    Intersections in Dance continues until August 26.


    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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    Amanda Boulos’ debut exhibition at Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects is a wonderful opportunity to consider the myriad ways visual art – and painting in particular – elicits meaning. The artist supplies canvases and some of the accompanying context, which the viewer then navigates, assimilates, and interpolates with understandings of their own. This interaction is as old as cave painting, so each new artist’s challenge is to make it original and intriguing despite all the images the viewer has already seen. Boulos succeeds at making fresh connections with the tried and true application of pigment on a flat surface by drawing on her personal history as a Palestinian-Canadian but stopping just short of illustrating those almost lost narratives.



    Amanda Boulos, Pouring Boys 2, 2016, oil on canvas

    In first looking at these paintings, prior to any knowledge of the background of the artist, one can identify distant landscapes depicted from an aerial view as well as suggestions of surrealism in dreamlike scenarios that place fragments of architecture (window openings figure often) alongside seeming non sequiturs (eyeballs are a common touch). The brushwork is smeared and hazy, which only reinforces the purposefully imprecise visions that border on abstraction. Once it’s revealed that the artist is representing scenes from the Middle East, the muted palette of sandy browns and blended earth tones makes sense (or, at least, it clicks with my mediated knowledge of the Palestinian landscape gathered as it is from documentaries, news reports, and assorted films and artwork).



    Amanda Boulos, Mediterranean Sea, 2017, oil on canvas

    The paintings acquire an even greater sense of gravity when one learns that each one is inspired by a story from someone in the artist’s family. Such specific information can lock down the reading of a work to a single narrative, so it is best to resist learning too much too soon. Simply knowing that those stories are all the material remains of Boulos’ roots in Palestine creates the impression of meaning lost to time and distance. Rather than privilege her insider’s perspective, she gives us fragments, silhouettes, and uncertain images. This is what memory looks like when it is passed down through oral means, from older relatives to children who piece together what they’ve heard into approximations that are only slightly more substantial than dreams. There might be shadowy warplanes crossing over a forest or distant desert mountains seen through an opening in a wall. There might be trees in the night or a helicopter crossing a border. There might be a faint impression of someone’s hand reaching out or disembodied eyeballs floating in the foreground. These recognizable figures lie just on the edge of an enveloping murk or surrounded by the vague impressions of peripheral vision. Boulos applies her paint in a manner than blurs details but opens the window for interpretation while retaining some contextual specificity. She has the ability to make lingering over a painting a lesson in looking and learning. Her exhibition is well worth your time.


    Richard Rhodes Dupont Projects: http://dupontprojects.com/
    Amanda Boulos: Pouring Horizons continues until September 2.


    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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    Engaged in a comparison of morals with his innkeeper, John Wayne’s honourable, no-good, gun-slingin’ character J.B. Books says, “I don’t believe I ever killed a man who didn’t deserve it.” These words – from Wayne’s final Western, The Shootist– are printed on a pen designed by Hannah Doerksen as part of her solo exhibition Nothing Back Here Looks Alive at Five Art & Merchandise. One simple, pink-inked gesture, the pen epitomizes the entire show, and, like The Shootist, is preoccupied with both personal and Western dichotomies of integrity.



    Hannah Doerksen, Nothing Back Here Looks Alive, 2017, installation view

    Seafoam-green hotel curtains patterned with topographical waves serve as a cinematic backdrop for Doerksen’s characters. Three-dimensional replicas of houseplants and bouquets, resting on plinths or hanging from above, are made from magazine clippings that have been intricately folded, cut, and twisted with the intensity of ritual observance. Snow, forests, ferns, autumn colours, ocean vistas, and Western landscapes can be seen on the leaves, intermingling with porn: a pair of perky breasts here, a woman’s face in ecstasy there. Dated reflective surfaces allow you to catch yourself in the chaparral. Glossy white vases, bejewelled plant hangers, and glinting mirror plinths send your gaze back.

    Two life-size plaster human figures act as awkward protagonists among the faux-foliage: one, a crouching and dejected male; the other, a crooked, big-breasted female with wings, genitals gently covered with drapery. The former, modelled after Edwin Roscoe’s marble sculpture of Cain (the first murderer) sits in a reflective puddle of mirror, while the woman, inspired by Fritz Lang’s Whore of Babylon in Metropolis, sprawls perched on a glass plinth. John Waynes in their own right, subjectively “lacking in character” as the innkeeper in The Shootist believes, they are no longer vilified among these other material rejects (forgotten pornos, old National Geographics). Rather, they are heroes.

    Doerksen’s antagonists and protagonists share the same identity. I catch my own gaze in a reflective surface. Like Wayne seeing his final killers in the mirror, I don’t just see myself in the looking glass; I also see, subjectively, my antagonist. Nothing Back Here Looks Alive leads me to believe that everyone is both.


    Five Art and Merchandise: https://fiveartandmerchandise.com/
    Hannah Doerksen: Nothing Back Here Looks Alive continues until September 10.


    Lindsay Sorell is an artist and writer living in Calgary. She recently collaborated with the Advanced Toastmasters of Calgary for the IKG Live 1 performance festival and completed two solo exhibitions of new work: Exercises in Healing at Contemporary Calgary and Buddha, Why Am I Alone? at AVALANCHE! Institute of Contemporary Art. She is currently working on a large-scale watercolour painting of food and is the editor of Luma Quarterly.


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    For its summer programming this year, Galerie Hugues Charbonneau organized 8 Artists: 8 Situations beyond its walls and around the city. To kick-off the program, artist and Refus Global signatory Francoise Sullivan showed digital prints of her walks through Montreal between 1973 and 2017. Guillaume Adjutor Provost and Nadege Grebmeier Forget took over the gallery’s Instagram account for the second and fifth Situations respectively, and Maria Hupfield installed lightning bolt and star-shaped benches around trees in Victoria Square for the fourth. In the third Situation a less upright reimagining of public space was offered. At Bar Cheval Blanc Cynthia Gerard-Renard launched her interspecies love story Le Renard Vulve, set on Mount Royal and featuring “a lesbian BDSM skunk couple, a stripper bat and a raccoon barmaid.” An equally convivial seventh Situation titled Forbidden Rendez-vous in the Ghost Wing took place on August 23 at the Mile End studio of artist David Lafrance.



    David Lafrance, Étude pour Atlas No 2, 2014, acrylic paint on sculpted recycled wood

    In 1962 Leo Steinberg reflected on the “plight of the public” over Henri Matisse’s Joy of Life. For Steinberg, the painting, with its airy, love-locked nudes in a hallucinatory landscape, frustrated expectations that nudes in a landscape would be legible and solid. Like any good contemporary work of art, Matisse’s modern masterpiece had a destabilizing effect. The appropriate analogy for Matisse’s “expanding and rhythmical” painting, according to Steinberg, is a ripple in water after a stone disappears beneath the surface, or a “circulatory system… of a city or of the blood, where stoppage (a traffic jam or a blood clot) implies a pathological condition.” Galerie Hugues Charbonneau’s Situations have this quality of spreading outwards from indeterminate centers, of presenting rhythmically rather than solidly, and of refusing to pin down the visions and energy of the artists involved.

    Ghosts of the most daring European modernists haunted Lafrance’s studio “rendez-vous.” His restless “hybrid aesthetic” – part Fauvist, part folk-art, part caricature – measures itself against art-historical and popular values, then sends them in search of new ones. Across twenty years of production on view at the studio, the work moves from figurative to natural to mental landscapes. In the transition from symbols of unchecked egotism (like puffy-chested, bug-eyed wrestlers with raised fists) to troubled landscapes rendered as caricatures or human projections, the artist focuses ever more tightly on the effects, fears, and fallibility of humans.

    Étude pour Atlas No 2 from 2014, a small, rough wood sculpture of the figure from Greek mythology, is an apt symbol for our ambivalent relationship with the environment. Almost buckling under the weight of an orb cut from recycled wood is Lafrance’s Atlas supporting the world or about ready to throw it in the garbage. In front of the diminutive Titan, several oil paintings from the artist’s Almanac Menace series are piled on a table. In Vent de glace Lafrance offers a caricature of climate change at a moment when we can no longer innocently talk about the weather. A warped Jack-O-Lantern with blood-red eyes and well-spaced, white teeth blows a wind in the shape of a balloon or an empty speech bubble over a devastated forest. The artist’s style for this and the other works in the series is carefully chosen. He claims, “we have so disrespected the environment that we deserve to live with a caricature of it” as a reminder of this history of opportunism and abuse.

    Peur de perdre includes several small oil paintings of interiors that seem both imagined and lived-in. Déménager en égypte shows a cluttered room in stacked Cubist perspective with a picture of the pyramids of Giza hanging on a wall. At first it reads like a riff on Matisse’s Orientalized interiors, but Lafrance’s painting refers to his fellow-artist Sam Shalabi’s move to Cairo in the wake of the uprising there. Lafrance dissolves the line between imagined and actual homes to reflect on the itinerant life of a friend rather than Modernist fantasies of escape. In Autarcie Cherie we see other fraught projections of home. Moody pink and blue skies in the series look like Monet’s at Giverny, but Lafrance puts hovering portraits of old farmers at the centre of the compositions to capture the anxiety, toil, and impact of an uncertain relationship to the land.



    David Lafrance, En ordre d’apparition 01, 2016, oil on canvas

    As sure as we might have been in the past about our privileged place on the planet, Lafrance insists that our centers don’t hold for long. This view is somber when the artist takes on subjects such as environmental catastrophe and the loss of home, but it is energetic and inventive when he deals with the subject of painting itself. His most recent series En ordre d’apparition shows the aesthetic merit of a fractured view of the human. In each of the works we see a realistically painted hand near a floating mask, skull, or apparition. Head and hand in each case push through a glut of mental objects – cut-outs or silhouettes of tools, painter’s palettes, vases and jugs, fenced-in plots of land or caged-in nudes. The hand, modeled on the painter’s own, is an anchor around which to organize the picture’s content. It is also a painter’s hand without a brush, captured before or after the moment of painting but never precisely at that moment. For Lafrance the works are not fixed illusionistic representations of a creative act but unevenly resolved records of the passage of old, new, and emergent ideas. A little like Velazquez’s Las Meninas for the French philosopher Michel Foucault, Lafrance’s art is playfully, if darkly, caught between feints, glances, and lacunae, or between the hand and the head, very much of but never simply about the human situation.


    Galerie Hugues Charbonneau: http://huguescharbonneau.com/en/
    8 Artists: 8 Situations continues until October 15.


    Tammer El-Sheikh is a writer and teacher based in Montreal. His art criticism has appeared in Parachute, Canadian Art, ETC and C Magazine.


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  • 08/30/17--21:40: HERE at the Aga Khan Museum
  • If I want to feel old, I look in the mirror. If I want to feel insignificant, I go to the Aga Khan Museum and stare in wonder at centuries-old artefacts from civilizations that rose and fell, created and destroyed, travelled and merged infinite lifetimes before I spent my microcosmic moment doing assorted pointless things on this planet. Will there be any evidence of me a millennium from now? Probably not. I never get this feeling looking up at the night sky, but I do get it looking at fragments of a column and some well preserved bowls. Luckily, my trouble with time faded as I moved from the museum’s permanent collection and made my way up to their temporary contemporary exhibition. It, conveniently, focuses on space, or rather, place.



    Babak Golkar, The Fox, The Nut and The Banker’s Hand, 2016, taxidermy fox, silver tray, varnished wood, concealed object

    However, as Einstein pointed out, time and space are intimately connected. The centrepiece of HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists is a marble stele from the museum’s holdings. It is dated 377 AH according to the Islamic lunar calendar (987 AD in the Gregorian calendar), but was modified over the intervening years and repurposed in different periods in ways that didn’t erase the previous purposes. As such, it stands as something from multiple times and multiple cultures, much like the artists without singular identities gathered by curator Swapnaa Tamhane in this understandably wide-ranging exhibition.

    Travel, traditions, and transactions are all experiences that link space or location with time. Something like Vancouver-based artist Babak Golkar’s stuffed fox brings together various narrative traditions with value systems by hiding an artwork within this work and requiring that it not be revealed for one hundred years. This, alongside the stele, could be an exhibition unto itself. The importance of material lists or descriptions is something that manifests itself in other pieces here, which makes sense because those ingredients make up the identity of the work so why not play with them? The master of this is Derya Akay with his Resin, Lath, and Everything Else built into the wall of the gallery and including, according to the descriptive text, beeswax, cochineal bugs, and “drunken watercolours from 2012” among other things. With his dense assemblages of highly evocative elements, he’s become one of my favourite artists of the last little while.



    Khan Lee, Hearts & Arrows, 2013, video

    Akay’s maximalism is contrasted with the singular efforts of Khan Lee, whose video documents the carving of an ice sculpture in just enough time to capture the rising sun over Vancouver’s harbour, and Sukaina Kubba’s glistening latex and varnish sheets that hang over the ancient reminders down below. Somewhere in the middle ground, Osheen Harruthoonyan’s highly evocative and yet relatively straightforward landscape photographs emerge from the shadows while Harkeerat Mangat’s short documentary on a recording session that took place at the museum manages to be both direct and self-critical.

    For an exhibition that starts with a stone column that can’t be limited to one culture and one time period, HERE is best navigated according to the lineages that occur to the visitor. There are ample opportunities for different connections to be made by different people – or even different interpretations by the same people at different times. The one thing that acts as an anchor, both in time and space, is the all-caps HERE. Beyond that, the world swirls in its infinitely disarming and delightful variety.


    Aga Khan Museum: https://www.agakhanmuseum.org/
    HERE: Locating Contemporary Canadian Artists continues until January 1.


    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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    How do you criticize visual art when the artist wasn’t even looking when he made it? Is it fair to assess it based on what you see? Does it even make sense to treat it as your standard drawing, painting, whatever? And if he wasn’t concerned with looking, why should you be? Then again, are you going to ignore all those scrawled-on pieces of paper stuck to the wall? For his current exhibition at The Red Head Gallery, Jack Butler covered his eyes (the exhibition titled is Blindfold, of course) and drew. He had some idea of what he was doing, but he’d wait up to a week before he looked at the results. He knew he was doing it as a way to deal with grief. He finished 150 drawings and posted them in chronological order around the gallery. He even included texts to explain his process, but the result is still disorienting. It’s like being dropped into the middle of a storm.



    Jack Butler, The Eyes, Blindfold Drawing, 03/25/17, 2017, paint marking pen

    There is a flock of eyelashes, a field of lightning, a cloud of static, a hairy chest, scurrying insects, and folded hands. There are some that look just like scribbles – no different than the pointless shredding of a small child who hasn’t even figured out the basics of representation. Intent is obliterated in the violent deployment of the pen. Then there are doodles. These are comparable to abstract expressions and instrumental music. They have patterns that repeat and follow the same motion to occupy the space of the page in some way that implies order, but they aren’t exactly drawings. To get to that stage, there has to be a subject that helps the markings cohere in a meaningful way. Butler makes it difficult to find examples of this in the midst of his circumscribed labour. He’s put an obstacle – the titular blindfold – in the way of his artistic intention by breaking the circuit of eye-to-hand-to-eye. And yet drawings emerge.



    Jack Butler, Blindfold, 2017, installation view

    They aren’t necessarily of anything. And even when they are, the intention is less literal than metaphoric. It’s perhaps better to consider them records of action rather than images of things. They are evidence of an artist at work and, given that he is an artist, it’s not surprising that he would work at grieving through drawing. The occasion for his grief is not revealed and, in the absence of it being mentioned, one might not actually identify this sense of loss in the assembled work. But since we know it’s in there, it’s worth considering how grief renders the world both meaningless and meaningful. The former feeling comes when others die, particularly if they are young, and we wonder why. The latter is the harder outcome, because it requires us to make something positive out of a negative. Butler has done this by having his loss fuel creation. That is to be felt much more than it is to be seen.


    The Red Head Gallery: http://www.redheadgallery.org/
    Jack Butler: Blindfold continues until September 23.


    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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