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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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    Moyra Davey's solo exhibition at Satellite Gallery, Ornament and Reproach, is as much a collaborative experiment with artist curator John Goodwin as it is a formal retrospective. Amidst collaborations and interventions by the likes of Elizabeth McIntosh, Nestor Krüger, Sally Späth, and a new piano composition by David Lang, the exhibition features career highlights from Davey including videos from 2006 to 2011, her 1994 photographic series Newsstands, and works produced specifically for this exhibition such as the titular Ornament and Reproach mailer series. The totality traces a non-linear and ever expanding system of tangents and references that lead us on in the best possible way.

    Moyra Davey

    Teasing viewers with minimal information (a Vancouver exhibition without a didactic panel or curatorial essay?!) or the wrong information (Entrance Signs), or loading them with too much information (Misc. Reference material), the most striking aspect of the exhibition is the wall featuring Piano Music and the thirty-three mailers of Ornament and Reproach. As if one was emerging from the other, like a thought bubble or a tail, the logical leap (and gap) connecting these works sums up the exhibition in a nutshell. In the hand-addressed mailers taken in New York's Trinity Church Cemetery, the primary subject in question is the tombstone of former New York City Mayor Ed Koch. As a much beloved and hated mayor holding three-terms in office, Koch's legacy includes failing to address NYC's AIDS epidemic as it decimated the city's gay population amidst never confirmed rumours of his own homosexuality. A man of ongoing contradictions (he was Jewish yet insisted on being buried in a churchyard), Koch planned his funeral well in advance of his death at eighty-eight years old, but still his tombstone displays the wrong birth date, making him eighteen years younger. Echoing this sentiment of ornamental fallacy, the entrance signs for the exhibition feature linen prints bearing the dates June 5, 1647 to April 14, 1730, which also happen to be the birth and death dates of Jael Godolphin, a mystery woman reclaimed by Feminism whose own tombstone reads: "Confessedly the ornament and at the same time the tacit reproach of a wicked Age." Adding herself to a sprawling lineage of connections, including the stories of her sisters and Mary Wollstonecraft in her video Les Goddesses, Davey continues an ongoing body of work that speaks to the invisible traces of lives unfolding together and apart.

    Satellite Gallery:
    Moyra Davey: Ornament and Reproach continues until January 18.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. She is the Programs Manager at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society and her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @someasianbitch. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    In Obsolescence / Invention, their latest exhibition at Saint Mary's University Art Gallery, artists Robert Bean and Ilan Sandlar explore the traces that materials, life forms, ideas, and cultural trends have left behind on our planet. The fact that neither Bean nor Sandler include didactic panels with their work increases our sense that these items are either no longer of our world or so innocuous we fail to recognize them. In looking at these traces of the past and present, we feel like travellers to a strange land, left with the daunting task of interpreting these fragments on our own.

    Robert Bean, Equation, 2011

    Bean explores systems of communication, presenting archival inkjet prints of photographs of obsolete machines used for writing and communication. He depicts obsolete technology ranging from a steno writer (a machine first popularized in the 1900s and used to take notes in shorthand) to a SAGE computer console (part of a Cold-War era computerized network that first allowed the US government to control aircraft at ground level). In viewing these prints, viewers can't help but consider that the loss of each technology, many of which seem particularly foreign to us now, also coincides with the loss of technology-specific language and the social infrastructure needed to support that technology.

    Sandler presents ancient microscopic organisms, printing life-sized images of diatoms captured using an electron-scanning microscope onto glass panes. By increasing the size of these tiny life forms, he challenges our current perception of our place in the universe: these simple organisms, who've been around since the time of the dinosaurs – more than 100 million years according to fossil records – could have had more of an impact on the planet than us. He also enlarges imagery of organic matter in The Left Index, a steel "self portrait" depicting the artist's left index fingerprint. Since governments and an increasing number of private enterprises use our fingerprints as proof of our identity, this work reinforces the weight of the biometric data in our systems of access today. Standing seven-feet tall the sculpture reminds us that the traces we leave behind can reveal more about us than we can ourselves.

    St. Mary's University Art Gallery:
    Obsolescence / Invention continues until December 1.

    Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog's Halifax correspondent and can be followed @LizzyFHill on Twitter.

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    The biggest challenge for the contemporary artist is how to deal with the ridiculous amount of freedom. A writer is limited by the page. A musician is anchored to instruments and sound. Film and theatre are tight webs of restriction and rules. But an artist in this day and age can do just about anything – even make nothing at all. To riff on Sartre, he/she is condemned to be free and weighed down by a whole truckload of responsibility. On the one hand, it must be paralyzing. On the other, it becomes far too easy to make something that looks like art and extremely hard to discern whether it is or it isn't. Good thing we have critics to show us the way.

    Nicholas Baier, Vanités / Vanitas , aluminum, nickel, steel, glass, fluorescent light and vinyl

    Montreal-based artist Nicholas Baier mines the 21st Century's Pandora's Box of options with his digitally created/enhanced photographs at Division Gallery's Toronto location. Given the right amount of processing speed, he manages to fabricate the structure of the universe in Schemes and the origin of planet Earth in Reminiscence 2. The resulting images function largely as illustrations for his detailed plans, so they might be better suited for the Science Centre than an art gallery (and I don't think he'd completely disagree). Baier is also successful enough that he can envisage his studio workstation plated in chrome and then see the idea through to completion. The resulting Vanitas, encased in a cabinet of double-sided mirrored glass for endless repetition, is striking, but the vanity it reflects might just be the artist's own. Mirrors appear yet again in assembly of scanned antique looking glasses that finally get to reveal their true empty selves. However, the most compelling emptiness is a metal sculpture detailing the framework of a bank of computer servers – the exoskeleton of human knowledge rendered in ones and zeros. It's only in the midst of this hollow maze that the created object opens up to the imperceptible poetry that distinguishes the true artwork.

    Jenine Marsh, Roomies, 2013, installation detail

    On a much more modest scale, the emerging artists currently on view at Xpace wrestle with what's possible and the difficulties of maintaining a resonant expression through what remains. One of three participants in the group exhibition Provisions, Kristie MacDonald literally draws on the discarded past by embossing hundreds of white cards with the simultaneously hopeful and hopeless refrain, "still heading north." Taken from a vintage postcard, the message sums up the endless (which isn't always the same as pointless) journey we all find ourselves on. In the back room, Jenine Marsh's installation Roomies depicts and battles entropy (such is the aspiration of the artist: creating meaning at the edge of meaninglessness) through mirroring and replicating in diminished form the everyday stuff of our itinerant lives. The truth of our existential drift is, it must be admitted, best captured by the dreadful unlimited freedom of the artist. Even in their (and our) inevitable failures a glimmer of purpose remains.

    Division Gallery:
    Nicholas Baier: Transmission continues until January 25.

    Jenine Marsh: Roomies continues until December 14.
    Provisions continues until December 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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    Like a lot of people in the art world this weekend, I spent a good part of it engrossed in The New Yorker's profile on mega-dealer David Zwirner. The fascination was the immense amount of money exchanging hands, but, apart from some people I knew (the artists), it could have been about any ridiculously high-end commodity trader. That end of the art scene (which for some is probably the one and only art scene) is so far from my experience of it as a foot soldier in a minor centre like Toronto that I struggled for the right metaphor to capture the distance. Zwirner and his ilk are the Miami Heat compared to my pick-up game? No. I don't want to diminish the professionalism of the artists and art workers who make up my corner of the world. Perhaps our connection is comparable to the Warren Buffetts of the financial sector. I too have my investments; however puny they may be, they are my blood, sweat, and tears. Billionaires simply do things on a scale so far beyond my RRSPs that we're hardly the same species, though we're definitely sharing a phylum, if not a genus. Which is just to say, I didn't get my knickers in a knot about King David's riches. Though it did elicit a convenient meditation on treasures that carried me through my gallery going on Saturday.

    William Fisk, Untitled No. 72 (from the Portrait Series), 2013, oil on canvas

    William Fisk's cold and crisp photorealist paintings at Nicholas Metivier are objects of value depicting objects of value. More precisely, they are fetish objects rendered fetishistically. Fisk has a thing about precision and it is evident in both his method (meticulously layered pigment with nary a brushstroke) and his subjects (primarily optical devices such as small format film cameras and scopes for bringing far or little things into view). In addition to the obsessive craftsmanship of the lens grinder, he is attracted to a certain era of modern design with a tendency to lean towards the gadgety (James Bondish lighters, for example). The overall feel is of a bachelor who worships his adult toys with a reverence that is supposed to imbue the art. Having passed beyond that period of adolescent attachment, I fixate on the anomalous paintings: a pair of high heeled shoes (though I supposed they could be a trophy of sorts as well) and an intriguing pair of cuff links - the strongest work in the exhibition, but strangely unsold amid a number of red dots elsewhere. These masculine accessories and their strangely phallic locking mechanisms were the only instance of ambiguity amid the objective display and, as such, resonated beyond their physical limits.

    Dorian Fitzgerald, Vestibule, Apartment of Gabrielle Bonheur 'Coco' Chanel, 31 Rue Cambon, 2013

    A different version of object fetishism is on view at Clint Roenisch's current exhibition of paintings by Dorian Fitzgerald. He also eschews brushstrokes (opting instead for a patented drip/pour method) to capture the immaculate aura of luxurious things most of us see only in pictures. His treasures are bound by the lives of their owner/collectors, celebrity fashion stylists or movie starts who imbue the inert with an added sparkle and mystique that is then leaked out in some form on the canvas itself. They - the paintings and what they represent - attract with the same queasy compulsion as Zwirner's multi-million dollar purchases and sales. In light of the recent record breaking auctions of works by Bacon and Koons, New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl wrote, "Any price – many millions, a buck fifty – paid for any work of art is absurd." Fitzgerald invites us to contemplate this absurdity as it winds it way back through histories both cultural and personal. As a value-added bonus, he manages the clever trick of making the journey worth it.

    Nicholas Metivier Gallery:
    William Fisk: Portraits continues until December 14.

    Clint Roenisch Gallery:
    Dorian Fitzgerald: Catalogue continues until January 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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  • 12/10/13--20:06: Paper Trails at Avalanche
  • It didn't take long for Avalanche to relocate after losing their former venue to the summer solstice floods, and directors Nate McLeod and Cassandra Paul continue to make a lot out of a little. Their new, lower level, intimate gallery adjoins a small concourse exhibition space that also features both a sales area for books and regional catalogues plus a cozy bar for their regular events. Currently on display, the group exhibition Paper Trails features prints by artists from Avalanche's first year of programming including works by Jesse Stillwell, Matthew Mark and Lindsay Wells, Bodgan Cheta, Henry Gunderson, Jeremy Pavka and Karly Mortimer, Kuh Del Rosario and Sarah Van Sloten, and Ryan Scott.

    Kyle Beal

    The gallery's history of supporting limited edition prints as adjuncts to each of their shows is a worthy project. It enables a value-added extra for exhibitors and viewers, and also builds an archive. If you're thinking it sounds all too commercial then Kyle Beal has already preempted that with his text-based work concluding that this "feels like another edition of the same old same old and sorry to say my friend, I'm just not buying it." Yet several people have: about twenty prints in total have been sold. The works are affordable and well presented (kudos to Jarvis Hall for underwriting the framing).

    With other small-scale galleries such as 809 and Haight having now shuttered, independent venues that program contemporary art by emerging practitioners, whilst also offering a commercial angle, are not to be overlooked. With the Untitled Art Society's Satellite Gallery on the main floor and Emmedia next door, there are plenty of reasons to pay a visit. Might I suggest the Paper Trails closing party on Friday December 20th?

    Avalanche Gallery:
    Paper Trails continues until December 21.

    Dick Averns is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose exhibitions and performances have been presented internationally. He teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design, and his writing has appeared in Canadian Art, Front, On Site Review, and many catalogues. He is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed @DickAverns on Twitter.

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  • 12/10/13--20:18: Toxicity at Plug In ICA
  • Bioparanoia set in for me as soon as I opened the glass doors of Plug In ICA and entered the warm, humid galleries of Toxicity. Co-curated by Dr. Melentie Pandilovski and Dr. Jennifer Willet, this survey of twelve Canadian and international bio-artists successfully links a variety of work through the common thread of an aesthetic interpretation of scientific exploration specific to toxicity. However, without a scientific background, it is a challenge to connect immediately to the work. The technical side was foreign to me, but I found the visual aspects engaging. The appeal was most certainly intensified by my anxiety, and Reva Stone's robotic form Microforge brought it to a peak as I became increasingly irrational about what would happen when I placed my face in contact with her microscope.

    Elaine Whittaker, I Caught it at the Movies, 2013, detail

    Along the same lines, Elaine Whittaker's I Caught it at the Movies consists of wry commentary on society's obsession with germs. Countless petri dishes with varying dimensions are pinned to the gallery wall to create a stunning visual display. Upon closer inspection these round discs contain stills from bio-nightmarish films smeared with live bacteria in many forms. Other stand out works are Ted Hiebert's experiments with magnetic forces and their effect on the brain in his series Between Magnets, Alana Bartol's short film from the series Forms of Awareness: Ghillie Suit, and co-curator Willet's An INCUBATOR in Sheep's Clothing, in which a functional incubator is housed inside a sculpted sheep.

    Toxicity is an exhibition demanding full attention. While an investigation into the cross section of science and art is not a novel idea (for instance, the fourth dimension was a big influence on Duchamp and the Futurists), the burgeoning biotech arts community and the constant barrage of environmental catastrophes makes this contagious collection a new (and important) examination of the science/art paradigm.

    Plug In ICA:
    Toxicity continues until February 8.

    Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.

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    The latest exhibition space to open up in London, DNA Artspace is a privately owned gallery run by Allison and Damir Matic, partially modeled after spaces such as Toronto's Scrap Metal Gallery, and interested in connecting the public with pockets of London's art scene through various collaborations and art-related events. Before their official opening in the spring of 2014, the Matics wanted to introduce DNA to London by asking thirty-six local artists to respond to its three-story, pre-renovated space for an inaugural exhibition.

    Parker Branch, búr, 2013 (photo: Brad Isaacs)

    Previously occupied by Fodemesi Shoes, the site is currently a partially gutted series of carpet-covered display floors, concrete expanses, and cavernous storerooms that are heavily tempered by the sagging, weathered ghosts of a decayed 1980s interior. Several artists claim a space with confident sprawl (Kim Moodie's drawings upon drawings), territorial abandon (Jason McLean's endless wall of personal items and collections), or preferences for escaping the surrounding space outright (Wyn Geleynse's wry projected video Guilt). Other artists prefer tactics of mimicry and co-authorship, such as Kelly Jazvac's Optimist (with Portrait of a Former Pessimist), wherein a "faux textile" wallpaper pattern on the main floor is both imitated and paid homage to in a small framed watercolor. Kyla Brown's Place Markers follows the logic of stains, cracks, and halos left in the concrete by now absent equipment with delicate islands of painted color. In Tegan Moore's Cracked cracked ice with relative visibility, light diffuser panels insinuate themselves into the ceiling. In this context, they imitate the growth of large water stains, but their materiality – simultaneously like ice, lace, crust, and sugar – encourages the colonization of matter-of-fact hosts of material equally as camouflaged. Conversing with the basement's partially carpeted rumpus room vibe, Maryse Larivière's soft felt painting with fringe hung across from a suspended pink pool noodle with red chain and wind chime combine the easy attitude of romantic lyrics with the melancholy grey of felt and the fleeting cheeriness of iridescence and neon foam.

    Amidst crammed and competing installations in the upstairs space are much needed zones which distinguish themselves from the sprawl in other ways, such as the collaborative sound work by Giles Whitaker and Chris Myhr called Clamour. In a drab kitchen space, noise from every direction (spewing out of the doorway, across the floor, within the walls, out of cupboards, and beneath the ceiling tiles) accompanies startling bursts of energy from kitchen equipment seemingly operating on its own. Water boils, a blender revs, coffee grinds, and a cacophony of sounds in the key of kitchen behaves like an active volcano. Quite opposite in tone is an installation by Parker Branch called búr found in a room of wall-to-wall shelving which, now empty, is reminiscent of the sleeping quarters of an eerie, unearthed bunker. Four blue containers (encrusted as if freshly extracted from a deep freeze) stamped with numbers and the words "Windsor Salt" sit upon a dark animal pelt in the middle of an enormous wooden table. A helpful exhibition guide explains that this work links the room's former use as a "leather room" to "the story of Au∂umbla, the primeval cow of Norse mythology, said to have given form to Búri, grandfather of Odin, by licking blocks of salty ice."

    Other artists respond to the temporary state of DNA's space with various degrees of success and invention, but mentioning each is beyond the space and length of this singular review. As an introduction to and partial survey of a moderately large number of London's practicing artists, No Boys with Frogs, as the exhibition is titled, is just that. I would recommend more than one visit as several works are easy to miss, such as a collaborative piece by Brad Isaacs and Kelly O'Dette just past the entranceway. Looking for the source of a distinct pine scent, bird sounds, and the generic ring of a cell phone, visitors enter into a completely dark zone at the bottom of a stairwell. Surrounded by vegetation, a path or tunnel, which at first appears free, is blocked. Feeling and listening for the source of other sounds – wet munching, flapping, power tools, a cat's meows – is a fun (or frightening) experience depending upon your temperament. A glowing red exit sign tries to draw visitors back into a more comfortable orientation, but I prefer spending time in these spaces that, seemingly held at bay, bite back.

    DNA Artspace:
    No Boys with Frogs continues until December 15.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, including the Illingworth Kerr Gallery, Stride Gallery, and Skew Gallery in Calgary. She has contributed writing to FFWD,, Prairie Artsters, Hamilton Arts & Letters, Stride Gallery, Truck Gallery, and most recently Susan Hobbs Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.

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    Sometimes walking into an art gallery is like running into an old friend. Even in a city of average size like Toronto, the scene is relatively small and the community still feels connected even amongst those of us who have drifted away from the weekly openings or left the home turf altogether. Janet Morton falls into the latter camp, but I first met her when I started working at The Power Plant fifteen years ago and she was on the installation crew. We have crossed paths on occasion in the intervening years, most recently at the Hillside music festival in Guelph where she now calls home, and I always make a point of seeing her crafty works when they appear, but I was pleasantly surprised to stumble into her current exhibition at Paul Petro as I was clearly in need of her homespun take on the metaphorical qualities of twine and thread as a means to illuminating the ties that bind us.

    Janet Morton, untitled, 2013, found photograph, embroidery floss

    Morton has always been a master-knitter and her skills are ably represented in two video works that riff on unraveling but in two different directions. One has a young man taking a long walk and slowly dissembling his yarn unitard, collecting it into a giant ball and then proceeding to walk off screen au naturel. At the opposite end of the room, Morton's partner Colin Couch plays his tuba while it is magically wrapped in a cozy that eventually seals the bell (this is done through the simple trick of reversing the film). Whatever either means in its own right, both use the relentless winding/unwinding of string to stretch out time and stop viewers in their tracks as they wait – and listen and look – to see what unfolds.

    Alongside the videos is a suite of found photographs that have been embroidered with a variety of surreal and colourful add-ons, turning the nostalgic figures into expressive heralds of forgotten whimsy and discontent. They're reminiscent of Sarah Anne Johnson's similarly adapted photographs, but Morton's twist is to pierce the surface and turn an illusion into an object, which, if you think about it, would make for the perfect Christmas present.

    Heather Goodchild, 40/40, 2013

    A different take on the holiday season can be found down the street at Katharine Mulherin's main space where Heather Goodchild does her version of the department store window display. This life-sized diorama is far more Biblical than Santa's workshop with a band of girls working assiduously to stem the tide of a relentless drip leading from the ceiling down into a pan on the floor that represents an encroaching flood but also, in a strange twist, functions as a wish pond and is already semi-full of pennies standing in for an equal number of silent desires. Apart from the ping of each drop hitting the pan (which must me driving the gallery attendant bonkers by now), the silence captures the figures serious, and seemingly fruitless, intent. The tide will rise and it's all we can do to work together to hold it temporarily at bay. It's a bit grim, but as a metaphor for the community of artists, I haven't come across any better of late.

    Paul Petro Contemporary Art:
    Janet Morton: Sans Vitesse continues until January 11.

    Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects:
    Heather Goodchild: 40/40 continues until December 22.

    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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  • 12/17/13--04:56: 2013 Critic's Picks
  • The single best contemporary artwork I've seen in Calgary this year is Wally Dion's enormous hanging sculpture at the Esker Foundation's group show Fiction/Non-Fiction. From a distance the work looks like a giant rug with gold and bejeweled features shimmering amidst a weave of blue and green panels. In reality this portrait-format gem is fabricated from hundreds of small printed circuit boards, stitched together with wire, and supported by an intricate rear-mounted configuration of air-cord (wire rope) and pulleys. Upon closer inspection, myriad component holes punctuate the boards, allowing pinpricks of light to penetrate. The result is a quasi-celestial projection on the wall behind creating an abstract yet meditative constellation that at once critiques yet embellishes the fabric of our existence. UK Sculptor David Mach, who I took to see the show, noted, "It's the sort of thing I wish I'd fuckin' thought of and made!"

    Wally Dion, I'm on the pursuit of happiness and I know: everything that shines ain't always going to be gold, 2013, circuit boards, wire, found materials (courtesy: the artist and Esker Foundation; photo: John Dean)

    Second on my list for this year is a historical figure. Otto Dix, curated by Laura Brandon into a two-person show with A.Y. Jackson, is part of Transformations at the Glenbow Museum. Although I'm not a fan of the large text panels in the exhibition, this project is noteworthy not just because of the importance of the upcoming centenary of The Great War. Be sure to direct your attention to four medium-size paintings by Dix that highlight a lesser-known oeuvre following his earlier overt social commentary canvasses. Landscapes that almost appear as sentimental folk art are actually part of a project undertaken by the artist in the later 1930s/1940s after being labeled by Hitler's regime as a degenerate artist. The paintings are actually encoded narratives with nuanced scenes depicting corrupting influences and dark portent. The works will be seen again this coming year at the Canadian War Museum.

    Annie Martin at Pith takes my number three spot with her installation everything that rises. Comprising branches festooned with strands of throwaway readymades and detritus, and permeated with radio broadcasts, the work is beguiling yet lyrical. It reminds me of a saying by one of my undergrad peers, named Merlin, whose über-messy studio received regular visits from the health and safety folks. He used to say, "So many artists think they're making great art but only come up with a pile of crap, whereas my studio may look like a pile of crap, but it can still become great art." Here's to less crap and more great art in 2014!

    Dick Averns is an interdisciplinary artist and writer whose exhibitions and performances have been presented internationally. He teaches at the Alberta College of Art + Design, and his writing has appeared in Canadian Art, Front, On Site Review, and many catalogues. He is Akimblog's Calgary correspondent and can be followed @DickAverns on Twitter.

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  • 12/17/13--05:07: 2013 Critic's Picks
  • 2013 was a banner year for Winnipeg. The city embraced the idea of community with myriad successes. Ranging from exceptional institutional programming to collaboration between culinary art and architecture to new artist-run initiatives, there is a new and brighter vision for the future. As for the past, here are three things worth remembering...

    RAW:almond, a collaboration between RAW: Gallery's director Joe Kalturnyk and Deer + Almond's chef/owner Mandel Hitzer produced arguably the most exciting intermingling of art and food since Jesus' visage appeared on toast. For three weeks in January – easily the coldest month in Winnipeg – this pop-up restaurant erected at the convergence of the frozen Red and Assiniboine River treated guests to a wintry dining experience. After successfully selling out last year, the collaborators have already announced 2014 dates as well as the possibility of a design/recipe publication.

    Single White Female (Aston Coles) performing at The Full Complement, the first exhibition of One Night Stand

    Winnipeg's ability to produce a stunning amount of stellar artists has long been scrutinized by the art world at large. With this many artists, we have always been privy to a multitude of artist-run spaces, but 2013 was a catalyst for three notable new ARCs: the Lewyc Institute of Contemporary Art (LICA), One Night Stand, and Library. Artist-curator Theo Sims launched LICA in April with twenty-three artists: a veritable who's who of Winnipeg contemporary creatives. Located inside Sims' house at 78 Lusted Avenue, LICA exists as a live/work space. Although only presenting two exhibitions in 2013, the magnitude of both are indications of the motivation and savvy Sims possesses. Opening its doors in October, founder Cliff Eyland's gallery Library is "a semi-public, irregular hours experimental art space." Located adjacent to Eyland's studio in the historic Exchange District and having presented two exhibitions, one featuring the work of twenty artists and the other featuring thirty-one, the gallery functions as a rolodex of who-is-making-what. Artist, curator, and co-director at Platform Centre for photographic and digital arts Collin Zipp's One Night Stand is a nomadic gallery, popping up in new venues periodically across the city, that exhibits mostly emerging local artists whose work ranges from sound art to poetry to photography and beyond.

    The Winnipeg Art Gallery marked its 100th anniversary this year by contemplating its role locally (historically and presently) and nationally. Guest curators Robert Enright and Meeka Walsh were invited to launch the centenary with Winnipeg Now, a survey of thirteen of Winnipeg's brightest contemporary artists. 100 Masters solidified cross-country relationships by presenting an exhibition of unprecedented institutional lending, selected by Director Stephen Borys, ranging from Kirchner to Colville to Picasso. The programming for the centenary also thoughtfully included examining the collection with Creation and Transformation, the largest exhibition of Inuit art in the gallery's history, as well as Andrew Kear's intelligent exhibition of exquisite German Expressionist art Storm and Spirit. This year also boasted a new NGC-WAG partnership bringing locals top shelf works like Christian Marclay's The Clock, Janet Cardiff's Forty-Part Motet, and Keith Haring's sculptures. In addition to stellar programming, an absence in the position of Curator of Contemporary Art was remedied by the noteworthy recruitment of Winnipeg artist Paul Butler.

    Lisa Kehler is a writer and curator from Winnipeg. She most recently co-authored the forthcoming publication Art Tomorrow: 40 Years of the Future Now (Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art 1972 - 2012). She holds a Masters in Cultural Studies: Curatorial Practices from the University of Winnipeg and is currently the Special Projects Director at Border Crossings. She is Akimblog's Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @LisaKehler on Twitter.

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  • 12/17/13--05:25: 2013 Critic's Picks
  • If only for having the wherewithal for getting it done (and isn't that the case with all art: there are a lot of people with a lot of ideas, but only a few make it happen), Micah Lexier's More Than Two, part of his ostensibly solo exhibition still ongoing at The Power Plant, is really a miniature Toronto biennial in all but name. Even if you don't cotton to the overall aesthetic of the assembled hundred or so artists (and the curator clearly has his thing), there had to be at least one work here that flicked your Bic (often unexpectedly). Unfortunately, knowing the pull of the city's inertia, it's unlikely that this survey will set the stage for anything else. In the chicken-and-egg game of getting the ball rolling on an art scene of note, both the institutions and the artists have to step up their game, with the former making a concerted investment (as in money and space) to get the latter going, and the latter risking the stigma of ambition to live up to that investment. It's happening in small ways but – as Lexier's model shows – has the potential to go big.

    Micah Lexier, More Than Two, 2013, installation view

    There were moments (many moments) this year when it felt like the city of Toronto had become a gigantic reality TV show. It's become a commonplace to admit that whatever our mayor is up to now, there's worse to come. From denials of videos to confessions of crack smoking to painful post-pussy-blurting press conferences with wife in tow, Rob Ford is a performance of shamelessness without end. As the late night hosts say: he's the gift that keeps giving. While Gawker's ethically problematic Indiegogo fundraising campaign got underway, I happened upon a smaller overlap of life and art at Narwhal Projects' 8 Days No Contact. Inspired by the break-up diary of a hurting dude who likes to make lists, an assortment of artists put his pain into action. Now if only something as creative can come of our municipal plight.

    The tensest and most telling moment of the art year came for me in the comfort of my own living room where the usual chaos was stilled by the final question in the live-streamed lecture/performance by activist-artist Theaster Gates at the Art Gallery of Ontario. After having upended expectations by running through a gamut of voices to consider the providence of African art in European and American museums, and then further winning over the crowd with his charismatic Q and A, he faced the hardest Q when a lady in the audience of artists, patrons, and Toronto culturati asked him to sing for them again. His A was not so much a direct answer as a real time wrestling with how a black American artist having given the talk he just gave can even respond to such a demand. It reminded everyone in my living room – and hopefully everyone at the AGO – that art means something, so don't treat it lightly.

    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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  • 12/17/13--05:34: 2013 Critic's Picks
  • In 2013 Montreal saw a shake-up in the upper echelons of the art milieu – particularly all things involving Alexandre Taillefer, president of the Musée d'art contemporain de Montréal, board member of the Biennale de Montreal, and "dragon" in Radio Canada's new version of The Dragon's Den. Former MACM Director Paulette Gagnon and Chief Curator Marie Frasier resigned their positions in the spring not long after Taillefer's orchestration to amalgamate the faltering independent Biennale de Montreal within the MACM. Nicole Gingras also resigned her post as Director of the Biennale and Sylvie Fortin (formerly Editor of Art Papers out of Atlanta) was eventually hired to replace her. With Taillefer's new vision of the MACM underway, including a $40+million expansion, John Zeppetelli (formerly curator at the neighbouring DHC/ART) was hired as Director/Chief Curator. After this dizzying game of institutional musical chairs, we await to see the results!

    My favourite exhibition of the year has to go to Concordia University's Leonard and Bina Ellen Gallery's presentation of Actors, Networks, Theories, curated by Montreal gem Vincent Bonin. Featuring relevant work by a host of artists, the exhibition uses as its starting point the deferred reception of "French Theory" by Anglophone art communities in the 1970s to explore gaps between publication/presentation and translation/re-presentation. Both conceptually and formally Bonin's curatorial effort is simultaneously tight and loose – providing a careful rigour, but allowing for malleable readings and loose ends to flourish. Dense with artist works and ideas, the exhibition could be overwhelming for the viewer, but Bonin's simple and precise exhibition design make it a pleasure to walk through. With works by, among others, Mary Kelly, Andrea Fraser, Ian Wallace, and local artists Thérèse Mastroiacovo and Jon Knowles, this exhibition (which continues until January 25) about the complexities of translation is perfectly located in an Anglophone university within a French-speaking province.

    Valérie Blass, La partie pour la chose, 2013, digital print, watercolour on matte paper

    And lastly, a new body of work by Montreal artist Valérie Blass rocked her show at The Hole earlier this fall. The exhibition was in NYC, but the work emerged from her prolific Montreal studio. I'm looking forward to her upcoming show at Parisian Laundry in the new year.

    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 new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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  • 12/17/13--05:47: 2013 Critic's Picks
  • Artist Steve Higgins' artist residency at MSVU Art Gallery tops my list of art events in 2013 as it offered the public a rare chance to witness the culmination of four decades of work. Gallery director Ingrid Jenkner invited Higgins, whose work explores post-industrial utopias, to create the work of his career in the gallery between March 6 and April 19. Higgins did just that, building a room-sized, three-dimensional structure based on his charcoal drawings. The public had the opportunity to pop in and watch the artist-as-labourer as he worked feverishly to suspend from the ceiling beams of lumber in twisting formations that appeared to defy gravity. The completed exhibition served as a thoughtful exploration into the way towering architectural structures can embody hegemonic ideologies of progress.

    I was also particularly excited about this year's Atlantic competitor – Tamara Henderson, an artist who does much of her work while she's sound asleep – at the Sobey Art Award exhibition at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia (which continues until January 5). Describing herself as a "night journalist," she dutifully transcribes her dreams, fleshing them out in the form of experimental video, sculpture, and art objects. Her installation at the AGNS features an unusual piece of furniture created using a design the artist came up with while under hypnosis, as well as a series of blown glass vessels molded from the insides of pineapples inspired by a dream. Henderson offers a refreshing spin on Surrealist traditions, mining diverse sources for inspiration, ranging from Mary Ann Caws to the latest scientific study on problem solving in dreams.

    Becka Viau, The Queen, 2013, performance in No-Name Gallery (photo: Jeff Cooke)

    Barrington Street's No-Name galleries – pop up exhibitions curated in an empty storefront by artist Scott Saunders – were the sites of an unforgettable series of happenings downtown this year. For her exhibition The Queen, artist Becka Viau, bedecked in a regal robe, crown, and icy stare, sat perfectly still in the window on Barrington Street, playfully critiquing our relationships with authoritarian figureheads. Artists Mitchell Wiebe and Aaron Weldon also used the space for an unforgettable musical collaboration, while artist Bonita Hatcher's Laid Bare invited public controversy as it used a shaved taxidermied beaver to explored feminine beauty rituals. The galleries provided artists with an organic, flexible location to exhibit their work, and successfully introduced community members from outside of the art scene circuit to a group of emerging and established local artists.

    Lizzy Hill is an internationally published writer and the editor of Visual Arts News, Atlantic Canada's only magazine focusing on the work of visual artists. Lizzy loves her community in Halifax's artistic north end, a wonderful summer camp for grown ups full of underground restaurants and pop-up galleries. She is Akimblog's Halifax correspondent and can be followed @LizzyFHill on Twitter.

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    From a distance, the twelve paintings in Melanie Authier's Grisailles deliver a sublime sweep of landscapes evocative of caves or arctic shipwrecks. While this may be the influence of the snowy grounds beyond Rodman Hall Art Centre, the desolation of winter chills this dimly lit gallery.

    Melanie Authier, Face Eater, 2013, acrylic on canvas (photo: Stephanie Vegh)

    Closer scrutiny yields an entirely different experience that deftly undermines any associations with landscape or representation of any sort. The atmospheric depths stirred at a distance flatten into planes without hierarchies where even bright colour hidden within the greys slip along an equal plane. What appeared as moody caves are gathering places for painterly intensity that push forward rather than recede before easing into muted expanses at the canvases' edges, leaving these forms unfettered to any literal or figurative roots. At other times, these clustered marks are not blended but broken by the edges of cold facets that defy Authier's otherwise lively hand.

    Only the occasional striking tendril of a brushstroke, executed in the painting's final stages, claims any attempt at foreground and charges the darkness of Authier's grey palette with a blade of spring green, a shiver of aquamarine. In Face Eater, installed at a smart remove from the other paintings, red ribbons of brushstrokes infuse the canvas with an unconscious symbolism that blushes its whites and bloodies the feathered vortex at its centre. Alone of all the paintings in Grisailles, it flirts with the figuration that the others resist – an exception that exposes both that painting's remarkable nature and the vast accomplishments of the rest.

    Rodman Hall Art Centre:
    Melanie Authier: Grisailles continues until March 16.

    Stephanie Vegh is a Hamilton-based visual artist and writer whose criticism has appeared in Scotland's Map Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, and Hamilton Arts & Letters, in addition to her own blog. Her drawings and installations have shown most recently at the upArt Contemporary Art Fair and Nathaniel Hughson Gallery in Hamilton. She is the Executive Director of the Hamilton Arts Council and a member of the Curatorial Committee for Hamilton's annual Supercrawl. She is also Akimblog's Hamilton correspondent and can be followed @Stephanie_Vegh on Twitter.

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    Spanning thirty years of a singularly unique artistic practice, KIMSOOJA Unfolding at the Vancouver Art Gallery traces an arc of emotional intelligence that bridges preoccupations with formalism, domesticity, and above all, a globalized identity. Her shift in 1983 from painting to sewing with scraps of fabric onto canvas set the foundation for a meld of existing patterns into new patterns, revealing lineages and conversations of invisible feminized labour. These themes would carry forward through her Deductive Objects series before transitioning into performance, video, and multimedia works that have continually explored form and rhythm between the body and the material.

    Kim Sooja, Needle Woman,, 1999-2001

    In 1989 Sooja began using ready-used objects such as ladders, spools, and sieves, intervening into their purpose and form by sewing, folding, spreading, tying, and repeating fabric through and over these domestic objects. Conceptualizing the material into an embodied memory of repetition and patterns, Sooja continues this line of inquiry into her moving image works. Placing herself as a faceless body in the forefront, most recognizably as the stoic back and braid in Needle Woman (1999 – 2001) along with Sewing in Walking (1994) and Cities on the Move (1997), Sooja places the human, specifically the female body, as the embodiment of silence and suppression, moving across and forward and never looking back. The highlight of the exhibition is Needle Woman, where the female body as an uncomfortable presence rather than a objectified spectacle, is no longer moving across the screen, but moving around the globe, standing silent and still in each frame as the rush of the interchangeable crowds in each city (Tokyo, New York City, London, Mexico City, Cairo, Delhi, Shanghai, and Lagos) flow past and around her. Staged as a series of eight synchronized projections with matching compositions, the only constant becomes the artist, the embodied subject/object who pierces the flow of a fluctuating and globalized movement of bodies and cultures.

    Curated by Chief Curator/Associate Director Daina Augaitis, who has been working on this project for over a decade, this exhibition is surprisingly the first retrospective exhibition for the artist, who now divides her time between Paris and New York. While first making an international splash in the early nineties with her installation presentation and production of bottaris (colour bundles of Korean textiles traditionally used to transport domestic objects), Sooja currently works in multimedia and represented Korea in 2013's Venice Biennale with an installation that focused on your own heart beat. Going deep into the formal relationship between body and material, she has turned inward for contemplation and guidance.

    Vancouver Art Gallery:
    KIMSOOJA Unfolding runs until January 26.

    Amy Fung is a writer and organizer who publishes nationally and internationally in journals, magazines, catalogues, and monographs in print and online. She is the Programs Manager at Cineworks Independent Filmmakers Society and her ongoings can be found at and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.

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    After having spent the holidays holed up in a BC town whose most recent civic accomplishment in the name of culture was successfully rejecting a developer's proposal for a three-story building at the main (and only) intersection, I returned to Toronto this weekend to find my attempts to see some art hampered by everyone else's holiday hours and the common practice of opening new shows the first week of the new year. To tie up some loose ends, I've decided to write about an exhibition that just ended and one that opened a while ago but continues until the summer. We will return to the cutting edge next week.

    Tamara Henderson & Jeannie Han, Gliding in on a Shrimp Sandwich

    For an artist who was recently a shortlisted finalist in the Sobey Awards, Tamara Henderson has surprisingly not had a solo exhibition in this country until her recent appearance at Erin Stump Projects. She was the East Coast representative for the annual art prize, but despite her origins in Sackville, currently identifies as itinerant and has in fact racked up a bunch of gallery time in Europe (most likely due to her schooling in Stockholm and Frankfurt). Her practice is defined by a process drawing on research conducted while she's sleeping (which means her dreams, I guess), but resists any obvious tendencies towards the deep psychoanalysis of surrealism for a playful exploration of quirky objects and unexpected possibilities. The majority of the show was given over to paintings in a range of pastels and uncomfortable conjunctions of patterns and material that might fly with the everything-goes aesthetic of the hipster contingent, but turns off this old fuddy-duddy. The redeeming factor was a film loop (though I'm not sure why the artist went through the process of installing a looping 16mm projector other than that it's cool to have a looping 16mm projector) that projected a short film centred on what I'm assuming was a dream image of blown glass being cooled in a carved-out pineapple. I could have watched the scene of the molten glass bubble being inserted into the tropical fruit all afternoon. And to top it all off, there is a display of the resulting pineapple-interior-shaped glasses. That they look just like slightly malformed tumblers made the whole exercise all the more curious. Chalk this artist up as someone to continue to watch.

    James Clar, Global English, 2011, eight acrylic and LED light boxes

    Located at the top of an actual tower, though not one constructed of ivory, the Jackman Humanities Institute at the University of Toronto is a place that hosts the kind of research into culture that conservative pundits like to publically ridicule as a waste of money (my response to that is an appeal to a friend whose graduate research in theoretical astrophysics had, he freely admitted, absolutely no practical purpose either). For those of us who find the pursuit of greater understanding an end in itself and have a particular affinity for the productive ambiguities of language, there is an exhibition up here amongst study carrels and conference zones worth searching out. Curated by John G. Hampton through the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, Coming to Terms brings together seven artists who play with translation in a variety of ways. Some (Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay and Carl Trahan for example) are more successfully visual than others and they all are well lubricated by the kind of critical theory discourse that must distinguish most of the small and big talk that takes place in these halls. If that is your kind of thing, then it's worth the elevator ride up.

    Erin Stump Projects:
    See website for current exhibition.

    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery:
    Coming to Terms continues until June.

    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 week I ventured out of doors, into the frigid temperatures, to check out the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts' exhibition Jules de Balincourt: Paintings 2004-2013. I've followed his painting career from a distance for a number of years and was curious to see his work in the flesh. The small exhibition located in the Contemporary Art Square was, according to the MMFA website, "designed like an installation by the artist himself," which also piqued my interest.

    Jules de Balincourt, Untitled, 2012, oil and oil stick on panel

    Walking in I knew I was not going to be disappointed by Balincourt's paintings, although I was slightly surprised at the very traditional look of the exhibition. I don't know what I imagined Balincourt's "installation" would look like - but this wasn't it. Balincourt's practice is rich and textured, brimming with uncanny glimpses of complex, unexplained socially and politically based narrative events. So, like any well curated exhibition of quality artworks, it offers up a good many keys to unlock the connections and concepts behind an artist's practice. I find, however, it is pushing it a bit to describe this as an exhibition "designed like an installation."

    Semantics aside, the paintings themselves are quite a pleasure to behold and absorb. Balincourt's brushwork is loose and fluid. His surface and use of colour is at once rich and straightforward. Bold blocks of colour are often comprised of several thin washes over textured layers of paint, as small bright dots flash discreetly across the surface. Compositions are equally disarming. They can position the viewer at an odd, high, vantage point and from a distance they look quite graphic, but are peopled with a miniaturized abundance of social activity, infrastructure and architecture. There is a disquieting feeling of unrest in all of Balincourt's paintings. Sometimes this is overtly depicted: protesters carrying placards; soldiers milling around; explosions in a faraway manufacturing district. Whereas in other paintings the unease is more subtle: a crushing waterfall towering over a fragile tropical village; a gathering of men on mopeds emerging from a darkened tunnel into a flash of light; a bag and sunglasses abandoned on the branches of a tree.

    One of the rare abstract works in the exhibition is entitled Ecstatic Contact and it seems to me that these words describe a general theme within the exhibition: a depiction of the uncanny, electrical moment of contact or realization - be it physical, cultural, social or political - and the unease or radical break that is engendered. The next question is: What do we, the lone removed viewer, do, having experienced these troubled dream-like visions, once we set back out into the cold?

    Montreal Museum of Fine Arts:
    Jules de Balincourt: Paintings 2004-2013 continues until March 23.

    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 new Montreal correspondent and can be followed @susannahwesley1 on Twitter.

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    The concept of "precarity" connotes both the positive state of ultimate freedom and individuality as well as the negative lack of stability, security, or grounding in community. But as others have noted, while the term receives a special fluency in today's world of untenable economies and atomistic social networks, precariousness of resources and social affinities has been with us long before climate change, financial collapses, and neo-liberalism.

    Brenda Draney

    2009 RBC Painting Competition winner Brenda Draney speaks to an awareness of precarity in her wall text for Suspend on view at the Art Gallery of Alberta: "After the fire in my town, some people camped where they could. If they had a summer cabin, they stayed there. If not, some of them stayed in tents." The image of the tent as motif for transience resonates also as metaphor for the materiality and function of painting – both are suspended fabric structures that isolate visual fields from the rest of the world, wherein "sounds were muffled and light was softened..." Tents, like paintings, convey choices and constructions of subjective worlds, or homes.

    Draney's painterly style of poised discretion, casts a spotlight upon each painted action or decision on an otherwise motionless stage. Grassy foregrounds drop off into raw canvas like the reaches of a flat earth. Lines are permeable or wavering and moments of contrast serve to barely shape the weightless surfaces of softened figures. The sometimes tentative, other times certain, performance of painting here isn't about making objects but about creating memories, fastening them down into form. The images appear thin and temporal, yet supportive. Evoking histories of trauma, natural disaster, and migrant living as well as community and unbreakable human bonds, these paintings locate the redemptive qualities of imagination and subjective memory formation within the survivalist mode of precarity.

    Art Gallery of Alberta:
    Brenda Draney: Suspend continues until March 9.

    Andrea Williamson is a Calgary-based writer and artist. Her reviews have appeared in C magazine, Swerve, Color magazine, esse arts and opinion and FFWD. In January 2013 she initiated a critical theory reading group that meets monthly in a collective attempt to approach academic texts in peripheral and humble ways. She can be followed on Twitter @andreawillsamin

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    My year began at Gallery 101 with a screening of a video by Elise Rasmussen that was so new the credits read 2014. Variations documents a series of actors' improvisations based on the artist Carl Andre's contradictory statements regarding the events the night in 1985 when he and his wife, the artist  Ana Mendieta, argued in their 34th floor apartment and her dead body was later found 33 floors below it. Andre was charged with her murder and then acquitted. Including the actors' and audience members' questions and responses to three scenarios that tested whether a murder, suicide or accident took place, the video was like a combination of an episode of Law and Order with the Theatre of the Oppressed. It raised more questions than it answered.

    Elise Rasmussen, Variations, 2013, production still

    It was presented as part of the opening of Finding Ana, curated by Gallery 101's Director Laura Margita. The exhibition comprises a recent body of fascinating research-based work by the Edmonton-born but New York-based Rasmussen that began with earlier performances exploring the death of the Cuban-American artist and culminated in a trip to Cuba to see if the site-specific installations she had carved in the porous rock of the caves of Jaruco Park in 1981 still existed. These ephemeral Rupestrian Sculptures, which were to be seen only as photographs, were based on Goddess figures taken from indigenous religious beliefs that Mendieta was researching at the time.

    One side of the gallery features lush photographs by Rasmussen of the caves that provided the ritualistic significance and inspiration for Mendieta. One work, They Believe there is a Place Where the Dead Go, is printed on a hinged screen that makes it appear to float like an apparition, suggesting that belief is integral to what the viewer discerns in this suite of images (as well as the video). The other side of the gallery provides photographic evidence of the Rupestrian Sculptures' remains. Acting as a mediator between these two sides was a low vitrine containing "didactic material": two reference books opened to pages that showed reproductions of some of the original images taken by Mendieta of her carvings. The viewer can engage in some fun detective work by comparing and contrasting the original images from the site with how it appears over three decades later. In Guanaroca, for example, the silhouette of the First Woman has become vague and apparently grown over with moss and mold, while a carved crack that once delineated her vulva has spread through the length of the surface area and sprouted vegetation. The exhibition demonstrates a commitment to perpetuating the legacy of Mendieta's art practice, and is a testament to the continuing relevance of radical interdisciplinary work, but it is also a sad remembrance of the continued need to address the issue of violence against women.

    The opening was also an occasion to celebrate the announcement that Gallery 101 would be moving to a new ground level location in Chinatown after this exhibition closes, and sparkling wine was distributed to attendees. Margita noted the unfortunate coincidence that Andre and Mendieta had been drinking champagne on the night of her death. We raised a glass to Rasmussen and the Gallery 101 staff for a job well done, and spilled a little on the floor in memory of Mendieta.

    Gallery 101:
    Elise Rasmussen: Finding Ana continues until February 8.

    Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator who lives in Ottawa. His writing on art and culture has appeared in Border Crossings, BlackFlash, and C Magazine, among other publications. He is Akimblog's Ottawa correspondent and can be followed on Twitter @MichaelDavidge.

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    I'm in the midst of writing an eight thousand-word document and my ability to string together a cogent series of sentences is reaching its breaking point, but the inspiration provided by a couple nearby exhibitions has given me the strength to go on. While they are very different on the surface – one a bunch of still life photographs, the other documentation of body-processing performances – there's something about their attention to the material results of labour that makes them a pretty pair.

    Chris Curreri, Untitled (Clay Portfolio), 2013, gelatin silver print

    Chris Curreri's photographs – mostly small, a couple big – and one prominent concrete sculpture at Daniel Faria might seem like a no-brainer when you first read the specs ("artist takes clay workshop at Gardiner Museum and photographs the detritus of each class"), but, when you makes your way through the portfolio edition that lines the walls, it ends up reading like a checklist of contemporary art highlights from the past half century. Abstraction? Yes, in the molten swirls of clay pressed and dropped into all-over piles of shape and line. Appropriation? Yes, in the remnants of Curreri's classmates' work resisting their return to gooey shapelessness. Found art? Sure, though I guess all documentary photography could be called found art, though this feels more happenstance (in a good way) that most. Body art? Yes, certainly aided and abetted by his decision to print these in silvery grey and white so the soft, smooth texture of the worked-over clay is easily mistaken for twists of flesh, distended nipples, or exposed organs. Abjection? Yup, in the final stages of the shift to formlessness, Curreri catches the last gasp of artistic independence before it returns to the indistinguishable mass. Who would have thunk a lump of leftovers might evoke so much? The same game of "What exactly is it I'm seeing here?" can be played with the trio of cave interiors in the back gallery. Having enjoyed all that, the faceless concrete bust that sits out front seems less like a centerpiece and more like an afterthought.

    Robert Waters, Processing the Essence of Human Life (Water from Lourdes Transformed into Sweat While Reading French Philosophy), 2012, water from Lourdes transformed into sweat while reading Pierre Bourdieu, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, & Jacques Rancière, souvenir glass bottles from Lourdes, souvenir plastic virgin bottle from Lourdes

    A different kind of game – this one called "Haven't I seen this before?"– came to mind as I made my way through Robert Waters' exhibition at PM Gallery, but I could never put my finger on what was familiar. His use of his own body as a machine for producing the bodily fluids that make up his medium remind me of labour intensive performance practices from a couple decades ago (Janine Antoni, perhaps), but less political and more playful. I'm not so keen on the simple manifestation of sweat patterns on t-shirts (I can go to the gym to see that), but when he incorporates his production of the stuff to a exercise involving holy water, and doubles up his labour by including readings from braniac philosophers, he touches a nerve in me that dredges up my repressed memories of grad school and too many days spent slogging through Of Grammatology. I can laugh about it now, but the "no pain, no gain" mantra seemed equally applicable in the gym and the classroom at the time. Visually, the work is no great shakes, but as a call to reflect on the ongoing production of our very own flesh, the games Waters' plays are definitely sticking with me.

    Daniel Faria Gallery:
    Chris Curreri: Medusa continues until February 1.

    PM Gallery:
    Robert Waters: The Essence of Human Life continues until January 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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