Archive for the ‘galleries’ Category

an exhibit at Doris McCarthy Gallery, U of T Scarborough.

“Bringing together artists who consider the power dynamics of image-making in their distinct practices, Now You See Me includes Black, Indigenous, and artists of colour, who variously identify as women, femme, and non-binary. They use photography to explore issues related to gender and cultural identity, asserting themselves as directors of their own images to pose questions about the complex cultural and gender-related politics that underlie self-representation.”

The above quote comes from the Doris McCarthy Gallery website where you can find more information about the exhibit.

below: “Skin Deep” by Chun Hua Catherine Dong shows self-portraits ‘masked’ in Chinese silk fabrics, a gesture that implies submission.

two pictures on a gallery wall, embroidered masks that blend in with their background, one in blues and the other in reds, golds, and orange, by Chun Hua Catherine Dong

elaborately embroidered mask, reds and greens and black on orange background

below: A video by Vivek Shraya titled “Legends of the Trans” is a photoessay based on “Legends of the Fall”, a 1994 movie starring Brad Pitt.  Throughout the essay, the main character, Tristan, wears a bindi (coloured dot) on his/her forehead.

2 images from a video, during a fade in and fade out, person sitting in long grass with mountains in the background

below: Meryl McMaster juxtaposes a self-portrait with a hand written copy of a poem called ‘Onondaga Madonna’ written by Duncan Campbell Scott in 1898. Scott was the deputy superintendent of the Department of Indian Affairs from 1913 to 1932.  He played a predominant role in the establishment of residential schools; under his direction the forcible removal of Indigenous children from their homes to attend residential schools was made compulsory,

Meryl McMaster portrait, in the woods in winter, alongside a hand written poem called Onondaga Madonna

below: Danya Danger presents three photos of women in embellished black leather fetish masks as she explores the relationships between sexuality, gender, and power.

photo of upper torso and head of a woman with tattoos, blackish lipstick and heavy eye makeup, wearing a black bdsm type mask covering most of her head and face. beaded black leather fetish mask

below: Gaëlle Elma has a couple of large photos in this group exhibit. Her work deals with perceptions of sexuality, human bodies, and blackness.

two black people with eyes closed in inimate embrace

below: Leila Fatemi has centered her exhibit around vintage postcards of Muslim women.  Here they are printed such that the image depends on the angle from which you view the picture.

4 pictures based on old postcards of Muslim women, project by Leila Fatemi

4 pictures based on old postcards of Muslim women

4 pictures based on old postcards of Muslim women

“Generated from different perspectives and experiences, these works share a reckoning with the historical and contemporary uses of the camera as a tool to perpetuate degradative narratives.”

Shona Illingworth at The Power Plant

This blog post looks at a portion of one of the exhibits now on at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery. “Topologies of Air” by Shona Illingworth was commissioned by The Power Plant; it involves some video pieces that I have not included here. “Amnesia Museum” is a series of small works exploring how memory and forgetting intermingle. A sample (with apologies for the poor quality of the image):

two pieces of artwork on a green wall. by Shona Illingworth, part of her amnesia museum series

below: Paintings from “Topologies of Air”

Three images by Shona Illingworth at Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

an image by Shona Illingworth in an art gallery from her Topologies of Air series

below: The full title is “The Right to Live Without Physical or Psychological Threat from Above” and it fills a wall.  Across the top the images are related to satellites and the solar system.  Images of people and human activity are on the bottom.  The words fill the air gap between the two.

part of a full wall covered with words and black and grey images, on psychology of air space and the struggle for human rights to have no interference from above - such as military, drones, etc

Some of the text:
“Airspace also encompasses shared radio frequencies, our electromagnetic commons. Each drone is operated by a team of a dozen or hundreds who watch video and audio-track cell phones. Companies operate powerful algorithms in military command centers half a world away to decide who is a combatant and is not. But never forget that these are almost indistinguishable from the algorithms that are used by Facebook and Twitter to categorize us and profit from us. There algorithms are often staggeringly inaccurate. The margins of error built into these powerful databases are huge. ” and
“Humans need protecting. We’ve got an air gap. We’ve always lived with an air gap, which is simply the unconnected world. The ability to conduct your activities of any kind, in any way you want, without any form of connectivity, surveillance or control.”

We can argue as to whether or not this wall is art;  we can argue as to the validity of some of the statements.  But as I stood looking at the wall, it was thoughts of Ukraine that went through my head.  The idea that air supremacy over that country was being fought over at that moment and that the Russians would love to control those skies.  Not for the first time. Countries have used air power throughout recent history, from the time of the invention of the zeppelin and the airplane through to the introduction of drones into the modern arsenal.

We can also argue over the merits of living in a connected world but I’ve already ventured far from the focus of this blog. I’ll just end with three short notes. First, without a connected world, you wouldn’t be reading this. And second, how do you separate the good uses from the bad? Lastly, is this art’s role?

The Airspace Tribunal website

Power Plant Contemporary Art website

Two exhibits at the Art Gallery of Ontario feature the colour blue.  One is “Blue View” consisting of paintings created by Canadian artist Matthew Wong between 2017 and 2019.  The other is an exhibit of Picasso paintings at the beginning of the 20th century especially his “blue period” 1901-1904.

******

Matthew Wong (1984-2019)

two women in an art gallery looking at paintings by Matthew Wong

below: “Starry Night”

starry Night, a painting by Matthew Wong

a small painting by Matthew Wong of an open doorway into a bathroom from a darkened bedroom

women looking at blue paintings by Matthew Wong

Matthew Wong paintings at the Art Gallery of Ontario

******

Pablo Picasso (1881-1973)

below: Nudes painted before the Blue Period… and when Picasso was only 19 or 20 years old.

man looking at Picasso paintings at the AGO

In 1901 Picasso was given access to Saint-Lazare prison-hospital in Paris where he painted many of the inmates, especially the women who were there as a result of their participation in the sex trade.  They were impoverished and forgotten women living in deplorable conditions, often with young children.  Picasso painted them in shades of blue and green and in his paintings sex work, motherhood and syphilis become intertwined.  They can be compared to images of the Virgin Mary with an infant Jesus, a secularized Madonna.

below: “Mother and Child by Fountain”

Picasso's painting Mother and Child by a Fountain, on wall at Art Gallery of Ontario

below: “Woman and Child by the Sea”, 1902

painting by Picasso

below: “The Soup”, 1902

young woman looking at Picasso painting, The Soup

below: “The Blue Room”, 1901

two women with grey hair looking at Picasso painting from his blue period, woman getting a bath in small tub in middle of her room

below: “The Frugal Repast”.  Not in blue but still with the theme of the working poor.  This was an etching that Picasso first made in 1904.  Later, in 1913, he printed 250 copies of it.

older couple looking at picture by Picasso, in greys and browns,

two women looking at pictures at AGO

With thanks to Alice and Arlene for spending a couple of hours looking at paintings with me.

“Picasso, painting the blue period” continues until 16 Jan 2022.

Matthew Wong paintings are on display until 18 April 2022

Toronto street sign for St. Patricks Square, in background is CP24 car that looks like it has crashed through the wall of a building

The building at St. Patricks Market on Queen Street West is empty but the exterior walls are now a pop-up outdoor gallery.  It is part of Art On Queen West.  Some of the artwork that is on display:

below: “I See You” By Peru143

image on display at outdoor pop-up gallery, St. Patricks market, by Peru 143, stylized text says Toronto

below: “Bouquet” by Curtia Wright

image by Curtia Wright, woman with purple skin and pink hair, head and shoulders portrait

below: “The Queen” (representing Queen West) by Andrew Patterson

image by Andrew Patterson, white line drawing on blue, purple, and orange background, a human-like figure with crown on head and objects in upraised arms

below: “Pies, para que los quiero si tengo alas para volar?” Or in English: “Feet, what do I need you for when I have wings to fly?” by Alejandra Paton

image of Frieda Kahlo

below: “The Reimagining of the Steps” by Jenelle Lewis

an illustration by Janelle Lewis of many people on circles of stairs and steps

below: “Untitled” by Jenelle Lewis

illustration by Janelle Lewis, a woman getting onto the back of a blue and purple tiger with black stripes

below: “Pizza Night” by Jieun June Kim

stylized marine scene, pink and yellow striped octopus, fish, starfish,

 

an exhibit by Miriam Cahn
at the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery

large painting on a wall in a gallery by awindow with sunlight coming in and making patterns with shadows  and light on the floor and on the wall

Miriam Cahn (b.1949) is a Swiss artist.

a number of paintings by Mirian Cahn on an art gallery wall

Most of the paintings are of faces or bodies and many of the pieces are sexually explicit, or brutally dark, or both.

a painting by Miriam Cahn, a naked man is punching a woman in the face,

two paintings of faces on a gallery wall

a number of paintings by Mirian Cahn on an art gallery wall

three people talking in a gallery with two large paintings of full frontal naked women on one of the walls

The exhibit continues until 2 Jan 2022.  More information can be found at the Power Plant website

The Art Gallery of Ontario has re-opened after several months of COVID lockdown. They have created an all new Andy Warhol exhibit in celebration.

This is some of what can be seen:

 

people standing in an art gallery looking a three large and colourful paintings by Andy Warhol of faces

below: Elvis Presley

a man in pale blue jacket and baseball cap stands in front of a portrait by Andy Warhol

below: Part of a series of images of an electric chair in different colours

two women look at prints of electric chair in 4 different colour tones

three young women look at two paintings of guns by Andy Warhol, large and on a gallery wall

a couple pass by six Andy Warhol paintings. Two of Debbie Harry and two of Dollie Parton and two of Mick Jagger

below: Debbie Harry

Andy Warhol portrait of Debbie Harry

below: Karen Kain

two portraits of Karen Kain, one on turquoise background and the other on light purple background

The exhibit is on until October 2021.

green ribbon woven into the chainlink fence between the West Toronto Railpath and MOCA, the Museum of Contemporary Art

The main exhibit at MOCA, Museum of Contemporary Art, when I was there a couple of weeks ago was ‘Acts of Erasure’.

“Acts of Erasure brings the two distinct artistic practices of Fatma Bucak and Krista Belle Stewart into dialogue. This pairing opens space for conversations around political identity concerning land and heritage, historical repression, and more.”   I’ve added this sentence because every review I’ve read of this exhibit start with these words that also appear on the MOCA website and on the wall in the gallery.

This exhibit was part of the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival that was planned for May 2020 but this being the year of Covid, it had to be rescheduled.

Photos covering the floor were the work of Krista Belle Stewart who is a member of the Upper Nicola Band of the Syilx (Okanagan) Nation in British Columbia.   They are part of ‘Truth to Material’ and were taken in Germany were there is a group of people like to dress up and play Indian. They call themselves Indianers.  Once you know that, the fact that they are on the floor and not on the walls makes a bit more sense.

two boots walking on a picture on the floor

calves and shoes of people standing on pictures on the floor of a gallery

a person walking on the floor, pictures on the floor

below: A dress made by one of the Indianers.

pictures on the floor of a gallery

The other artist, Fatma Bucak was born in Iskenderun, on the Turkish-Syrian border;  she identifies as both Turkish and Kurdish.  Her contribution to the exhibit is ‘A Study of Eight Landscapes’, an ongoing project.  Each photograph is a pair of objects.  Each object was collected at one side of a border.  This is an attempt to explore the dynamics of borders, their effects on people living near them, the politics that result, and other consequences of having borders.

below: left: “Too Heavy” and right: “In Splendid Isolation”

two pictures at a gallery, one on the floor and one hanging on the wall

From the MOCA website: “….confronts the contingency of border spaces and the tenuous interdependency that resides within them. To produce these still-life photographs, Bucak worked collaboratively with people living and working near and across borderlands. The composed objects collected from these sites explore mental and material realities of spaces where conditions of life are highly dependent on the entities on either side of a border. The photographs present a stark view of transitional landscapes, such as those between the United States and Mexico, Turkey and Armenia, and Syria and Turkey.”

I would love to have more of the story explained to me, such as, what the objects are, where they came from, and why the artist chose them.  Isn’t it difficult to have a dialogue about random items removed from even minimal context?

below: left: ‘There May be Doubts’, center: ‘A Border View’, right: ‘Undetermined Remains’.

three pictures at a gallery

The day that I was at MOCA, the ground floor was being prepared for ‘Archipelago’ by Taiwanese painter and conceptual artist Michael Lin.  The designs are based on Taiwanese and Indonesian textiles and are being painted by local artists.

a woman painting the floor

women painting on the floor of a gallery

A third exhibit, ‘Medusa’ was bring installed at the time and was closed to the public.

the word kiss is made with fabric woven into the chainlink fence

Acts of Erasure remains until January 2021
Archipelago remains until March 2021

Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit at the old Toronto Star building at 1 Yonge Street.

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - large faces of Van Gogh projected on the wall, from self portrait paintings

Images from paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were projected on all four walls plus the floor of a very large space. The installation includes his work the Mangeurs de pommes de terre (The Potato Eaters, 1885) to the Nuit étoilée (Starry Night, 1889), Les Tournesols (Sunflowers, 1888), and La Chambre à coucher (The Bedroom, 1889).  It was a slow moving video that was about 35 minutes long.

vincent Van Gogh Immersive Exhibit, 4 people, turquoise flowers, 2 men standing, one person sitting on a bench

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - person sitting on floor, taking aphoto with camera, starry starry night

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - a middle aged couple sitting on floor, a baby stroller sitting by the exit

There were circles on the floor in which you had to stand/sit but you could move from circle to circle if there was an empty one.

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - crooked tree with white blossoms on a turquoise background

The most interesting portraits were those of people dressed in white.

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - a woman in a long white dress crouches beside the wall, images project onto her and her dress, pinks and purples

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - a woman stands beside the wall, orange colours all around her including the floor, green images of windows and shutters too

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit

Mirrors were placed around any structures that were in the way.

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - people sitting and standing

Vincent Van Gogh Immersive exhibit - people sitting on the floor with projections of images of inside of house with tables and chairs in orange and yellow tones

Link for more information on the exhibit
which continues at least until the end of October

#VanGoghTO

The Great Pause, March 2020 (and then April…. and now into May)

paintings on a fence including one that says the great pause.

paintings on a wood fence, with backs of houses in the background

below: Courage, joy, spirit, celebrate, community, equality, and one that has flipped over.

coloured flags on a wood fence, red flag for , gold flag for joy, yellow for spirit, light blue for celebrate, light blue-green for community, blue for equality. , also a picture of the Beatles, black on mirror

below: All you need is love.

paintings on a fence

little wood planters on a wood fence

Canadian flag displayed on a fence with a guitar at either end

below: What to do when spring seems so far away….

chalk drawing of three flowers growing out of a wood planter mounted on a wood fence

Now at MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) is the exhibit “Age of You”. Part of the show is “The Extreme Self” based on a forthcoming book by Shuman Basar, Douglas Coupland, and Hans Ulrich Obrist, of the same name.   Large panels covering two floors of MOCA, lead the viewer through the storyline using graphics, pictures, and a lot of words.  Other works by other artists can be seen among the panels but the panels definitely dominate the space.

Why the title “Age of You”?  What is that all about?  As we increase are use of technology and our dependence on it, our data seems to have become important.   Information about our habits, likes & dislikes, online behaviour, etc. is now a valuable resource.  Our profiles and data can be used to create a model of  ‘you’.   Google knows where you’ve been if you have a smartphone.  They also have an advertising profile for you ostensibly so they can target their ads.  (Check the ads that they insert into these blog posts).  This technology advances faster than our ability to adapt to both it and its consequences.

below: “You’re now becoming your extreme self… and it’s happening to you as you read these words.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, three panels. In the miiddle is a large picture of a woman's face with a single tear. Also some words. On the right is Too stupid to fail. On the left

Technology and its effects on people, individually and collectively, has been discussed since the advent of technology.  Often it is the negative effects that are discussed the most.  Today, we use the word “disruptive” to describe companies such as Amazon and Uber, companies that use technology to change the way we do business, and the way we interact with other people, and the way we go about our daily lives.

As I was thinking about technology and its effects, I remembered the Marshall McLuhan quote, “Every technology necessitates a new war”. When I looked up that quote (to make sure my memory was correct), I found this as well: “‘Any form of continued and accelerated innovation is, in effect, a declaration of war on one’s own civilian population.”

below: “We’re now deep into the terminal phase of democracy.  This phase involves voting in leaders whose primary goal is to dismantle democracy.”

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, Too stupid to fail,

below: Four panels. Four ideas in words in pictures.  “Groups of people make dreadful decisions.” “The majority can no longer be trusted.” “Democracy needs morning after pills.” and finally, on the right, a few sentences on the breakdown of reality-based consensus.

large panels hanging in an art gallery, MOCA, four in black and white

The exhibit references a quote by Isaac Asimov : “Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’   But, can’t this be extended to ‘my scribbles are just as good as your fine art?’ And then along comes social media with its anonymity and global reach …. 

So what does all this mean for the future?

Is it art?

One can’t deny that it is thought provoking but part of the reason I asked, “Is it art?” is because of the heavy reliance on words and text.  It’s a book hung from the ceiling.  It also relies on quotes and ideas that originated elsewhere, words that that the artists have collected, not created.

Text is considered to be a design element but words have the added quality of conveying meaning.  Some images carry symbolism but only words can be manipulated into phrases and sentences with different meanings.   There seems to be a trend that involves the use of more text in art.  Art is now a “teaching moment”, like an essay (or book) laid out in a format that suits a gallery.  It’s not enough to be just looked at but it has to be educational too.

The next few pictures are from Vincent Meessen’s exhibit “Blues Klair” now on the Power Plant gallery.  It doesn’t deal with future like Coupland et al. above, instead it’s more a link to the past; it’s a history project.   This is the first paragraph of the words on the wall at the entrance to the exhibit:

words on the wall accompanying an exhibit by Vincent Meessen

A plea to all writers of such words:  Please stop. We’re not stupid but we’re also not ‘experts’ in the latest jargon and this just goes over our heads. …. I found a video on youtube of Vincent Meessen talking about this exhibit – and now it makes more sense.  It’s still a history project though.  It’s also a case, again, of the artist turning a collection of other people’s work into ‘art’.

two people looking at framed pictures and pages of text on a wall that has been painted in blue and white squares

blue and white papers strewn over the floor, discarded, with a framed picture on the wall, and a blue desk in the middle

Jumping back to the future – jumping to Hito Steyerl’s exhibit “This is the future” at the AGO to be more specific.   She too uses words.  And multimedia.  And she too pushes the limits of what art is.  (Or can you argue that those limits are long gone?)

below: Two parallel stories, one on top and the other below.   The upper story is about a community where windows are purposely broken, “people are smashing windows tirelessly to generate power”. The other story tells the opposite, windows are left alone and “police with big wooden horses are guarding every window”.  It turns what we believe about society upside down – the ‘good’ people who don’t break windows are living in a gloomy police state.  The ‘vandals’ have sunshine and art.

room at the Art Gallery of Ontario with words written around the walls, and a flat screen TV laying a video in the middle of the room

below: Hell Yeah.  Well okay then, if you say so.  It probably says a lot about me and/our times when my first impression is that it would make a great background for an instagram photo.   There are other blocks of words too (not in the picture) and the whole sequence is Hell, Yeah, We, Fuck, Die.  Why these words?  They are the “five words that have appeared most frequently in the titles of songs in English-language music charts over the past decade”.  And yes, I looked it up.

large blocks, lit from inside, put together to form the words the words hell yeah

And yes, I checked instagram….  The “L” does make a perfect seat!

composite of three photos of people that have been posted on instagram showing them at the Hito Steyerl exhibit hell yeah we fuck die at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Five words.  What do they mean? What five words would you use?

 

‘Age of You’ continues until 5th January 2020.

‘Blues Klair’ is at the Power Plant until 5th January 2020.

‘This is the future’ ends on 23 February 2020