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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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    Who likes a party? Well, maybe that depends on what kind of party! For Megan Morman and her current solo show at Stride, Art Party is a fun and rich platform from which to launch myriad forms of partaking and partying. She makes both a departure from convention yet also creates a new one. Taking Perler Beads – coloured plastic beads that you can arrange on pegboards into patterns and then fuse together with an iron – Morman has created a crowd of life-size characters from the art world. Beyond this circle of acquaintance are cats whose names (like the depicted artists) are acknowledged in the titles, all of which are consolidated in the installation by an array of beaded handkerchiefs or bandanas.



    Megan Morman

    At a real party it's often the conversation and carousing that shapes meaning and new memories, and there was plenty of that at the opening, including discussion of Lucas Crawfords's lucid and informative essay. And of course, as can make for excitement, there's also the suggestion of an assignation or tryst. Thematically here we find coded narratives within the patterns of the kerchiefs reflective of sexual preferences within queer culture and quite likely beyond. Could this means of unspoken conversation, I wonder, be the origins of hanky panky?

    From here, I can't help but wonder about other desired connotations that flow from these materials. Apart from the more obvious connection between pearls and beads, such as pearl necklace, the practice of pearling also comes to mind. But as I don't actually know all the "hanky codes", I'll leave it for gallery-goers and readers to make the next move.

    In conclusion, there's one more move afoot to share: the welcoming of Andrea Williamson as the new Akimbo Calgary correspondent. My five years of reviewing the Calgary art scene has been a party I feel privileged to have attended. And as with Megan's compelling show, there's always new ways to put the art in party.


    Stride Gallery: http://www.stride.ab.ca/main.html
    Megan Morman: Art Party continues until January 30.


    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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    Maryse Larivière's solo exhibition B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth is already ending its brief run at Artlab Gallery early this week, but is soon to resurface at Galerie Maguire in Montreal during the last week of January. A temporary island within Larivière's larger practice, B.I.B.L.E. is a collection of found gestures, spare parts, chance meetings, and shrine-like assemblages that simultaneously resists the idea of a linear impetus and invites further accumulation beyond the life-span of its exhibition.



    Maryse Larivière

    Placed in the very middle of the gallery's large, boxy space, the installation is minimal: an empty stage lit only by two small clusters of lights in otherwise complete darkness. A small cast of silent actors are grouped, hung, piled, and propped upon a patchwork carpet of whipped pink, cheap silver, and metallic green amidst a family of dots and stripes. A chair is fitted with extra half-lengths of leg. Lamp-like cylindrical blocks of wood are strung like macramé. A tower of fingery shapes is topped by a balancing sausage curve. A decorative swan leans into the path of a glowing corner like a plant towards the sun. A tube of light hangs from a hanger in the shape of a cross. Anchoring and emerging from the quilted floor, these and other materials offer an alternate, mobile composition that gestures towards actions made in the studio as well as those to be made in the future.

    An accompanying spiral-bound book of drawings, collages and text – meant as a smirking reference to the kind of cheaply-made guides provided by sprawling museum exhibitions – can be consulted for glimpses into the surrounding context of B.I.B.L.E. The exhibition's title is vaguely post-apocalyptic and easily linked to Rapture lore or the dry humor of iconic sci-fi scenarios such as Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, but such references are fleeting and restless. Next to sparse, note-like drawings of various objects from B.I.B.L.E. are short lists of events and sightings from dreams, such as a tooth which is "triangular" and "a bit dirty", or a space once inhabited and now on its "side facing away". Images of parrots with blissful stares and chuckling smiles populate the pages like stand-ins for a nameless "passenger" of a dream of the installation itself. These words, drawings, and images briefly come together as a way to think through the work from several different angles, in turn asking visitors to shift, remove, and add their own associations to a space they might occupy intimately for a brief time.


    Artlab Gallery: http://www.uwo.ca/visarts/news/2014/mlarivirebible.html
    Maryse Larivière: B.I.B.L.E.: Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth continues until January 21.


    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer currently living in London, Ontario. Her paintings have shown widely in Alberta, and she exhibited in The Room And Its Inhabitants at Susan Hobbs Gallery, organized by Patrick Howlett. She has contributed writing most recently to Susan Hobbs Gallery, Cooper Cole Gallery, and Forest City Gallery. She is Akimbo's London correspondent and can be followed @KimNeudorf on Twitter.


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    I saw one of the best works of the year this weekend. I admit it's a bit early, at only three weeks into 2014, but I won't be surprised if Ahmet Ögüt's semi-self-explanatory This area is under 23 hour video and audio surveillance is still in my top five come mid-December. When deployed properly, this seemingly simple warning sign does two things I find irresistible: first, it appropriates the everyday as its canvas (not unlike Janet Cardiff's audio walks); second, it turns the artist's authority over to the viewer (both aesthetically and politically). Plus it accomplishes this in such a direct way, I can only slap my forehead in recognition and say, "Yes! Of course!"



    Ahmet Ögüt, This area is under 23 hour video and audio surveillance, 2009, aluminum plate

    In brief: to stumble upon this sign in a place such signs are commonly found is to immediately become self-conscious of the pervasive surveillance in our world. The missing hour shakes us to attention and then has us realize the impossibility of anyone ever perceiving all that pervasive monitoring. Inevitably, there are gaps. We are on camera, but we aren't being watched. Students of Foucault will point out that such panoptic scenarios lead us to survey ourselves and that's the sad part of the story. The happy part is that gap – whenever it occurs and, truth be told, we never know – is also the hour in which we are free to exercise our liberty. This is the gift of the artist and the space in which the artist works. And since we don't know when that gap occurs, we might as well treat every hour of the day as a potential period of liberation.

    Such gaps in the machine are where Turkish artist conducts his practice. The documents of his incisions into the world are on display at the Blackwood Gallery. They demand a sympathetic reading as they are really remnants of the real art that took place elsewhere. The trouble with displaying this kind of work within an institution is that it's first of all anti-institutional (or, at least, it questions such frames) and secondly, it feels a bit like a magician explaining his tricks. I'd rather be a participant than an observer, but I'll have to make do with the lessons learned.



    Adam David Brown, LIFE, 2014, Pink Pearl eraser

    My favourite part of Adam David Brown's exhibition at MKG127 is on the floor. Gathered at the edge of the wall at the foot of his text piece LIFE, a drift of pink powder anchors the work (the title has been written in big block letters with an eraser and the evidence of that labour is found in the pile) while also extending the metaphor that much farther (so it's not just the brain-teaser of writing with an eraser, it's also the physical reality of mark-making as a temporary but doomed assault on mortality [you know, ashes to ashes and pink dust to pink dust].

    Where Ögüt goes political, Brown goes metaphysical. The Toronto artist likes to leap from quotidian materials into the stratosphere and beyond, linking layered paper cutouts to astronomical maps and smoke on paper to the passing of time. Another work on the latter subject – an ingeniously stopped clock – had me laugh out loud, which, when we're dealing with the fundamental dimensions of reality itself, is an accomplishment indeed.


    Blackwood Gallery: http://blackwoodgallery.ca/Blackwood_intro.html
    Ahmet Ögüt: Strategies for Radical Democracy continues until March 2.

    MKG127: http://www.mkg127.com/index.html
    Adam David Brown: For the Time Being continues until February 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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    I am not a big fan of winter and the white-out conditions of this past weekend were bringing me down, so the promise of colour made by jpegs on the Jessica Bradley Gallery website had me hopping into the Subaru and heading north west. All I was in search of was some ocular pleasure so a straight-up painting on canvas exhibition suited me fine. Given the character of the associated artists in Bradley's stable, I was also expecting some sort of conceptual kick in addition to the traditional aesthetics; I didn't find it in the end, but there was still plenty to engage my eye.



    Ben Reeves, Nocturne, 2013, oil on canvas over panel

    Vancouver painter Ben Reeves' new work is mining similar territory as fellow Canadians Mara Korkola and Monica Tap in that they are all depicting the nation's natural landscape (predominantly trees) in a neuvo-impressionistic manner that emphasizes light and abstraction in the noise of leaves and branches. Reeves' particular take on this technique is to play with the illusion of depth by combining light washes with thick and gooey built-up details that are often created with pigment squeezed directly from the tube. He achieves a balance between these extremes while also incorporating a surprising range of colour in spring-summer scenes of urban parks that had me forgetting the bitter monochrome outside. Each canvas aspires to the desired effect of drawing the viewer into the dialectic space of painting versus picture. I found myself hocketing from one to the other: first seeing the park bench, the path, the playground, and then retracting my gaze to the gunk pushed around the surface before slipping back into the image, then again returning to consider how it was that a jumble of colourful shapes could cohere into a recognizable – though largely empty - scene. While that's all fun and games, it was only one work, the relatively subdued Nocturne (not surprisingly depicting a time of softer light) that resolved my wrestling match with the picture plane and sustained my gaze.



    Pierre Durette, Contingent 2.8, 2013, porcelain

    Since I was in the neighbourhood, I next made my way to Division Gallery to see a new exhibition they are hosting alongside their ongoing Nicholas Baier show. Put together by Art Mûr in Montreal, Porcelain: Breaking Tradition is a collection of contemporary Canadian artists that should cause any forward-thinking curator to slap their forehead and exclaim, "Why didn't I think of that?" It's a remarkably compact show that could have gone bigger (Shary Boyle, anyone?) but as it is has everything from photography and video to sound art and kinetic works in addition to the obvious inclusion of sculptures. Pierre Durette's chaotic bundles of mutant figurines are among the purists who stick simply to porcelain, but the crazy array of source imagery makes them far from your standard shepherdess in a dress knick-knack. Amongst old guards like Stephen Schofield and Colleen Wolstenholme are a bunch of newer names like Nicholas Galanin, Clint Neufeld, Brendan Tang, and David R. Harper who are increasingly defining the current generation of artists accomplishing things worth paying attention to. This exhibition provides a handy opportunity to catch up with them.


    Jessica Bradley Gallery: http://jessicabradleyinc.com/
    Ben Reeves continues until February 15.

    Division Gallery: http://www.galeriedivision.com/
    Porcelain: Breaking Tradition continues until February 15.


    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 like things. Stuff. Matter. So I naturally hearken toward the sculptural, which, in my world, absolutely includes clay. That inevitably leads to the form that continues to dominate ceramic discourse: the vessel. However, the vessel is by no means something with which only ceramists concern themselves, and that's what took me over to the Colborne Art Gallery to have a gander at their new group exhibition entitled – what else – Vessels.



    Judith Kreps Hawkins, Ovum

    I was drawn right away to the ceramic/sculptural stuff here like Susan McDonald's Naked Vessels, a trio of small unfired vases made functionally unemployable courtesy their literally cheeky bottoms, softly rounded and subtly cleft by, well, butt cracks. Or Terrie McDonald's On the Ganges and Varanasi, two oblong, broadly shallow earthenware bowls with a resemblance to small boats, the interiors of which are brightly glazed and simply decorated with images of flowers, the exterior "hulls" roughly scored, darkly coloured, and visually unadorned.

    But enough about clay. Barbara Buntin's wee, delicate boat For Kathy, constructed of small twigs and woven papier-mâché, cradles an equally delicate just-blooming flower on its aesthetic voyage. Looking at it, I can't help but recall ceramist Matthias Ostermann's series of funerary clay boats he made just before his death.

    Okay, seriously, I mean it this time. No more clay. How about bones and glass instead? Judith Kreps Hawkins' Ovum makes for an interesting take on assemblage with a small glass goblet encased – gripped? – by a delicate skeletal framework of fish and bird bones that is disturbingly predatory.



    Bill Horbostel, Boat Hulls

    That's a few of the things, here. I'll end, though, with an image: Bill Horbostel's Boat Hulls, a work at first glance I thought was a small painting but turned out to be a photograph. Horizontal striations of intense colour held down by a border of decaying bits of red (which turns out to be a close-up shot of the titular hulls) that renders the image decidedly abstract. You have to really work for the representational, which is just fine by me.


    Colborne Art Gallery: http://www.thecolborneartgalleryca/
    Vessels continues until March 2.


    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.


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  • 01/28/14--05:12: Paul Wong at Windsor Gallery
  • One of Canada's original new media artists, Paul Wong continues to produce an astonishing amount of work forty years into his career. The accessibility of video in the 1970s made him an early champion of user-generated content, and it would now seem that the 21st Century has caught up to his vision of a world proliferated by self-representing media. His current solo exhibition at Winsor Gallery– a commercial gallery that has joined the Great Northern Way expansion of local art spaces – demonstrates his ongoing dedication to the ever-expanding medium of media art. By traversing social media tropes and collectively culled representations, these new works align with the artist's lifelong approach to image making.



    Paul Wong, Solstice

    #paulwong2014 includes 2013's Looking, Looping & Listening, a wall-to-wall installation of forty ten by twelve inch screens dominating the darkened exhibition space. Each screen flickers a glowing series of different animated GIFs (a one or two second moving image file on perpetual loop). The content varies from selfies to abstraction, blurring the shapes and patterns of capture and existence. As individual screens are placed in close proximity to each other, it is nearly impossible to focus for long on any single screen. Taking a step back, it becomes clear that the multitude of content viewed as a whole is meant to captivate our full attention.

    Facing this work is Solstice: twenty-four hours time lapsed into a twenty-four-minute wall projection of an alleyway behind the Carnegie Community Centre in Vancouver's Downtown East Side. Bodies, garbage trucks, and buses pass by; sometimes people sit and lie down in this bustling urban zone. It demands your attention in a way that Looking, Looping & Listening cannot. Positioned more in the role of surveillance than expression, Solstice reflects a perpetual cycle of looking and looping, this time of social neglect that exists face to face with our seemingly self-obsessed rabbit holes of online presence.

    Along with numerous other works, including new and old neon pieces with his signature and the hash tag appearing as white halos, Wong continues to navigate the sources of how information is generated, consumed, produced, and shared by the populace.


    Winsor Gallery: http://www.winsorgallery.com/exhibits.php?event=wong14&page=1
    Paul Wong: #PAULWONG14 continues until February 15.


    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 POSTpacificPOST.com and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.


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    Nothing so obvious as medium or subject matter unites the three artists in [becoming] The Logic of Memory at Hamilton Artists Inc. Surrendering these shorthand connections works in the artists' favour by loosely stringing nebulous themes together like keepsakes made precious by the separate stories they bear. This, along with the rare decision to give this show full reign of the Inc.'s two galleries, creates an expansive space for this show's wistful, nomadic heart to beat its path from daylight to darkness.



    Peter Horvath, Memoir (video still), 2009, 16 minute, 2 channel video installation

    Anna Torma occupies one of these two spaces on her own with a penetrating brightness that invites the eye to uncover branching arteries and faded photographs beneath intricate layers of quilting and embroidery. Intensely worked yet intimately touched, these tapestries enshrine a history of central European immigration that finds its echo in the cinematic midnight of Peter Horvath's Memoir. Like Torma, Horvath draws on archival imagery to tell his split-screen filmic tale of the separation of his mother from her dance career in the wake of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution and a young woman's own tenuous hold on dance as a marker of personal pride, similarly sundered by violence of a subtler sort.

    Literally situated between these two, Corinne Duchesne's towering drawings offer an uncertain dusk, removed from recognizable history but throbbing with the same aching loss. Her monumental figures avert their bestial heads in a constant act of denial, their leave-taking stricken by the frenetic energy of Duchesne's hand against the sleek emptiness of too-clean mylar. Alien and arresting, these lost bodies crackle in space as their own horizons, carving out that rare breed of memory that already scars the future as something rare, unforgettable.


    Hamilton Artists Inc.: http://theinc.ca/
    [becoming] The Logic of Memory continues until March 1.


    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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  • 02/04/14--17:28: Jason Baerg at Urban Shaman
  • The importance of context in contemporary art is undeniable. We have always held an interest in the artist, but never has our comprehension, and at times enjoyment, of work been more reliant on the artist's proclamation of intent. Works often take on symbolic reverence with the artists' statements supplying the legend. This is not to say that we don't enjoy interpreting the work once we receive the basic knowledge of what was happening, but in order to solve the individual "mystery" of the artworks we at least need clues.



    Jason Baerg, Nomadic Bounce

    In Returning, Cree Metis artist Jason Baerg has provided a significant amount of material for interpretation spread over three rooms at Urban Shaman. Themes of memory, place, future, and past are expressed in a variety of media. The title wall reveals the artist's bio, as well as a brief synopsis of the two bodies of work exhibited, but here is where one challenge of the exhibition arises: there are no labels. One wall is dotted with circular wooden abstracts – a beautiful installation of colour and playfulness – flanked by two large videos, also consisting of colourful circular shapes (Relations). Mounted on the opposing wall is a large-scale installation of two wolves, comprised of vibrantly coloured laser-cut canvases and secured with giant nails (Nomadic Bounce). In an adjacent room, Baerg includes a project created out of a weeklong workshop he led at Art City – an inner-city community art centre – as well as a four-panel piece that evolved out of a project with the Ndinawe Youth Resource Centre. The room is a burst of colour and creation in response to questions of what the participants imagined the world will look like in the future.

    Baerg is known for his interest in collaboration and the interaction between viewer and artist, so perhaps it is for this reason that identification was left to the staff to supply. Because of the lack of labels I was encouraged (forced?) to seek out the assistance of someone in the gallery. With her direction I was able to properly attribute works to their correct series. The show began to make sense on a deeper level. John Dewey once wrote that you could still enjoy the scent of a flower without understanding how it grows, but a far richer experience is afforded those who possess that knowledge. In this instance, I would agree.


    Urban Shaman: http://urbanshaman.org/index.php
    Jason Baerg: Returning continues until February 22.


    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 SBC Gallery exhibition Stage Set Stage: On Identity and Institutionalism, curated by Barbara Clausen, is an engaging collection of performative works that mull over how individuals interact with and are affected by the context they evolve in. Comprised of both an ongoing in-gallery exhibition and a weeklong series of events – workshops, talks, screenings, and performances (which enlivened an otherwise fairly rote Belgo building in mid-January) – Stage Set Stage also fits within SBC Gallery Director Pip Day's ongoing focus on the ideas of identity and sovereignty.



    Dorit Margreiter, Broken Sequence, 2013

    Having myself once curated a show at the SBC Gallery, I can attest to the airless limitations of the small space. This exhibition, however, manages to refreshingly activate the gallery thanks to artists Andrea Geyer and Sharon Hayes' architectural redesign that acts as a framework for the concrete exhibition. Wall works alluding to Maria Hupfield performances and the disembodied voice of Jacob Wren musing on/as "performance" (available on vinyl) work to activate the space on an imaginary plane, while the research station – filled with relevant published research and documentary material – provides the opportunity for a deeper and broader level of engagement yet again.

    Regrettably I was unable to attend some the mid-January events, but I particularly enjoyed the screenings curated by Clausen and exhibiting artist Dorit Margreiter. Presented at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, the films by Katrina Daschner, Oliver Husain, Josiah McElheny, Wu Tsang, and Margreiter herself were a fascinating extension of the show's theme as they addressed queered heterotopias – real and imagined – and the performativity associated with them. One of the highlights of the evening was the last work screened, Tsang's Wildness, which, clocking in at seventy-two minutes, I had been initially slightly wary of. It proved to be a totally engaging look at the complex relationship between cultures, classes, and generations affiliated with a Latino drag bar in Los Angeles.

    Stage Set Stage is an interesting exhibition to present at the SBC Gallery given its history. Ever since the dissolution of the Saidye Bronfman Centre and the gallery's move to a tiny independent space in the Belgo, it has struggled to regain a definitive identity. That Pip Day, since her arrival, is confronting the issues and changing permutations of identity, performance, and sovereignty as related to institutionalism, is a clever exercise in shaping a role for the SBC Gallery both curatorially and within Montreal's arts community.


    SBC Gallery: http://www.sbcgallery.ca/
    Stage Set Stage: On Identity and Institutionalism continues until February 22.


    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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    Perhaps it was paranoia on my part, but the more time I spent working my way through artist/curator Charles Stankievech's encyclopedic CounterIntelligence exhibition at the Justina M. Barnicke Gallery, the less coincidental it seemed that, on my drive over, CBC radio had been broadcasting a special on how video games surreptitiously harvest data from iPhone users. The confluence of visual culture and intelligence communities turns out to have a much longer history than our immediate present and this gathering of evidence in the form of artworks, documents, artifacts, ephemera, and architecture reveals how often our looking is cover for an entirely other kind of watching



    Amir Yatziv, The Inflatables #1, 2009, C-print

    Amongst the nearly one hundred items gathered here are some obvious artists who've already staked a claim in this territory (Harun Farocki, Mark Lombardi), some unlikely candidates for inclusion (Peter Paul Rubens, Gordon Matta-Clark), and a whole bunch of pieces to a puzzle that goes from 18th Century plein air painting to Wikileaks and Edward Snowden. The mastermind behind this grand conspiracy contributes his own visual clue with a redacted postcard from his time in the Canadian Forces Artist Program, but Stankievech's hand is most present in the curatorial theorizing that links Abstract Expressionism and the Cold War to Post-Structural Theory in the Middle East through extensive didactic notes and a dense accompanying text. This connect-the-dots analysis owes a lot to paranoid writers like Thomas Pynchon and William S. Burroughs (both also name-checked in the exhibition) who turned the last century into a game of endless interpretation with the former disappearing into the shadow world while the latter explicitly outlined his resistance to forms of control. The one irony in this peek into the underworld of military surveillance is that the curator resists relinquishing a master narrative with his ever-present commentary. Some of the delight and free agency in discovery is lost if you spend too much time reading and not enough looking, so I recommend visitors first make their way through the exhibition without reference to the text, leaving themselves open to their own conclusions about what links Amir Yatziv's photos of decoy rocket launchers to Arthur Erickson's models for the Canadian embassy in Washington, before immersing themselves in Stankievech's expert testimony.



    Marie De Sousa, Depends, 2010, adult diapers, thread, rivets, laces on metal hook

    Hard Twist, the Gladstone Hotel's annual exhibition of textile and fibre arts, weaves a non-metaphorical web from a variety of materials including dress shirts, adult diapers, jute, and twine. The layout is always a bit of an oddity to navigate – it being a hotel and all, plus I had to work my way through a photo shoot during my visit – but the surprises around each turn make the experience worthwhile. The twists in this collection are both literal – just follow former Akimblogger Deborah Margo's knitted wool mega-scarves as they wind their way down the hall – and figurative – as the messages embroidered in Miriam Grenville's Confiscation Garments suggest. I tend to gravitate to the more clearly representational work such as Amy Bagshaw's bound journals, Philip Hare's terrorist quilt, and Maria De Sousa's funny/sad boxing gloves made from the aforesaid protective undergarments. Each one alludes to a possible story just waiting to be told. There are plenty of other threads to follow over these two floors, just make sure you also stop in one level down to view Wedge Curatorial Projects new exhibition with its focus on Jon Blak's photographs of Toronto's Caribbean community. The installation plus documentary on grocery stores is a great slice of life from our far-flung metropolis.


    Justina M. Barnicke Gallery: http://www.jmbgallery.ca/index.html
    CounterIntelligence continues until March 16.

    Gladstone Hotel: http://www.gladstonehotel.com/spaces/hard-twist/
    Hard Twist: This is Personal continues until April 27.


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


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    Currently on view at Patrick Mikhail Gallery, Primer serves as a refresher course in the work of four Ottawa artists, each exploring the elementary concerns of painting in distinct but converging ways. The show presents new work, pointing in new directions, and announces new projects to come. The artists each have a distinctive visual language of their own, but the show is cohesive and the works have a lot to say to each other through their depth and complexity. Primer, the first coat of paint on any surface, reveals the multi-layered nature of all the work in the exhibition and throws into relief the notion that painting is flat.



    Amy Schissel, Alto Terra 3, 2014, plaster, acrylic, ink, graphite, paper on wood

    Andrew Smith's Passing Through makes for a striking entrance. A skein of pastel pink, aquamarine and black lines map a 5.5' x 7' canvas. Its relatively muted palette is riotous in comparison with adjacent works by Amy Schissel and Natasha Mazurka in shades of grey, but the complicated image is actually achieved with a very light application of paint: expanses appear to be primed canvas alone. The scale demands that the painting be navigated with the body as well as the eye.

    Schissel's recent works continue the landscape tradition in the age of geocaching and WikiLeaks. The examples on display here can only suggest the ambitious immersive environments reportedly to come, but even at a small scale and mostly black and white they contain a wealth of information for data-mining. Her Alto Terra compositions of plaster, acrylic, ink, graphite, and paper on wood reward close attention with detail and incidental colour, numbers, charts, bits of graph and tracing paper, evoking a psychosocial topology as an overlay to the topography described.

    Mazurka is the biggest surprise: known for her paintings with trompe l'oeil effects, she presents here a series of embossed drawings on layers of parchment paper in little shadow box frames. Entitled Phylogenic Index, this series of finely detailed cellular structures has tricks of its own and appears to glow from within. The scale of the show is taken to the molecular level and the working definition of "primer" is expanded to include a strand of nucleic acid essential for DNA synthesis.

    In the back room, a row of new, small paintings by Colin Muir Dorward also contains the stuff of life. A number show a compost heap in advantageous light, not only depicting a landscape in microcosm, but also celebrating the organic, elemental origins of painting itself. In contrast to Smith, Dorward piles on the paint in gobs of earthy ochre, brown and green. Another work is a study from a new series of paintings focussing on found objects and trash that will be shown by Patrick Mikhail Gallery at a new space in Montreal in October. It looks like a cross between a cityscape and a painter's palette. With the new space opening in April, I hope that the Ottawa location will continue to show exhibitions as excellent as this one beyond a transitional period.


    Patrick Mikhail Gallery: http://www.patrickmikhailgallery.com/
    Primer continues until March 1.


    Michael Davidge is an artist, writer, and independent curator who lives in Ottawa, Ontario. 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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    Ecologist and post-humanist Timothy Morton untangles the asymmetry wherein we conceive of ourselves as something other than human. Through coming into contact with what he calls "hyperobjects"– things that occupy vast amounts of space and time such as global warming, solar systems or capitalism – we speculate a reality that we are implicated in but that far exceeds us. Our thoughts occupied more frequently with ecological disaster than with human ingenuity, we identify as agents within a much greater playing field. As Morton says, "my intimate impressions... are footprints of hyperobjects..."



    Peter von Tiesenhausen, I'm living my life in ever widening rings, 1990-2014 (photo: John Dean)

    This last quote describes the work, philosophy and process of artist Peter von Tiesenhausen who is currently showing sculpture and video works at the Esker Foundation under the title Experience of the Precisely Sublime. His assembled objects and relief works – which hover "precisely" between nature and culture, seemingly denying such a separation – recede from themselves as art objects, like quiet, undemanding yet substantial beings. He arrests the space of the gallery from its purely "cultural" potential, as he did when copyrighting his land to halt resource development. Instead he recovers a sticky, tar-like relatedness of the human imagination to its environmental counterparts – wood, wire, metal, MDF, and clay – his "footprints" upon them.

    Where many artists represent an airy and whimsical object-oriented ontology, Von Tiesenhausen pushes the materials to communicate their – and our – implication in weightier geological events if not disasters such as oil exploitation, the pine-beetle outbreak and the poisoning of the anthropocene.

    Looking for the place of the human agent in all this, he quotes R.M. Rilke on a placard next to his piece I'm living my life in ever widening rings. Translated from the German, it reads, "I circle around God, that primordial tower. I have been circling for thousands of years, and I still don't know: am I a falcon, a storm, or a great song?"


    Esker Foundation: http://eskerfoundation.com/
    Peter von Tiesenhausen: Experience of the Precisely Sublime continues until May 4.


    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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    If the life of an art critic can be said to be a series of disappointments (for why else would we go on?), then one of my more recent disappointments was searching out images from Tricia Middleton's fall 2012 solo exhibition at Oakville Galleries and realizing what a doofus I was for not going to see it while it was up. What on earth could have kept me from this all-immersive phantasm of melting wax in wondrous pastels? I know I would have loved it. (I'll blame my unreliable car.) However, with that personal and professional tragedy behind me, pushing me ever forward, I giddily (and I hardly ever get giddy) made my way down to the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art mere days after the opening of Misled By Nature, hoping to catch some of the Middleton magic in the flesh (so to speak).



    Tricia Middleton, Embracing oblivion and ruin is the only way to live now, 2012, mixed media installation

    I was not disappointed. The main room at the MOCCA contains as powerful a 1-2-3-punch as you're going to find in the city this season. Middleton's sparkly, shiny hutch is both literally immersive (in that you can walk through it) and finely detailed (in that there is a wealth of tiny oddities found amongst the cracks and detritus). Passing through it, you find yourself on a mirrored floor that reveals the undergarments of Lee Bul's suspended junk jewelry gown-slash-cloud city. Passing through that, you have to deal with the mammoth surreal nature diorama that is David Altmejd's The Holes. It is here that I begin to wonder whether I'm just a sucker for spectacle (probably) and the size of these works is a gimmick to trick me into believing there is more here than I think. I remember dismissing bands in my music critic days because they had no songs underneath all the orchestration and percussion and sound effects and guitar armies. Then again, no one ever attempts a rousing version of Bohemian Rhapsody at a campfire sing-along and it's still an awesome song. The first three artists in Misled by Nature are equally worthy of awe and my intuition is that they can maintain it. Unfortunately, the other three artists, sequestered in the side gallery, don't fare so well. If only the MOCCA had included the Sarah Sze piece that was part of the show when it appeared at the Art Gallery of Alberta. That would have sealed the deal.



    Stan Denniston, Flensing Scene, 2012, mixed media

    As far as I know, Stan Denniston is not a First Nations artist. The reason I wonder is his current exhibition at Olga Korper Gallery is a collection of stone sculptures in the manner of Inuit artists. Being, as I am, a student from the 1980s, my immediate response is to raise the flag of identity politics and start formulating questions around appropriation of voice. However, before I can go much farther down the path toward investigating authenticity, I realize the artist has made my rhetorical maneuvers moot by crafting the most inauthentic representations of Northern life possible: a seal hunter splayed on a computer keyboard, a camera mid-flense, a walrus modeled alongside electrical plugs, and a bird with a silicon-chipboard wing. Perhaps this is an account of modern (as in the present) life way up there, not unlike the Annie Pootoogook's depictions of consumerism among the residents of Cape Dorset. More likely, given the title Curation Myth, it's a play on the projections and expectation of collectors and museum goers down here who look for a way of life in these artful renderings that isn't preserved under glass but pierced by technology much in the same way that narwhals wend their way through Denniston's cell phone-footed polar bear. There can be no authenticity in impurity, so it might be time to give up on both ideals.


    Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art: https://www.mocca.ca/
    Misled by Nature: Contemporary Art and the Baroque continues until April 6.

    Olga Korper Gallery: http://olgakorpergallery.com/
    Stan Denniston: Curation Myth continues until February 25.


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


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    Through the spring, summer, and fall, the music of the large, shallow body of water that is Lake Nipissing on the city of North Bay's western shores is unmistakable and unceasing: a loud hiss of water moving in response to wind that, if you listen carefully and hard, is actually quite aurally complex. And, of course, very beautiful. In the winter, though, it's another thing. The music of the movement of water is temporarily stilled by its crystallization into a thick mantle of ice. So how do you make a frozen lake sing? Well, you ask Gordon Monahan to have a go at it. He's the featured artist in the 2014 incarnation of Ice Follies, a biennial exhibition held out on the frozen, windswept surface of Lake Nipissing.



    Gordon Monahan, Piano on Frozen Lake Nipissing, 2014, mixed media

    "Windswept" is important, for Monahan's installation, Piano on Frozen Lake Nipissing, has a crucial Aeolian component, dependent on the ceaseless movement of air across icy expanse to create music. Atop a wooden platform raised a metre or so above the snow and ice of the lake, Monahan has set the signature of his installation work: a battered old upright piano. Some many metres away sits a tiny old camper trailer. The long piano wires that run between the two – between the piano's soundboard and the trailer terminus – are of aesthetic consequence, for they respond both to the wind that blows across them (that Aeolian thing) as well as the vibrating coils attached to the trailer end that feed Monahan's deconstructed recordings of piano works by Chopin and Henry Cowell into them.

    From a distance you can't see the wires spanning the traverse between piano platform and trailer, but you can hear them: they produce a long, sustained drone. Up close, with the piano wires visually evident and with some careful listening, what at first seems sonically singular is in fact myriad. The ear is a discerning device, given the chance, and the seemingly monolithic wall of sound can be aurally untangled into its component threads. It's a complex amalgam dominated by the aleatoric, wind-driven music of the lake subtly underscored by what is recognizably artefactual: the compositional stuff.

    This is how you get a lake to sing again.


    Ice Follies: http://icefollies.ca/
    Ice Follies 2014 continues until March 5.


    Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.


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    Mike Nelson is one of the more writerly artists working in the big leagues these days. His immersive installations set the stage for possible narratives that weave back and forth from reality to imagination and back again. The key characters are absent, so making your way through one of his scenarios is like navigating a depopulated history painting of the last five minutes. He's also essentially an appropriation artist, building his work out of found material that had a previous life in the world (the world world, not the art world). His materials retain the aura of their former life despite being trapped in the sealed confines of the gallery, so you can't lose that feeling of elsewhere, but without any natural inhabitants to guide you, it's easy to get lost.



    Mike Nelson, Quiver of Arrows, 2010, mixed media

    The Power Plant is currently exhibiting four of Nelson's creations. The biggest is a circled quartet of campers that leads you through the recently abandoned living quarters of some late 20th Century nomads, be they survivalists, immigrants, terrorists, or tourists. I was lucky enough to visit on a slow day and made my way through the dim quarters on my lonesome (the installation has a capacity of five, so expect lines if you go on the weekend). Atmosphere is Nelson's forte and he creates some here, but to what end? The challenge is to find the forest among the trees; that is, to figure out how the detritus adds up. There are patterns and echoes among the refrigerator magnets and cassette tapes strewn throughout, and hints as to who belongs to what quadrant and where they are headed, but I leave wondering if it's enough for a work of art to be a puzzle to be solved.

    I'm less consterned in the next room where I find a bounty of animistic totems created from beach crap scavenged off the BC coast when Nelson worked on the first iteration of this exhibition at Vancouver's Contemporary Art Gallery. His humour and imagination are in full bloom here, along with the tinge of post-apocalyptic dread that cloaks his art of remnants. An actual death – of a friend and fellow outdoorsman – is the subject of a third work: a wall-sized repository of belongings that serves as an archive of a life well travelled. The final work relies on reproductions (literally Xeroxes) rather than actual objects, so it pales in comparison to the really real things that power the best of this collection.



    Robert Burley, Darkroom, Building 3, Kodak Canada, Toronto, 2005, Chromogenic Print

    Reality and artifice meet their maker in Robert Burley's documentation of the final days of photographic film factories around the world in the shadow of ever-popular digital cameras. There is an in-built mystery to these light-locked buildings and an obvious metonymic connection to all the memories, news reports, art works, and documents that were created out of what was created here. Whether intentional or not, many of these photographs resemble works by contemporary photo-based artists who have contributed to how we see the world. I see Stan Douglas in the locations in transition, Lynn Cohen in the creepy institutional interiors, and Thomas Demand in the self-referential spaces. Burley – an Associate Professor at the School of Image Arts at Ryerson University – even acknowledges his own complicity in this historic shift with a picture of the old photos studios that were hidden away where the Ryerson Image Centre now sits. Walls have become glass and, as the exhibition titles suggests, The Disappearance of Darkness now defines our visual culture.


    The Power Plant: http://www.thepowerplant.org/
    Mike Nelson: Amnesiac Hide continues until May 19.

    Ryerson Image Centre: http://www.ryerson.ca/ric/
    Robert Burley: The Disappearance of Darkness continues until April 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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    Contemporary forms of surveillance continue to bleed into our mundane actions and reactions in the form of internalized and external forms of presence and awareness. How does art and design, in the form of urban iterations, respond to the notion of social surveillance? No Linguistic Content on view at 221A attempts to address this question through new works by Antonia Hirsch, Gabriel Mindel-Saloman, and Luke Munn. Spanning Vancouver and Berlin, these three artists hold practices that range greatly in their approach to understanding power and systems, but are all rooted here in their gesture toward the ephemeral.



    Antonia Hirsch, Intravert, 2014 (photo: Dennis Ha)

    Featuring everything from balloons to bunting, the exhibition on paper has a heavy heart, but in its lived space, is anything but. Facing the street is the mirrored storefront window space by Antonia Hirsch. Intravert is simply an application of a mirrored surface often used by store keepers to shield interior spaces while still letting in natural light. With the connotation of also being a window dressing for socially undesirable businesses, its use for an artist run centre in Chinatown is both natural and amusing.

    Once inside the gallery, Intravert becomes a spatial intervention, partly demarcating the space through two angular lines, but also remaining quite inviting in its flowing sheen of light. Other works include a banner by Munn featuring thousands of emails reduced to patterned data, as well as Saloman's collages of "people who have been surveilled by the police or the state invited to take a photo that reveals nothing about themselves," a seemingly self-explanatory work from its title.

    The exhibition title is taken from a Library of Congress classification code, ZXX, which stands for "no linguistic content; not applicable." Texts and publications that elude classification fall into this category of non-signification. This clearly inspired exhibition curator Bopha Chhay to take fair aim at the codes and convention of contemporary surveillance through a playful embodiment of spatial awareness.


    221A: http://221a.ca
    No Linguistic Content continues until March 21.


    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 POSTpacificPOST.com and on Twitter @anotheramyfung. She is Akimblog's Vancouver correspondent.


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    Outside of the country itself, Winnipeg is home to the largest population of Icelanders in the world, so it is no surprise that Ragnar Kjartansson's haunting installation, The End: Rocky Mountains has found a receptive new audience four years after its creation. Exhibited as part of the Winnipeg Art Gallery's NGC@WAG program, the installation landed nicely in the theatre left vacant after the recent departure of Christian Marclay's crowd-pleasing The Clock.



    Ragnar Kjartansson, The End: Rocky Mountains

    Produced under the geographic influence of a residency at the Banff Centre for the Arts, Kjartansson and collaborator David Thor Jonsson filmed five interrelated melodic moments in five distinct locations, all while playing on notions of romanticism and the old west. The artists/musicians dressed in fur hats and cowboy boots, took swigs from a bottle of whiskey, and lit up cigs. Seen and heard jamming on banjos, electric and acoustic guitars, a piano, a drum kit, and a bass guitar, they appear on each screen providing the different parts of the score.

    The resulting interaction between screens is remarkable. For the viewer sitting in the middle of the empty room, the beauty builds minute by minute – sweet notes from the piano filter in to fill the silent air between strums on the banjo, then the bass kicks in to anchor the sound. The installation itself echoes the reverberation one finds in the mountains. The connection between music, nature, and art is so clearly portrayed.

    While the visual aspect of the work is impressive, the music also stands alone. At the entrance to the installation a quote from Kjartansson sums up the essence of the work: "In Canada, I will make a video that will make me cry. In unbearable frost and air I shall hold my shivering dried up heart in my hand..."


    Winnipeg Art Gallery: http://wag.ca/
    Ragnar Kjartansson: The End: Rocky Mountains continues until April 20.


    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 five artists collected by curator Chris Saba under the banner of Blueprints challenge common expectations of what printmaking can both accomplish and signify. Works that bend the printed multiple to serve as sculpture, video, and painting push the physical limits of Centre 3's reconfigured gallery space with the heft of printmaking's mutability as method, multiple, and medium by which commodities are duplicated, deified, and undermined.



    Colin Lyons, Ogilvie Flour Mills Ltd., Dow Brewery Ltd., and Silo No. 5. Etchings, 2008 (photo: Clarence Ngoh)

    This latter concern is slowly gleaned from Dax Morrison's silkscreened prints of Canadian art gallery floor plans. A cryptic red area in each muted diagram catches the eye, straining the memory to re-walk these buildings and connect that red with the gallery's gift shop. It's a subtle yet pointed gesture, not unlike Christian Chapman's mixed media clash of Scotland's Loch Lomond with a wilderness closer to home, or Carlos Granados-Ocón's deconstructed sketchbook of found relics deemed worthy of reproduction in the past, now brought low by a tacking of tape and the ravages of time.

    Jennifer Linton's The Disobedient Dollhouse is unapologetically Victorian (with an equally brazen nod to Japanese ukiyo-e of the shunga tradition), inhabited by the same anthropomorphic characters and lusty cephalopod that populate her paper puppet animations. If Linton revels in the repressed domicile of the Victorians, Colin Lyons resurrects its soot-smeared drudgery with his moody etchings of factories folded into fragile paper versions of their former selves. In both artists, we see the darker machinations of the mass reproduction of things and ideas: potentially infinite copies of a cycle broken by the artist's metamorphosis of print into a precarious post-medium house of cards.


    Centre 3: http://centre3.com/centre3upgradesite/visual-arts/current-exhibitions
    Blueprints continues until March 1.


    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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    I saw the exhibition of Colleen Heslin and Jen Aitken's work at Battat Contemporary the day after returning from a trip to Vancouver where I spent the better part of a week doing site visits of Brutalist housing projects and squares, while also walking around the UBC campus. Some sites remained confidently monolithic and up-kept, while others had crumbled, grown over with moss, and been patched together with dissimilar sheaths of cement and tarps.



    Colleen Heslin and Jen Aitken, installation view

    Both of these artists' works are also comprised of monochromatic blocks of grey with small patches of similar colour. Upon entering the gallery you could almost mistake the sculptural and wall work as being by the same artist. On closer inspection it quickly emerges that Heslin's paintings depict a near opposite of Aitken's architectural concrete shapes and surfaces: they instead comprise the traces of wrinkled, stitched, and dyed patches of fabric. The subtle but definite switch in perception is a nice little revelation and touched on what I had witnessed in Vancouver (coincidentally, both artists completed their BFAs at Emily Carr University). The shift from two-dimensional layered drawings and shapes to three-dimensional concrete objects that then collapse into a near two-dimensional patchwork is evocative of an archeological site. Conversely, the paintings also reminded me of what a strong, structural edifice the crafting of fabric can provide.

    Even though the artists are both MFA candidates (at University of Guelph and Concordia respectively), they are not complete unknowns. Heslin recently won the 2013 RBC Canadian Painting Competition. Her work in this exhibition is reminiscent of Tauba Auerbach's painting, and you can't help but think she has been an influence. Aitken's work also falls into a certain vogue, which includes artists such as Thea Djordjadze, for example. The exhibition itself, also well paired and constructed, is another example of Battat Contemporary director Daisy Desrosier's delicate and focused eye.

    Montrealers can look forward to a solo exhibition of Heslin's work at Galerie Laroche/Joncas beginning March 8 and should also check out I think of you, a group exhibition at Battat (which for the past few years has been rolling out, under the radar, some of the strongest programming amongst local commercial galleries), opening March 13th.


    Battat Contemporary: http://www.battatcontemporary.com/en/index_en/
    Colleen Heslin and Jen Aitken continues until March 8.


    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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    Being a child of the seventies and thus an undergrad of the late eighties/early nineties, I spent time in the trenches amongst those who struggle with the politics of identity. While I had yet to explore the art world, the standard retrospective pigeonhole for this era is to associate it with work also concerned with the trifecta of race, class, and gender. A quarter of a century later, my fellow fill-in-the-blank studies majors are slowly acquiring their tenure and the culture wars continue with new wrinkles like sexual identity changing the playing field. Being far from the so-called margins, I always had troubles with how to position myself, and every year, as Black History Month rolls around, I wonder what role, responsibility, and/or response I should have.



    Erika DeFreitas, I Am Not Tragically Colored (after Zora Neale Hurston), 2013-2014 (photo: Daniel Ehrenworth)

    Face Value, curated by Heidi McKenzie for Gallery 1313, doesn't provide any easy answers but, with its focus on mixed-race identity, "destabilizes racialized stereotypes" to move beyond the binaries of yesteryear into the shifting sands of today. Jordan Clarke's paintings depict the vagaries of perception simply and directly with masked self-portraits. Things get decidedly more complex with Olivia McGilchrist's similarly masked self-negotiating through photocollage and video the experience of a predominantly white identity in a black-associate culture like Jamaica. The interactions played out as a dance of projections and curiosity in Ernestine and Me will mean dramatically different things to different viewers and, as such, reveal more about race in a contemporary context (at least in a city like Toronto). Erika DeFreitas' self-distortion, on the other hand, directly engages the viewer, pushing (literally) against the frame in order to mess with expectations. The result is both grotesque and empowering. In the end, getting knocked off balance is probably the best reaction to have.



    Jason Wright, Pleasure: A Performance of Taste, A Place Setting, 2013, C-print on aluminum

    There are times when you hear a song, read a story, or look at a picture and think, "Of course. Why didn't anyone think of that before?" The main wall of Jason Wright's To Serve Man is a Cookbook at gallerywest elicits that reaction with its salon style tribute to the abject subtext (as digested through a selection of art historical styles) of the classic scene in Disney's Lady and the Tramp when the titular canines are bound by a string of spaghetti they are both in the process of eating. Seen as a link between two mouths in collage, impressionistic drawings, and gooey action paintings, the pasta becomes a stand-in for the organic links that both delight and disgust us, a symbol of the material fact of food as art as shit, a metaphor for sex and communication, and a pathetic index for the interpersonal communication that sustains us. Over a couple dozen iterations, it manages to sustain its iconic status while also unearthing any number of repressed meanings. God knows, it was one of the first romantic scenes I witnessed as an impressionable youth, so it must have had some effect on my juvenile understanding of sexuality (but let's not go there).

    A similarly juvenile take on food appears in the quintet of splatter paintings over collaged baby faces that Wright calls Pleasure: A Performance of Good Taste, A Skill Set, A Taste Test, A Place Setting. The quasi-scientific nature of the title does little to offset the mess on display. Your reaction to the remains of Chef Boyardee will no doubt be influenced by how many times you've had to clean up similar abstractions in the comfort of your own kitchen. As I recently told a painter of transgressive imagery, "I deal with pooh and pee every day. It doesn't scare me." Which brings us to the last part of Wright project wherein what appears to be a seriously bad case of hemorrhoids is tarted up with berries and paint. Now, that makes me wince. Check, please!


    Gallery 1313: http://g1313.org/
    Face Value continues to March 2.

    gallerywest: http://www.gallerywest.info/
    Jason Wright: To Serve Man is a Cookbook continues until February 28.


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


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