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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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  • 12/19/18--14:14: 2018 Critic's Picks
  • A wise Vancouverite once said a life in the arts is a life of mimicry. This past year, I often felt a cognitive strain from experiencing artworks with a certain bewildering déjà vu. Of course there’s an inevitable mirroring at the crux of contemporary art that can be genuine and productive, but I regularly caught myself yawning and disaffectedly half-looking at arid, wishy-washy derivatives presented as art in 2018. However, this year’s three highlights were stories of artists, curators, and organizers rising to the occasion and unrelentingly doing the most above all turns.

    Logan MacDonald, Seal Simulacrum, 2016

    There was a palpable pulse to Logan MacDonald’s The Lay of the Land installation at aceartinc. in the spring that continues to reverberate in my mind. Entering the exhibition without any inhibitions, I was immediately arrested by the layers and layers of sprawling photo material and the terrains they attempted to map out. It was a show that demanded multiple revisits. The four or so weeks it was on certainly wasn’t enough time to sit with the work. With each visit you found yourself discovering the dense lattice-work of the exhibition anew. At its heart was an artist self-untangling in physical space. It was every bit as unflinchingly introspective as it was dialogical.

    The act of making room for others to be seen, to freely experiment, and for discovery is a noble act of empathy, especially in a world divided by individualistic pursuits. And so when small independent artist-run organizations and project spaces sprout, they become fodder for the larger cultural narrative. This year Blinkers created a confident new entry for a city and an arts community that undoubtedly needs it. Initiated by four friends/artists, Blinkers has already positioned itself as an intermediary for critical conversations happening in Winnipeg and elsewhere. Since its opening, it has presented exhibitions, talks, and one-off events by and for artists and thinkers across the country. They are in their very early stages and still have more to offer, but if any of what they’ve done thus far is an indication, then it seems like the possibilities could be infinite.

    Sophie Sabet, Though I’m Silent, I Shake, 2017, single channel video, 2017

    Use of the word “resistance” reoccurred this year in different contexts. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see it as a response to what feels like a whirlpool of global political happenings, much of which seem to be out of any individual’s control. But resistance can take any number of forms and I can argue that all three of my picks for 2018 are in some small way driven by it. This was especially so for Not the Camera, But the Filing Cabinet curated by Noor Bhangu at Gallery 1C03. The hugely varied and compact exhibition brought together a cosmopolitan group of artists including Susan Aydan Abbott, Jade Nasogaluak Carpenter, Sarah Ciurysek, Dayna Danger, Christina Hajjar, Ayqa Khan, Luna, Matea Radic, Sophie Sabet, and Lessa Streifler. A testament to the unending magic of collaboration between artist and curator, and an embrace of opposite experiences towards a unified vision, it spoke to what it can look like when female-identifying and gender-defying bodies’ archives are substantiated through performativity. That in and of itself is undergirded by a penchant for resistance.

    Lastly, I would like to send to a few special shout-outs to folks who one way or the other have been of impact this year. To Marijana Mandusic for hammering down three wonderful shows throughout the year, kudos! To curator Sarah Nesbitt, your time in Winnipeg was short, but you’ll be dearly missed. To my editor Terence Dick, for being patient and making me readable throughout year. And to Christian Hajjar, for being a trooper and for insistently pushing femme, female-identifying, and diasporic voices forward through your publications. RIP to James Luna and Jack Whitten, the world will not forget you. 2019, do your worst.

    Luther Konadu makes things such as photographs, paintings, and prints which he occasionally calls art. He self-describes as a transcriber. He contributes content to a publication called Public Parking. Most days his favourite colour is green and one of his goals in life is to never be an art brat. He is Akimblog’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @public_parking.

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  • 12/19/18--14:15: 2018 Critic's Picks
  • Exhibition reviews are usually about art as the destination, but my highlights from the past year of searching and seeing were all about the journeys that got me there. The art is the pay-off, but the stories behind the gallery-going are the adventures I’ll remember and they reflect the foundational people and places that make the culture possible.

    Paul Walde, Of Weather (for Geoff Hendricks), part of the work of WIND AIR LAND SEA, as seen on AkimboTV Views (photo: Lulu Wang)

    If I retain one memory of being a professional art commentator from 2018, I would like it to be my frantic late afternoon/early evening hot rodding around a Mississauga industrial park with Views co-director Lulu Wang as my co-pilot when we documented the final day (no re-shoots!) of the gargantuan exhibition the work of WIND AIR LAND SEA presented by the Blackwood Gallery for ten days this September. I have a soft spot for site-specific shows where the art world comes face-to-face with the general public and has to re-evaluate its self-presentation, pretenses, and resilience to the elements. The theme of climate change and environmental crisis practically necessitated this collection of international artists be outside, so it was perfect that we were there on such a beautiful day (check out the episode here). The whole experience – getting away from downtown Toronto, hunting for art with the help of a map, running into friends, chatting with strangers – was a blast. And the art was pretty good too!

    Yet another selfie taken in Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms at the Art Gallery of Ontario (photo: Terence Dick)

    My antipathy to lining up kept me away from the Art Gallery of Ontario’s blockbuster exhibition of Yayoi Kusama’s Infinity Rooms until an old friend who happens to work there offered me and my wheelchair-riding son a pre-opening hours peek at said rooms. We still had to stick to the allotted seconds of viewing time, but I’d already seen a couple of Kusama’s mirrored boxes before and my kid tends to get overwhelmed by visual stimulation so I was fine with the glimpse minus any hours-long wait. In fact, I was happier catching up with my friend, but having a chance to see the thing everyone had been talking about got me rethinking my scepticism around hugely popular exhibitions and what they all mean.

    I like visual art because it isn’t popular, so I can visit galleries and be alone with art. Those isolated, unmediated experiences are increasingly rare. I also like my art to resist easy interpretation and reward contemplation, which doesn’t translate into crowds. At the same time, I understand the economics of the institutions and no one can justify an empty gallery, so numbers count. But the last couple of big name acts that filled the halls of the AGO (David Bowie and Guillermo del Toro) pandered to celebrity and popular culture, so it was inarguably awesome that the attraction this year was a celebrated contemporary artist with historical significance who also happened to be a woman and an artist of colour. Beat that, MOMA with your Bruce Nauman retrospective and Whitney Museum with Andy Warhol yet again.

    At the opposite end of the exhibition spectrum were two temporary galleries that demonstrated the unstoppable urge to make and present art in environments that like art but make it hard to survive as artists (such as a city with ever-increasing rents and ever-fewer vacancies). Roving art space ma ma made its home for part of this year in transitioning warehouse on Dupont. The exhibition I saw was inspired by gardening and I can think of no better metaphor for cultivating culture. Bunker 2 has been around a bit longer, but I stumbled upon its current home in a parking lot a block north of ma ma. The clever directors of this gallery/shipping container pay the cost of a parking spot to afford square footage for their artists. Tough times call for creative measures and if you can’t rely on artists to come up with workarounds, who can you rely on? That little bit of optimism is just what I need for a year of political pessimism in spades. Here’s hoping those of us in Ontario can survive 2019!

    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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    Chrysanne Stathacos wasn’t an emerging artist when I first heard of her, but she was new to me. It was the summer of 1999 and I was working as a gallery attendant at The Power Plant. To prepare for the exhibition of her Wish Machine, we had to spend a day in a back room filling hundreds of tiny Ziploc bags with a small photocollage and a miniature vial of essentials oils. My memory of that day and the inescapable association I have with that piece and this artist is dominated by the horrific hangover I had due to a post-music festival debrief the previous night when a bottle of port was consumed. As I held my gagging in check and kept my breathing as shallow as possible, I counted the minutes and fiddled with the finnicky bags while the pungent smells invaded my nostrils. The rest of the summer was a breeze in comparison and I’ve only rarely come across Stathacos’ work since then, but the vivid recollection of that nauseated experience (one diametrically opposed to the intended effects of the artwork in question) remains a touchstone in my personal history of altered states.

    Chrysanne Stathacos, Alchemical Golden Rose Mandala, 2018-2019, installation

    Speaking of altered states, I can’t help but guess that Stathacos’ current appearance at Cooper Cole has something to do with the recent legalization of cannabis in Canada. Her paintings and prints on canvas feature marijuana leaves as well as ivy and create a hybrid representation-abstraction that takes the natural patterns of vines and leaves, and transmutes them through pigment into timeless records of the psychedelic potential in these plants. Pleasant enough as visual stimulants, what gives them further resonance is the residue of the living things that made them. A selection of these works were completed in the 1990s and intended to have a healing value. With the passing of decades, they carry not only imagery but also connect people through time. Art is that wonderful, horrible magic that takes life and renders it inert as well as the reverse by making dead things feel alive. This cycle is realized in the flower petal mandala Stathacos has been creating and will continue to contribute to as it too changes through dehydration with the passing of every day. Circles within circles, dashes of colour, each one on its own journey, each one a part of the greater whole, each one in danger of being blown away by an errant breeze each time a visitor enters the gallery.

    Chrysanne Stathacos

    Given Simon Cole’s penchant for exhibiting artists from the past (Vikky Alexander, Scott Treleavan) alongside his coterie of more recent talent, I shouldn’t be surprised by his inclusion of Stathacos in his exhibition schedule, but it was a pleasant reminder of the larger scope of time that encompasses art history and the artists who keep contributing to it. Her works were also a reminder – one I need after spending too much time popping in and out of galleries, week after week, year after year, looking for the newest thing – that art is meant for the long haul, not for passing glances. These works have lives of their own and become companions over time. Some might be more fragile than others, but they all connect us to a vibrant history and a living engagement with the world. At the start of a new year, looking back is as important as looking forward, and this exhibition provides an excellent opportunity for both.

    Chrysanne Stathacos: Gold Rush continues until February 2.
    Cooper Cole:
    The gallery is not accessible.

    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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    Writing on the paintings of Cy Twombly, Roland Barthes speaks of an “essence of writing” that is “neither form nor usage but simply gesture – the gesture that produces it by allowing it to happen: a garble, almost a smudge, a negligence.” Such gestures simultaneously say: I can only be this way and no other way; and: I am not where you are, I am elsewhere. A similar notion is played out in the new work of Jamie Macaulay on display at Forest City Gallery, wherein the gestural is both inward-facing and inevitably tied to a singular trail of perceptions. In contrast to his earlier work, these new paintings and drawings are looser, less inscrutable, and a working-through of much more personal coordinates.

    Jamie Macaulay, My Burning Rib, 2018, oil on canvas

    Referencing a W.G. Sebald anecdote of Flaubert, In the Hem of Emma Bovary’s Winter Gown refers to a moment in which the entirety of the Sahara is glimpsed in a grain of sand. For Macaulay, the notion of the initial gesture as indicative of the whole of experience begins in the line, the mark, the stain, and the layering that support the loosest of images. Through the use of repeated motifs, these initial gestures become emblematic of moments that are themselves shifting and changing.

    In a lineup of small drawings, some of these emblems are easier to identify, appearing as the repeated forms of flies, snakes, clouds, and disembodied feet. Other drawings are messier and read less like stacked, cartoon currency. Their stories are oriented as strings of resemblances with the occasional textual anchor: book-bottle-hotdog-potato-sack, sardine-smashed-in-Hell, crawling-torso-impaled-by-iron-web.

    Groupings of small paintings read as keys to each others’ tightly-cropped logistics, where serpentine legs and floating feet are most often the central actors. These books, bottles, buildings, feet, flies, and other objects are often left to their own pictogram-like devices, occasionally upstaged by a single, scrawled word like “inferno” or “insomnia,” or caught in a snake’s grip. The repeated narrative tone is of struggle, aimlessness, or futility.

    The results are much different when Macaulay combines the behavior of the scribbled word with the cartoony doodle, allowing the resulting motif to mutate, flipping back and forth between text and image. In two paintings which sit between more animated groupings, the resemblance-strings become a wall of interconnected lines and marks. In the smaller of the two, what might read as two squat stacks of lumpen flesh quickly wriggle away from any further associations. In the larger, the wall of shapes is further organized by pared-down texture, designated by the simple jottings, cuts, and striations of graphic lines. I read the paintings as if they had the urgency of text. Yet the effect is more of an obscure nervous system with each section given a specific, mysterious role within the bare skeleton of a unique organism.

    These paintings find their own way to refer towards, refusing to rely on the aura of symbols or the dregs of abstract noise. They behave as pictures do, as text does, but not completely; they ask me to think beyond the meaning of what they’re saying, and instead to make meaning with and alongside them. As Barthes says of Twombly’s scribbles, the result is an “indetermined and inexhaustible sum of motives.” The gesture that acts “without perhaps really wanting to produce anything at all.”

    Jamie Macaulay: In the Hem of Emma Bovary’s Winter Gown continues to February 15.
    Forest City Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Kim Neudorf is an artist and writer based in London, Ontario. Her writing and paintings have appeared most recently at DNA Gallery and Forest City Gallery in London, Paul Petro and Franz Kaka in Toronto, and Modern Fuel Artist-Run Centre in Kingston.

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    Delicate and precise.
    Destruction on a catastrophic level.
    Experimental cells devouring the veil between nature and industry.
    These are elements that emerge in The New Gallery exhibition Inversion by Calgary artist Jill Ho-You. The printmaker and professor at Alberta College of Art and Design brings together the formal art of intaglio and chin collé in printmaking with the degradation of materials over time due to their interaction with organic and animal materials both literally and metaphorically.

    Jill Ho-You, In The Dust I, 2015

    Featured in the exhibition are petri dishes with tiny specimen-like drawings of different embodiments of industrial materials: snippets of bridges, beams, and concrete buildings. Included with these is live bacterial culture that will slowly degrade or change the artwork housed within the petri dish. Similar to specimen collections, these tiny artworks act as specimens of culture that is no longer sustainable.

    Ho-You’s intricately etched prints envision a world in ruin, but not from natural disaster. Instead, buildings collapse and collide, sinuous bone fragments disintegrate into the territory we stand on, and earthly organic materials metamorphoses around the broken down, dilapidated remains of contemporary civilization. These works envision our world as we know it through an evolution – or rather devolution – of time and matter. As the world seemingly crumbles these works attempt to forecast a future where Mother Nature reigns powerful and true again as organic matter takes over, pursuing the ultimately and timely demise of technology and construction. In our current political climate and in consideration of climate change and the degradation of the natural atmosphere, Ho-You’s exhibition is timely and apt. Using the traditional art form of intaglio printmaking further emphasizes a world where technology has eroded and we must return to early forms of technological advancement.

    Jill Ho-You: Inversion continues until February 9.
    The New Gallery:
    The gallery is accessible.

    Maeve Hanna is a writer and curator who holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts Honours in Visual Art and Literature from York University and the University of Leeds and a Master of Arts in Art History and Icelandic Studies from Université du Québec à Montréal and the University of Manitoba on location in Iceland. She has previously written for Black Flash, C Magazine, Canadian Art, esse arts + opinions, Frieze, Sculpture Magazine and the Senses and Society. She is Akimblog’s Calgary correspondent and can be followed on Instagram @mcbchanna.