Posts Tagged ‘gallery’

I was away for most of the month of May so I missed a lot of the annual Contact Photography Festival.  In the few days that I had to catch up, I visited a few of the exhibits.  One of these was ‘Nous ne somme pas des heros’ (We are not heroes) by Valerie Blass at the Allen Lambert Galleria in Brookfield Place.

two large cubes constructed from pieces of photos of different people in different positions sit in the middle of Brookfield Place, under the glass arched roof.

Blass arranged people in sculpture-like poses and then photographed them from different angles.  The photographs were then cut into sections, glued on blocks,  and then the ‘sculptures’ were re-assembled.

a large stack of blocks with black and white photos of people on them by Valerie Blass.

The subjects of the sculptures are anonymous.  Their “bodies fold inward, their differences intertwine and merge into single entities” (source).

photographs of the back of a person with another person sitting on his shoulders, upper person is leaning forward with head down, the blocks on which the photos are printed are in the walkway at Brookfield Place

bottom part of photos by Valerie Blass on a block at Brookfield Place as part of Scotiabank Contact photography festival, feet. Also the feet of people walking past.

This is a story about an exhibit that is showing at the Art Gallery of Ontario at the moment, “A Story of Negotiation” by Francis Alys.  The exhibit is a look at three of Alys’s large projects.  For each project there were many studies, notes, and sketches.  Drawings and paintings dot the walls and cover many tables.  There are three large videos to watch (not the ones shown below).  It is a fairly complex installation and only a small part of it is included here.

two women looking over a table with art displays on it , in an art gallery

below: In 2006 Alys tried to organize two lines of fishing boats, one from Florida and one from Cuba, that would form a bridge between the United States and Florida.  It was unsuccessful.  He repeated the project in 2008, this time between Spain and Morocco.

a young man is looking at two video screens that are mounted on the wall

a line of little sailboats on the floor, all parallel to each other, the base of the boat (hull) is a flip flop or sandal.

below: More on borders, pairs of words that depend on which side you’re on.
Words such as leave/return and us/them.

4 small green and yellow pictures on a pink wall

Alys also spent time embedded with British forces in Afghanistan.

a display of pictures, paintings, drawings, sketches, and notes as part of an art exhibit

below: Alys made a videos on kids flying kites in Afghanistan.  There was also a video of kids rolling a large reel of film through the streets and alleys in an Afghan city.

3 wood benches in front of a table mounted to a wall, art on the table, a video screen on the wall with a movie about kids in Afghanistan flying kites, some people in the background

below: Weapons made of found objects

in a yellow room with two small pictures hanging crookedly on the wall. A table in the middle of the room, glass covering artwork on the table. Sitting on the table is an automatic rifle (artwork) made of found objects

below: Instead of a round of ammunition, there is a reel of film. This is true in all of Alys’s ‘automatic rifles’ that are displayed here

close up of a sculpture of an automatic rifle where the round of ammo is replaced by a reel of film

a circle of art weapons, automatic rifles, made of found objects, with barrels all pointed inwards,

The exhibit continues at the AGO until April 2nd.

a little wooden human figure is doing the front crawl, one arm outstretched, on a bubble of clear plastic on a table top

A few weeks ago I posted some pictures of the fence along Craven Road that has been decorated with artwork and old artifacts.  I was south of Gerrard Street when I took the photos.   I didn’t realize at the time that I missed another outdoor gallery on the other side of  Gerrard.  Today I took some pictures of those on display on the north side.   Here they are in no particular order:

below: Looking north up Craven Road along the fence.
That tropical sunset on the left looks very inviting!

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, looking down the length of most of the gallery, small pile of snow against the fence, painting in the foreground is warm Caribbean sun on beach with palm tree, Craven Road

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, an evergreen bough hangs over the top of the fence, above a painting of trees in a forest in winter, low sun, and long blue shadows.

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, Craven Road in Toronto, two paintings of black trees (no leaves) on red, and one grey tree on orange background,

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, a black tree on a blue background. Snow has been blown against the wood fence and some of it has stuck to the fence, Craven Road

below: Some of the paintings are small words in another language and another alphabet.  Can anyone translate for me?

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, four paintings. One black tree on light brown paper, and three small paintings with words in a different language with a different alphabet, Bengali perhaps

small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, Craven Road, trees on blue and green background
small amateur paintings displayed on a wood fence, with trees and houses in the background, snowy day, three paintings, one is a fish

By now I’m very curious about this street and this fence.  I found a long, detailed, and interesting history written by local historian Joanne Doucette that you can read here.


I usually take a dim view of conceptual art largely because the importance given to the “words on the wall” has eclipsed the consideration given to the artwork itself.   Mediocrity in technique or creativity hides behind big jargon words and convoluted language in the artist statement.  Often the concept that the artist claims to be exploring is at odds with the end product.

When the art doesn’t live up to words that sound learned and meaningful then it degrades the work and makes the artist, and those curating the exhibit, seem pompous and out of touch.

For example, if you read that certain videos by an artist “cast a hitherto unexampled light on the conventional North American city”,  what would you expect to see?  Would you expect to see a video shot from a helicopter as it circled a city at night?  A video that looks familiar to anyone who has flown over a city after dark.   That’s what you get with Aude Moreau’s ‘The End in the Background of Hollywood 2015’ now showing at The Power Plant gallery.   I don’t have a photo of it but I do have a picture of three of her other photographs also on display.

below: From left to right (discounting the small picture farthest from the camera): 1. ‘Untitled (Hollywood Sign)’ 2015, 2. ‘LAPD (Los Angeles Police Department)’ 2015.  It’s a picture of a tiny helicopter in a large grey sky.  and 3. ‘Waiting for Landing’, airplanes lined up as they approach LAX airport.   Unfortunately, the words on the wall then go on to say, about these three images, “These demonstrate visual strategies that act upon the symbolic representation of the city and the spectacular dimension of the film industry.”  Oh my.

4 pictures hanging in a contemporary art gallery. One is a picture of the Hollywood sign taken just after dark, the next is a grey sky with a tiny dot of a helicopter in the middle, the third is too far away to discern, and the last is a picture of Los Angeles at night taken from a helicopter

And with that I left The Power Plant gallery.  Growling silently to myself and shaking my head with a mix of disdain and and frustration.   Imagine my surprise when once outside I encountered another of Moreau’s photographs.  A very lovely one.

below:  A picture of the Toronto skyline by Aude Moreau mounted on an exterior wall at The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery.  A picture with visual impact.

A photograph by Aude Moreau of the Toronto skyline as the sun starts to set, sunlight reflected off the buildings, darkening blue sky. The picture is mounted on an exterior wall and there is a tree in front of it as well as a couple of picnic tables

below:   You can play “spot the building” and test your knowledge of Toronto geography.   You can line up the DBRS building, the Hilton Hotel and the Canada Life building on University Avenue along with the Sheraton Hotel on Queen street.   The blue addition on the AGO is farther north on Dundas.  Can you think of where the photo was taken?  Apparently, it was taken from Toronto Fire Station 315 at College Street and Bellevue Avenue.  It was taken just after sunset but when there was still enough light in the sky to reflect off the taller buildings.   Moreau makes the city sparkle.

A photograph by Aude Moreau of the Toronto skyline as the sun starts to set, sunlight reflected off the buildings, darkening blue sky. The picture is mounted on an exterior wall and there is a tree in front of it

I must have seen this picture very shortly after it was installed.  It is part of the CONTACT photography festival that starts this weekend but there was no accompanying sign, no words that attempted to a explain the image.  Perhaps that was for the best.  In fact, I now have the CONTACT catalogue with their description of the artwork but I think I won’t read them.  I’d rather enjoy the picture just the way it is.

Invention, an installation at The Power Plant gallery, by Mark Lewis.

The main part of the exhibit consists of 3 short films shot in Toronto.
When I first saw it, I thought that the films were older, perhaps from the 60s or 70s.

below:  A short film begins with a pan over part of downtown Toronto.  It circles back to the Robarts Library and focuses on a woman standing in the window of one of the upper floors.  After zooming in on the woman, the film “enters” the room she’s in and turns back to focus on what her view out the window looks like.

Two women are standing in the semi darkness in a room in an art gallery, watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is the back of the upper part of a woman as she stands in front of a window in the Robarts Library in Toronto. The scene outside the window is clearly visible, winter time, University of Torotno campus. She is holding a book in her hands.

below:  Another exhibit is a film comprised of segments filmed at a number of locations around City Hall this past winter.   The image below is shot from the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south.   Old City hall is on the left.   There are no people in the picture.  There are also no commercial images such as billboards or signs on the buildings.  Slow moving, quiet.

An older couple are sitting on a bench at an art gallery. They are watching a black and white film that is showing on a large screen in front of them. The image on the screen is a shot of the upper ramp at Nathan Phillips Square, looking south, in the winter with snow on the ground. There are no people in the picture on the screen.

It wasn’t until I looked more closely at the images that I realized that the films had to have been made recently… for example, the recently built stage area in Nathan Phillips Square.  So I watched the films again looking for details.

One of the images shown in an art installation on a large wall screen, a black and white picture overlooking Nathan Phillips Square in the winter.

A little perplexed, I tried to find out why Lewis made these films, and why they were considered to be “art”. It wasn’t easy; it was probably made more difficult by my love/hate relationship with contemporary art.  The title of this post comes from a paragraph I found on The Power Plant website description of this installation: “Together, the elements that make up Mark Lewis’ films culminate in a body of work that is as astute as it is elegiac in its contemplation of the quotidian, offering an experience of the flux of time that is as elating in its duration as it is haunting for its sense of passing.”  Well, um, okay.

It also wasn’t easy because of the scope of the questions that Lewis seems to be tackling.  One of his interest lies in discovering what it might have felt like when film revolutionized they way we looked at ourselves and at the world around us.   That’s a tough one.  We are a society that is immersed in moving images of all kinds. Movies and TV have been part of our lives for many generations.  Can anyone truly imagine what it might have been like to see a film for the first time?

As we all know, digital technology has put video production into the hands of anyone with a cellphone.   Even my three year old granddaughter asks me to make videos of her and I’m sure it won’t be long before she’s producing them.  And that leads to another question that Lewis is interested in examining – what are the implications of these technological changes?  Not only can see video, we can be in control of making our own whenever we want.

But that’s not all.  Lewis is also interested in architectural surfaces so walls, windows, pavements and reflective glass amongst others play a role in his films.   Urban architecture; urban landscapes.  Cinema made of the ordinary everyday life of living in the city and everyday life in the city is cinema.  24/7 movie making.  You are part of the cast; you are the camera.

What I have presented here are just three pictures and I’m not sure the pictures do the films justice.   If you want to see these films, they are at The Power Plant gallery until 3 Jan 2016.


The fifth floor of the Art Gallery of Ontario is devoted to contemporary art.

Three of the present exhibits are best described as conceptual art.  Conceptual art is art where the idea is more important that the look.  The story behind the work trumps aesthetics.

This blog post has taken me many days to write as I struggle with the love hate relationship that I have with conceptual art.   My biggest complaint about conceptual art is that skill too often gets thrown out the window;  God forbid that something like artistic merit should impede the artist.  I can empathize with causes and I can support ideas without liking the end product.  In other words, just because I don’t the ‘art’ doesn’t mean I don’t “get it”.

Anyhow, on to the exhibits.

First, ‘Gustav’s Wing’ is an exhibit by Danh Vo, a man born in Vietnam but raised in Denmark.  Using his nephew as a model, Vo had a bronze of cast of the boy’s body made in six pieces.  The pieces are then arranged within a room.  “The resulting installation gives a fragmented and evocative portrait of a boy whose Danish and Vietnamese heritage echoes that of the artist, but who represents the next stage in the family’s story – that of the first-generation Danish citizen”, according to the description of the exhibit.

Looking into a white room, photo taken from the doorway, pieces of metal cast from a boy's body lie on the floor, scattered, part of an art installation at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Close up of a metal cast of a boy's foot. Part of an art installation by Danh Vo at the Art Gallery of Ontario

Three of the metal pieces from Gustave's WIng, an art installation by Danh Vo, pieces of body cast in metal

Second, there are three totem poles by Brian Jungen entitled ‘1960’, ‘1970’, and ‘1980’.  All three were made in 2007.  The words in the artist’s statement about this piece say “The towering works recall the complex social and political tensions that can result from First Nations land claims.”  Part of the artist’s reasoning is that golf courses are manicured and their use is quite different from the way land is used by First Nations.


A group of women looks at an art installation of three large totem poles made of golf bags on display in an art gallery (Art Gallery of Ontario)

below: Anther piece by Brian Jungen, this one is called ‘Wieland’ and it is made of red women’s leather gloves.  It is supposed to be an upside down maple leaf, i.e. a Canadian symbol turned on its head.  When I first saw it, I saw an eagle with its wings spread but maybe that’s just me.

The words on the wall for this piece: “Its title celebrates Canadian artist Joyce Wieland (1931-1998) whose work in the 1960s and 1970s proposed a gendered patriotism in which indigenous art and culture were given only tokenistic inclusion. With Wieland, Jungen positions himself as part of and against an established narrative of Canadian art history.”

In Wieland’s opinion Canada was female I guess that that is what “gendered patriotism” means.  Otherwise, you will have to figure this one out for yourself.

Upside down rd maple leaf made of women's gloves. It also looks a bit like a large bird with outstretched wings. Part of an art installation at the art gallery of Ontario

Lastly, there is an installation by Duane Linklater.  Each garment rack is piece and they have names like “My brother-in-law, my sister” and  “The marks left behind”.  Furs of different animals such as fox and skunk hang from the garment racks.  One has an old T-shirt and one has a piece of orange fabric.   “The evocative titles of the pieces speak to family ties, articulating a sense of personal loss” according to the description of the work found on the gallery wall.


A woman is in a large room at the Art Gallery of Ontario, she is looking at an art installation that involves skins of dead animals hanging from garment racks. A pink picture of a woman hangs on the wall.

in an art gallery, an art installation that involves skins of dead animals hanging from garment racks. A pink picture of a woman hangs on the wall.

The two pink pictures on the wall are each a half of a portrait of a woman called Anna Mae Aquash who died in 1976. Together they form ‘Family Photograph’.  Aquash was a Miqmaq woman who was involved as a “radical activist” in the American Indian Movement of the early 1970s.  She was murdered.    If you read the description of the work on the gallery wall, you will read these words: “By including her image, Linklater expresses a sense of familial connection with Aquash and establishes a symbolic relationship with the previous generation while asserting himself in the present. ”   Pardon?

The words on the wall don’t tell you that she was murdered by her own people because they thought she was an FBI informant.  So what relationship is the artist trying to establish?  How does this even remotely lead to “asserting himself in the present”?  Sorry, but empty jargonish words leave me cold. This isn’t art.  Linklater may have a valid idea but that doesn’t make it art.

A group of people in an art gallery, they are looking at an art installation that involves skins of dead animals hanging from garment racks. Two pink picture of women hangs on the wall.


 Planet IndigenUS is a ten day festival co-produced by the Harbourfront Centre in Toronto and the Woodland Cultural Centre in Brantford. It features 300 artists with dance and music performances as well as visual art exhibits at a number of venues.  One of the venues is the gallery at Harbourfront Centre where a number of artists of Anishnabe heritage are showing their work.  Two of the artists are Christian Chapman and Scott Benesiinaabandan, and a sample of their work is presented here.


 Screenprints by Christian Chapman

print of an evergreen forest, a text in Ashishnabe language on top of the trees, hanging on a gallery wall gaawiin wiikaa ji gwerina-ka-nawich
miskwadessi opixwanak misa oi kitimagia
miskwadessi wag dash awessiwag
ji manaadji-a-ka-ni-watch

 never turn a turtle on its back so that it is helpless
turtles and all other animals are to be accorded respect


print of asky with clouds in red and orange tones, a text in Ashishnabe language on top of the trees, hanging on a gallery wall gaawiin wiikaa zaagi-dandaweken
wassetchiganatikong wayti-endaian
ai anike dibadjimowin eta ga nibodwach
sa gitinacasowug

never climb out a window in your house,
traditionally, only dead people are brought out like that


below: ‘God Save the Queen’ by Scott Benesiinaabandan
a series of photos in which the queen is partially covered by the artist’s Solidarity Flag

In an art gallery, a series of three large photographs of a statue of Queen Victoria.  THe first picture is just the statue, the middle picture is a man starting to put a  flag over the bottom part of the statue and the third picture is the flag on the statue.  Flag is solidarity flag created by Scott Benesiinaabandan, black and blue background, red circle in the middle, yellow sun in the red circle